Government invests $300 million to expand applications in the defense, aerospace and geosynthetic industries.
The Russian government plans to invest up to $300 million USD in 2016 and 2017 toward developing the technical textiles industry, according to recent statements by Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade. Manturov is responsible for the development of domestic-based technical textiles and nonwovens in Russia.
The majority of funds will be used to cover interest on Russian banks’ loans to producers. The loans are expected to be for technical re-equipment of the industry and the acceleration of research and development activities related to advanced textiles.
Prior to 2014, the majority of Russian industry needs for technical and advanced textiles were met by imports. However, the introduction of economic sanctions against Russia and the decision of some leading European Union and U.S. producers to suspend their Russian operations made it necessary for the government to consider the establishment of domestic facilities to produce the needed materials. In addition, many outside producers have stopped sending their products to Russia.
Consequently, in recent years, the development of technical textiles has become a priority for the Russian government. The demand for technical textiles and nonwovens continues to grow from many segments of the Russian economy. The economic recession in the country has also contributed to relative stagnation of the “common” textiles industry.
The Russian government plans to allocate funds to leading domestic producers of technical textiles, with the goal of significantly increasing production in the short-term future. It’s also anticipated that the provision of these funds will increase demand for and consumption of technical textiles and nonwovens in Russia. Currently, Russian use of technical textiles and nonwovens is significantly lower than that of most western countries.
Growth rates anticipated
Manturov has said that, according to state plans, the average per capita consumption of technical textiles and nonwovens in Russia should be increased by two to three times by the year 2025. In the meantime, the latest state initiative has already been welcomed by leading Russian producers of technical textiles and nonwovens.
The biggest demands for technical textiles in Russia are in the industries of housing, road construction, agriculture and defense, according to Andrei Razbrodin, president of Soyuzlegprom, the Russian Association of Textile and Light Industry Producers, a public association that unites leading Russian producers of technical textiles. Razbrodin says the planned expansion of domestic production should fully meet Russia’s needs in advanced textiles.
According to Razbrodin, the Russian government aspires to emulate the economic policies of Germany, where the technical textiles industry is currently among the most developed segments of the country’s industrial production. The German success in technical textiles is due to huge investments by the government and private investors in recent years.
Razbrodin says that the majority of the country’s future production of technical textiles will be directed toward state needs, particularly the Russian defense industry, which in recent years has become one of the largest consumers of technical textiles and nonwovens products in Russia.
Defense and aerospace
Razbrodin estimates that, at present, the Russian defense industry consumes about 30 percent of the technical textiles and nonwovens produced in Russia. That share of the industry, in terms of consumption, will continue to grow during the next several years, mainly due to the ongoing militarization of the country.
In addition, according to Igor Komarov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, the demand for technical textiles will be driven by ongoing plans to build the sixth generation for the Russian air force.
This year the Russian military budget is set at 5,5 trillion RUB (Russian rubles, equal to $80 billion USD), a record for modern Russia. Part of this budget will be invested in the production of technical textiles and nonwovens for the national army.
In accordance with these plans, production will be established at some of Russia’s leading companies of technical textiles and nonwovens (these company names are currently not disclosed). At the same time, according to a spokesman in the Russian Ministry of Defense, the production could be established at the Cotton Club, a company based in the city of Dankov in the Lipetsk region, not far from Moscow. Negotiations are also said to be already underway with other companies.
There is a growing demand for advanced textiles from the Russian aerospace industry. According to Komarov, the program involves the launch of manned spacecraft to the moon, with the aim of further exploration of the lunar surface. This will require the design of special equipment, often dependent on the use of advanced textiles and nonwovens, for Russian cosmonauts.
Geosynthetics and roadways
The demand for advanced textiles has significantly increased from the Russian road-building industry. The use of geosynthetics has been limited in the past in the country’s infrastructure, but the Russian government also plans to financially support domestic producers of geosynthetics.
According to state plans, by 2020, up to 13,000 kilometers of new roads are projected to be built and reconstructed in Russia. In 2015, an estimated 45 million square meters of geosynthetic grids were used in Russia. Manturov predicts that the annual use of geosynthetic grids in Russia could reach 80 million square meters by 2020. Annual growth rates of the geosynthetic market are estimated to vary in the range of 35–40 percent.
Another portion of the government funds will be invested in the research and development activities of Sibur, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies. Sibur, based in Russia, has recently announced plans to focus on the design of innovative solutions in the field of geosynthetics.
Finally, a new research and development center, specializing in advanced textiles, will be established this year in Skolkovo, a high technology business area near Moscow, and positioned to become the Silicon Valley of Russia.
Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer based in St. Petersburg, Russia.