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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Industrial Research and Design

The Soviet Union has long recognized the importance of its domestic research and development system to make its industry competitive. Soviet research and development relies on a complex system of institutes, design bureaus, and individual plant research facilities to provide industry with advanced equipment and methodology (see Research, Development, and Production Organizations , ch. 16). A result of the system's complexity has been poor coordination both among research organizations and between research organizations and other industrial organizations. Bottlenecks existed because much research was classified and because Soviet information distribution systems, e.g., computers and copying machines, lagged far behind the West.

A barrier between theoretical and applied research also hindered the contribution of the scientific research institutes (nauchno-issledovatel'skie instituty--NIIs) to industry. Institutes under the Academy of Sciences (see Glossary), which emphasized theoretical research, often did not contribute their findings directly for practical application, and an institutional distrust has existed between scientists and industrial technicians. Newer organizational structures, such as scientific production associations, (nauchno-proizvodstvennye ob''edineniia--NPOs) have combined research, design, and production facilities so that technical improvements will move into the production phase faster. This goal was an important part of perestroika in the late 1980s. It was especially critical in the machine-building industry, for which a central goal of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan was to shorten installation time of new industrial machines once they were designed.

Soviet industrial planning was aimed at being competitive with the West in both civilian and military industry. After years of lagging growth, by the mid-1980s authorities had recognized that the traditional Stalinist industrial system made such goals unreachable. But improvement of that system was problematic for several reasons. New emphasis on the civilian sector could not be allowed to jeopardize military production; research and development was never connected efficiently with industrial operations; the huge industrial bureaucracy contained vested interests at all levels; and personal responsibility and initiative were concepts alien to the decades-old Stalinist system. The most optimistic Western forecasters predicted gradual improvements in some areas, as opposed to the dramatic, irreversible changes suggested by the Soviet industrial doctrine of the late 1980s.

Data as of May 1989