Russian Silicon Valley “Skolkovo”: Yes, We Did It!

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Russian Silicon Valley “Skolkovo”: Yes, We Did It!

Russian Innovation Centre Skolkovo was created to concentrate international intellectual capital, thereby stimulating the development of break-through projects and technologies. Since its announcement in November 2009 it has been working in five areas, each one developing innovative projects in IT, space, biomed, energy efficiency and nuclear technologies.

This year Skolkovo held road shows in London announcing itself on the international scene. RussianMind talked to the Head of Skolkovo Foundation’s International Projects, Dmitry Politov about the future of Russia’s Silicon Valley:














RM: Skolkovo initially caused a lot of criticism and doubts, especially from the international community. Can you say that you have silenced your critics?  

DP: Skolkovo was a very special project from the start. As the prospects for science and RnD in Russia were evaluated, it became evident that in many respects we have to be more decisive in advancing innovative business from the country. Traditional research institutes were barely coping with the task as they had little or no practice working in an environment of capitalism and entrepreneurship. Therefore from the very start we had set the bar very high: we aimed to create a very transparent, very professional establishment that employed many skilled and prominent expats and relied on international expert support. Today we can decisively confirm - our aim has been achieved.
As we have progressed slowly from September 2010, we have been able to attract more than five hundred innovative companies according to our main priorities, in: energy efficient technologies, IT, biomed, space, telecommunications and nuclear technologies. Each of these entities enjoys an international partnership, meaning that it commonly has a partner abroad or a scientific researcher in one of the world's leading universities. Each has also been subject to a complete review and has been deemed unique, innovative, scientifically and commercially feasible by at least five prominent international researchers and innovative entrepreneurs.
 Our university, the SkTech, deserves special emphasis. This international graduate institution has a strategic partnership with MIT and is currently establishing research centres and departments, after it asked for proposals in April 2012. In the month when applications were accepted, more than 130 universities of renown have submitted their offers for cooperation, of which we have decided to select very few.














RM: What has been the most successful project?

 DP: As we have many projects from different domains, it is quite challenging to identify a single ‘most successful’ project. We are only working with companies that are doing RnD, therefore we deal with long project implementation times. It would be reasonable to expect, say, a pharmaceutical RnD to deliver a marketable drug within two years. We have, however, already had several IPOs and have globally demanded products supplied by our IT companies.

As to the most interesting projects that we have, to mention a few: a project to develop an entirely new solid rocket fuel; a  possible cure for auto-immune and blood diseases; a prospective cure for certain types of cancer; medicine to notably slow biological ageing; new compact long-life batteries, including possibly nuclear elements; new diagnostics and therapy devices, and the very highly anticipated project, a fully disruptive technology  – commercialisation and mass production of superconductors. If this project succeeds, we
will live to see cities with hovering cars, super high speed trains and even more to come.










RM: There were several conferences held in the UK. How interesting is Skolkovo to foreign and particularly British investors?

DP: Every single event that we have had in the past year has been overbooked. We tend to select our participants carefully, and yet we manage to have full halls during every single one of them. We do not always aim solely at investors; it is the technology-intensive and innovation-oriented enterprises that we put the highest value on. We tend to visit innovation hubs exactly for this purpose: to assist Russian and foreign companies in finding a common purpose and launching joint ventures.
Speaking about investors, we have a strategic partnership with over 40 global venture companies and over 20 large international companies, such as Siemens, Intel, Nokia, CISCO and many others. They all have taken interest in the start-up companies that we house and all have expressed either interest or firm commitments to us.