emerging companies. It will also stimulate innovation activity in the city of Sarov, facilitate cooperation between researchers and industry, provide services to science-intensive companies in information support and management training, and accelerate real economic development based on creating regional and international networks for information exchange and cooperation among firms.
Much is already being done in this regard. VNIIEF-Conversion in involved in the Russian Marketing Network and is a coauthor of a Tacis project proposal on establishing a connection to the European information network. The economic and legal departments of VNIIEF-Conversion also provide consulting services, and the company collaborates with the Sarov Branch of the LINK International Institute of Management, which provides training in management and innovation. In 2000 LINK provided professional training on the commercialization of research results for 25 VNIIEF and Avangard employees involved in International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) projects. In 2001 the Sarov Branch of LINK is working with the University of South Carolina to fulfill a contract funded by the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI) to train 40 managers and specialists involved in conversion projects at VNIIEF and the Avangard plant.
At present the ITC is still in the process of being established under the auspices of VNIIEF-Conversion. The ITC concept has not yet been fully refined, and the technical audit of small innovative firms is not yet complete. Another Tacis project developed in cooperation with the Lahti Regional Educational Consortium (Finland) is devoted to accomplishing these tasks. The expected outcome of this project will be a development plan for ITC that will allow it to offer a comprehensive package of services to the small innovative firms that will be its clients. A very widespread problem in the first stage of ITC's development has been the very limited range of services that is offered, that is, secretarial services, reception and mailing of postal correspondence, word processing, and telephone answering services, among others. The goal of the Tacis project will be to provide a rather full range of services from the moment that ITC's building is ready for full operation, as well as to create a positive public image for the ITC by ensuring that expectations are met. We hope the ITC will avoid the destiny of a company that trades unrealistic ideas.