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Digital twins come to the fore

Mikhail Kuznetsov, director of FANU "Vostokgosplan", spoke about advanced developments in the field of digital modeling of current processes in the Far East and the Arctic

One of the sessions scheduled for the first day of the Eastern Economic Forum - 2021 in Vladivostok on the first day is called “Digital Twin. The future of spatial data ”. Mikhail Kuznetsov, director of Vostokgosplan FANU, told EastRussia about how the latest digital modeling technologies are included in the planning and management of the development of the Far East.

Digital twins come to the fore
Photo: Press Service of FANU "Vostokgosplan"

- Mikhail Evgenievich, the institution that you head has an interesting history and modernity. Here, for example, is that you have a completely unique organizational and legal form - a federal autonomous scientific institution, FANU. There are no others like this in the country. How are you still similar and not similar to other federal departmental institutions?

- "Vostokgosplan" is really a federal scientific organization, which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Russian Federation for the development of the Far East and the Arctic. We have an interesting history, we were transformed from one of the divisions of the USSR State Committee for Centers in the early 1990s and for some time were called the Far Eastern Research Institute of the Market (Dal Research Institute of the Market). The institute began to belong to the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East in 2015, and the organization acquired a new name - the Eastern Center for State Planning - in 2017. 

The mission of Vostokgosplan, as we ourselves formulated, is to support the accelerated economic development of the Far East and, ultimately, improve people's lives. Our basic task is scientific research and analytical support of activities for the socio-economic development of the Far East and the Arctic zone. However, taking into account modern challenges, we set ourselves this task more broadly: scientifictechnical и strategic support of our macro-region, this is the main role of FANU "Vostokgosplan".

- You focused on the technical side of the issue and on the strategy. And how is this practically expressed?

- Since the beginning of this year, we have set a course for the serious development of digital tools for support and decision-making (at one of the conferences we were called digital scientists). We are developing a number of products that will become real instruments of state planning and management, for example, the digital "twin" of the Northern Sea Route. I will tell you more about it a little later, it unites the cargo base of the Northern Sea Route, helps to calculate the economy, tax revenues, the added value that projects create, analyzes bottlenecks in the implementation of the transport artery development strategy. 

A digital model of tourism, a digital model of northern delivery, other promising industry models, all of this is the course that we have taken since the beginning of this year. In fact, we are building a digital government planning system that will work using all modern digital technologies, including big data, artificial intelligence, convenient settlement systems, and agent-based modeling. That is, the entire modern arsenal for forecasting and planning the development of a macroregion.

- For such systems, the quality of the initial data and their timely updating are critically important. How do these digital models integrate with databases? 

- Of course, the value of data is great, and in this case, we naturally use all the open data available to us. These are Rosstat, Rosreestr, data from the Federal Tax Service and further on the list. We are also building work with corporations, taking a number of forecast data directly from companies operating in the region. There is an understanding with the providers of "big data", we agree on specific terms of use and how to technically ensure the integration. 

However, when building digital models and "twins", work "in the field" is no less important, and this is where we start. We are looking at specific settlements, production facilities, problems, figures. For example, recently I was in a small village in the north of Yakutia, where 400 people live. It is important to understand on the spot: how much food costs, how the logistics is arranged, the economy of a small local enterprise - a meat processing workshop - how much does it cost to import and export products. And already on top of this data - to build a digital "twin". When we are engaged in the Northern Sea Route, we must see everything with our own eyes: we are going to Murmansk, we are going to Yamal, we are visiting Kamchatka, where there will be one of the marine transshipment complexes of liquefied natural gas. To achieve the accuracy of forecasting and planning, we communicate directly with the captains of the ships, study the parameters of the ice escort, and try to understand how they make decisions. The entire volume of this valuable practical knowledge and experience is taken into account in building digital models, this is the basic paradigm. The model should correspond to the real picture as much as possible.

- Do you hint that statistics do not always reflect this picture?

- There are certain difficulties, but we cooperate very closely with Rosstat. They hear our needs. For example, about the need for interaction at the level of municipal statistics. We began to pilot-monitor a number of municipalities using a whole range of indicators, both demographics and economics. This approximation makes it possible to more accurately plan management decisions, to determine the development potential of each territory.

- Let's use specific examples. What is a digital model?

- Let's. For example, we have built a digital forecasting model for tourism development in Kamchatka based on big data. Already, it allows you to assess the bottlenecks in the development of the tourism industry. For example, we are testing a hypothesis - what will happen if the tourist flow in the region really grows to a million tourists a year by 2030 (and this figure has already been repeatedly sounded publicly). Having, in fact, a digital "twin" of the industry, we clearly see all the bottlenecks - airport, hotels, transport, garbage, load on the landscape, limited seasonality and others.

- And what conclusions does the model give? Can Kamchatka become our Russian Iceland?

- With the current state of infrastructure, it will not be able to receive a million tourists. If, for a number of reasons, the real flow turns out to be higher than the capacity of the infrastructure, we will face a sharp decline in tourist satisfaction. That, in turn, will restrain the growth of tourist traffic. But these are obvious things, here I have not said anything new. But what is new here is that the model shows exactly those niches that arise for investors. Moreover, in several dimensions at once: this is the geographic location, the type of infrastructure and the potential load volume. And in such a combination, this information is very valuable for business. 

- Have you already shown the model to business? Is there any feedback?

- Yes, a number of meetings have already taken place, we received very good feedback. The proposed model allows them to calculate the economics of projects, compare parameters, and do sensitivity analysis. For our part, we continue to improve the quality of the data loaded into the system, now, for example, we are negotiating with a number of suppliers to integrate the model with “bigdata”. As a result, as we can see, such a model, coupled with a real opportunity for business to choose objects for investment, is a convenient, transparent and effective tool for planning new projects. So, answering your question about the "Russian Iceland" - the modeling results show that coordinated efforts of the authorities, local business, investors to expand bottlenecks in the infrastructure can provide a multiple increase in the tourist flow up to 800 thousand - 1 million people a year by 2026-2030 without prejudice to the local nature, making tourism one of the “pillars” of the local economy. 

- The digital "twin" of the Northern Delivery, which is implemented by Vostokgosplan, operates in the same way with digital predictive model for Kamchatka?

- The principle is similar, but there is a significant difference. If with tourism we are talking primarily about forecasting the development of the industry, then with northern delivery in the center of attention is the optimization of the already existing system, which covers 25 regions, more than 300 ships, cargo volume of more than 3 million tons per year. Let me remind you that the cost of goods delivered through the northern delivery today is more than 60 billion rubles a year, direct budget expenditures - more than 14 billion rubles. The digital "twin" links all logistics chains, allows you to track the paths that the cargo takes from purchase to the final address, shows the capacity of existing transport lines, the cost of goods at each stage of movement. Such detailing makes it possible to assess resource and logistics constraints, and based on this information, form proposals for optimizing logistics and budgetary costs.

- How was this system assembled?

- The first thing we did was to gather all the participants, the whole chain. We started with the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) - it is a federal subject, almost equal in the territory of India, with the largest volume of northern deliveries, and significant territories in the Arctic. In Yakutia, a variety of types of delivery are used to ensure delivery - winter roads, river and sea transport, aviation. We collected a database, went to Yakutia, bypassed everyone who is involved in the import: entrepreneurs, transport workers, authorities, supervisory authorities. We went to the northern settlements to the heads of municipalities, laid out the whole process on specific links. We found, for example, that in our country there is no single register of settlements that depend on the northern delivery. In fact, our first product was just a classified database of settlements that do not have year-round access, including the annual volume of demand for fuel and food, with an assessment of the routes used and methods of cargo delivery. We also included monitoring of food prices in the system.

- How did the heads of municipalities react?

- Very keen interest. Having assembled the model, we see the potential for optimizing the costs of delivery in favor of residents - this will give effects in the form of lower prices, increased availability of goods and their assortment. This is a very pragmatic tool. It will allow all participants of the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, and the administrations of the constituent entities of the Federation to see and understand what costs, where what kind of logistics and where optimization is possible. We have already modeled more than 2 thousand routes. The optimization model will include 1500 transport units, 65 ports and transshipments, more than 600 settlements, more than 200 airports and airfields, and more than 35 suppliers. For example, together with our Yakut colleagues, we considered the possibilities of more active use of the Northern Sea Route, with delivery from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk - it is possible to significantly reduce costs and optimize logistics. A useful idea is to actively use the "reverse loading" when transport goes from the North back "to the mainland" - this is support for local business, and therefore additional income for residents. We are also assessing the potential for using modern delivery technologies, for example, heavy drones, modernized snowmobiles, etc. These technologies are now increasingly used by large companies, including Russian Post.

- The main thing is that they stop carrying mail through Moscow to Khabarovsk. 

- You are talking about transport accessibility. This is a huge problem. One of the most important projects of Vostokgosplan is a unified Far Eastern airline, which this year is expanding its route network for residents of the Far East. We are developing its financial and operating model. Today, the transport mobility of the Far East is 2 or even 3 times lower than the average Russian one. It comes to the point that our fellow citizens take a loan in order to fly, conditionally, to visit their grandmother with their family. This situation must be radically changed, while finding a balance between the amount of budget subsidies, on the one hand, and maximum optimization of the route network, aircraft fleet, supply and management of this system, on the other hand. 

- How is the northern delivery model integrated with the digital “twin” of the Northern Sea Route?

- The digital "twin" of the Northern Sea Route, which forms the basis of the ArcticLabs information and analytical system, created to monitor the Russian Arctic zone, is a huge database, which includes factories, warehouses, transport, pipelines, icebreakers and their routes, taking into account the ice situation. Depending on climatic scenarios, the course and the arrangement of icebreakers change. All supply chains are recorded in the database, data on the movement of more than 800 ships, cargo flows of all ports of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. The entire array of interrelated parameters makes it possible to predict various scenarios of the Arctic economy, taking into account the implementation of key investment projects and logistics. Of course, the system is used in calculations for the northern delivery, where the Northern Sea Route is involved.

At the same time, ArcticLabs as a tool has a wider range of applications. Even in the basic model, we analyze not only the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route, but also the added value, taxes, jobs, assess the development of coastal areas and the dynamics of economic activity on them, assess its impact on the environment. Already now we have been able to calculate CO emissions2 the transport area, taking into account the dynamics of the development of the Northern Sea Route; in the future we will be able to predict changes in the environmental situation as a whole.

- You said that the model will make it possible to more effectively plan the development of coastal areas. 

- Yes, one of the tasks is the comprehensive balanced development of territories. For example, one of the projects involves cluster development of mineral deposits. An integrated approach makes it possible to achieve optimal solutions in energy, logistics, and increases the attractiveness of individual projects for investors. 

If we look at the north of Yakutia, Magadan region, Chukotka and part of Kamchatka - there is a small population, the road network is not very developed, permafrost and a cold climate. But it is here that there are rich deposits of natural resources, and here the Northern Sea Route passes. For this territory, economic development is associated with the development of transport arteries, with the creation of highly productive jobs. 

- Yes, representatives KAZ Minerals (Baimsky GOK) sounded very brightly at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, when they talked about how high their enterprise would be robotized in Chukotka. And in this regard, will it not happen that digital models and artificial intelligence, which Vostokgosplan is currently introducing so actively, will eventually come to the conclusion that a person is not needed in the Far East at all?

- Well, you and I are not in the script of a Hollywood movie (laughs). We are guided by the principle: economy and technology are for people, we are the ones who manage robots and digital models. Priorities of people, local population - for us in the first place in the construction of any calculations. Another thing - as they say, in every joke there is a grain of truth. Indeed, the issue of demography in the Far East is one of the cornerstones, it requires the most serious attention.  

Let me give you an example about demography. The outflow of population in the Far East has slightly slowed down, but the problem persists. This is a complex issue. It is very difficult to solve it purely demographically (due to the potential of the region itself). We have worked out a system of incentives for large families, support measures, additional payments that are increased compared to the rest of Russia. And we are now preparing a digital model that will make it possible to predict how each of these measures will affect the demographic situation, how residents will perceive it. Here we go, on the one hand, from fundamental scientific research, on the other hand, from sociology, in order to understand the attitude of people “here and now”. 

- How would you answer the question why people leave?

- We are deeply studying this issue, not only at the level of conversations, but also at the level of statistics. We understand that about 70% of the reasons for such a decision of people are the quality of the workplace and prospects. That is, first of all, the level of wages and the prospects for professional growth. And the remaining 30% of the "weight" of this solution is influenced by the quality of the infrastructure. Kindergartens, schools, hospitals, transport - this list is known and understandable.

- We have begun to deal with social infrastructure on a fairly large scale - in our Far East, three cities have special comprehensive plans for socio-economic development approved by the federal government. But not everything is going smoothly there - Vostokgosplan is monitoring these issues, you reported to the public that there are problems.

- There really are problem points. Using the example of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, it is impossible to solve the problem of the development of the territory of the municipality by pulling one thread, for example, by building separate infrastructure facilities. But one must understand that only development, construction of objects does not solve the problems of the territory. Infrastructure can be improved, but there remains the question of high-quality employment of the population, life prospects. And it's not just the current level of wages that matters. People should have opportunities, variability, choice. And in this sense, the balance of economic growth is important. Everything is very interconnected - a large investor, small and medium-sized businesses, social infrastructure, landscaping and public spaces, ecology, accessibility of transport, communications, security, and so on. It is precisely such a complex of measures that is capable of retaining and attracting human capital.

- One of the failed aspects of the comprehensive development plan for Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the localization of the production facilities of the aviation plant's suppliers. 

- This is what we are talking about when we talk about the balance of economic growth. If a large enterprise comes to the territory, not only social infrastructure should develop, but also commercial. The emergence of each new enterprise, when contractors and suppliers have established their enterprises in this territory, is the next step in the development of the economy - in fact, it is the expansion of the cluster. We strive for this to happen in every high-tech cluster, and this is what Vostokgosplan's conclusions are based on based on the results of monitoring the implementation of “comprehensive plans” in Svobodny, Bolshoy Kamen, and Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

That is, industrial giants and large corporations are very much needed, these are so-called “pillar” investors, key ones, but clusters of fast-growing companies should appear around them, which will really move the economy forward. They will not be limited only to the extraction of resources, they will not have limited economic growth by the volume of deposits and the demand for resources. For sustainable economic growth, so-called "gazelles" should appear - these are medium-sized fast-growing companies. And the most important factor for their appearance is human capital. 

- Returning to digital models. What if the “figure” shows that there is economic growth, but people living in the territory do not notice it. Who is right?

- What is the essence of the macroeconomic problem. When we grow by 1%, 2% and even 3%, this can happen unnoticed by the inhabitants. You have correctly noted that people do not see this money in their pockets, because the Far East has its own characteristics of economic growth. Since a significant part of, say, materials and equipment is imported from outside (from abroad, from Central Russia), the multiplicative intersectoral effect is not as pronounced as in other territories. Can this situation be changed? Yes, to a large extent: develop local suppliers, contractors, "ground" economic growth in the local area, creating jobs and new opportunities for local businesses. 

For example, in the southern belt of the Far East, the main cities are located, the population is quite dense, the main communications pass. This is the center of the manufacturing industry in the Far East, and this arc, from Ulan-Ude to Vladivostok, should develop in close relationship with the Asia-Pacific countries. I have such an analogy - "gear". Here it is, the huge "gear" of the Asia-Pacific region, embracing the huge population of China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, and India. Economically, it is growing and developing; today it has the most dynamic economy in the world. Our industry's main strategic goal is to get our industry hooked on this gear, to gain momentum, dynamics, and more actively to enter this huge market. 

I would like to emphasize once again, in my opinion, the most important thing that is needed for this is human capital. If we preserve and increase human capital, improve the quality and quality of education, medicine, people will stay and see the future. 

- In conclusion, if I may, one more question. At its base, Vostokgosplan is a scientific institution. But it is clear that you are not engaged in fundamental science, at least on your own. How do you yourself assess how the institution fits (or does not fit) into the general scientific landscape in the country? 

- Vostokgosplan pays great attention to partnership with leading research centers. It is necessary to devote considerable efforts to the development of the scientific potential of the Far East. While we are observing a negative trend: people and competencies are being washed out. We looked at the statistics. The share of funding for science in the Far Eastern Federal District in the all-Russian volume is scanty. Many research centers are stagnating, forced to engage in developments that are not always needed. We came up with an initiative to significantly increase funding for science in the Far East, to unite it around the real practical tasks of our economic centers. Young people should be very actively involved in this process. 

In this regard, in the summer, we initiated an all-Russian "productton": guys from all over Russia united into teams to solve practical problems of developing the economy of the Far East and the Arctic. As a result of the project, we received dozens of interesting, creative solutions. For example, a team of children proposed to create bracelets for tourists traveling to Kamchatka, which would allow them to track their location and warn of proximity to dangerous animals or the danger of natural phenomena. Another team has created an affordable aggregator of infrastructure and leisure in Kamchatka - Kam-clearly. The service provides an opportunity for tourists to unite in small groups in order to leave a smaller ecological footprint (for example, to travel in two cars instead of three). According to the team's idea, tourists are awarded bonuses to encourage an ecological approach to the trip, for example, dropping garbage at special points. 

We also listen to such digital ideas, some take our analysts into the study, for others we are looking for resources.

But we also cooperate with serious organizations. Vostokgosplan in January signed an agreement with the Institute of Economic Research of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with the Far Eastern Federal University. At the project level, we are partnering with Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov, NRU HSE and other leading research centers. The area that we are engaged in, and which we talked about in detail today in an interview, namely, the construction of digital tools for support and decision-making, is very interesting to colleagues, it provides both an opportunity for the practical application of already formulated scientific hypotheses, and a lot of material for new scientific comprehension. And in this regard, the potential for interaction and cooperation is very wide. 

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