The first reaction of most visitors to the laboratories of the institutes is to the state of the physical plant and equipment. Lack of funds has limited even basic maintenance to the bare minimum. Deterioration is apparent everywhere. Similarly, lack of funds has limited the amount of new technology developed over the last two years. As a result, much of the technical inventory is aging. Some technology, however, is unique, is state of the art, and potentially has high value in global markets. It still must be integrated into commercially viable products, for global applications in conformance to global safety and environmental standards. Any venture based on former Soviet technology will rarely find a product or technology that can be taken as is to the global market. The venturer must be prepared to work with the developers of the technology to adapt it to the market.
Although the physical state of things may breed pessimism, the value of the human resource cannot be overlooked. The countries of the former Soviet Union have a highly-educated scientific workforce and highly-skilled technicians. The scientists' and technicians' ability to overcome adversities and shortages of materials and supplies can only be admired. FSU scientists have devised some incredibly elegant but simple solutions to complex problems. Where in the West sophisticated instrumentation and powerful computers are brought to bear on problems, these scientists and engineers develop solutions and approximations based on a deep understanding of theory. This human capital is a powerful resource.
Perhaps one sign of the times is the declining interest of the younger population in science. Scientists were the revered elite, but the focus is now switching to business and law. At the kiosks on the streets everywhere, WTEC panelists saw books on western business practices. Students often asked how they could become involved in some form of joint venture.