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The Skolkovo Foundation will spend the next few years focusing on developing tech entrepreneurship in Russia’s regions, the foundation’s chairman of the board told a meeting of its scientific advisory council on Tuesday.
Nobel prize winners and Skolkovo scientific council co-chairs Roger Kornberg and Zhores Alferov. Photo: Sk.ru.
Igor Drozdov suggested a franchise model could be rolled out across regions where Skolkovo startups are already concentrated to offer them the same support, tax incentives, grants and other services offered by the Skolkovo innovation city outside Moscow. About half of the foundation’s 1,642 startups are based outside of the Moscow region.
“The idea is not to force them to move to Moscow to be part of the Skolkovo ecosystem, but for them to remain in the regions and continue their work while enjoying the advantages offered by Skolkovo,” Drozdov told the council. He noted that the foundation’s Far East office, opened in 2015, has been very successful, and has already attracted more than 30 hi-tech startups.
The plan outline was greeted with preliminary approval from the scientific advisory council, co-chaired by Nobel prize winner Zhores Alferov, who has said since its inception that “Skolkovo is not a territory, but an ideology.”
“The main problem of Russian science is not a lack of financing,” said Alferov. “It’s the lack of demand in the economy and in society for scientific results. The Skolkovo Foundation is solving that task,” he said.
“We can resurrect scientific research in a huge number of provincial scientific organisations and universities, creating startups with their help,” he added.
Monday’s meeting was the first time the scientific advisory council had held its regular meeting in Skolkovo’s newly opened giant Technopark building.
“We’re all impressed by the building, and we hope that many modern technologies will be born here in the Technopark that will change the face of Russian technology,” said Alferov.
Roger Kornberg, a Stanford University professor and fellow Nobel prize laureate who co-chairs the Skolkovo scientific advisory council, echoed his sentiments. “The building is breathtaking: let’s hope the scientific output is equal to the architecture,” he said.
The Skolkovo Foundation's Vasily Belov (left) and Igor Drozdov at the scientific advisory council meeting on Tuesday. Photo: Sk.ru.
Fifty companies have already moved into the Technopark, and 100 more are expected during the next month, said Drozdov.
“By the end of the year, 3,000 people will work in the Technopark," he said. The Technopark offers resident startups both lab and office space, as well as access to shared resource centres and other services such as help applying for patents, grants and investment.
“Our task is to help ideas become businesses,” said Drozdov.
Skolkovo’s 1,621 resident startups have made more than $2 billion in combined revenues, he said, summing up the foundation’s achievements for the scientific advisory council. The startups employ 21,000 people, and have already obtained 1,100 patents. The foundation also has 76 industrial partners, including international giants such as Boeing and Panasonic, as well as homegrown companies such as the truck-maker Kamaz.
Vasily Belov, senior vice-president for innovations development at the Skolkovo Foundation, said that the industrial partnership with state banking giant Sberbank had been particularly successful.
“Not only is it building its own buildings at Skolkovo [a technopark and a data centre], Sberbank has carried out more than 30 pilot projects together with our residents. As a result, four have been implemented on an industrial scale,” Belov told the scientific advisory council. In addition, more than 13 projects are being carried out with the oil majors Gazprom Neft and Tatneft, he said.
“What you have accomplished is most impressive,” said Kornberg. “Zhores and I and some other council members remember where we began, and I think you’ve done a marvelous job of exploiting the opportunities you were given,” he said, encouraging the foundation council members to continue to foster the development of scientific research.
The scientific advisory council welcomed several new members on Monday: Israeli microbiologist and Hewbrew University of Jerusalem professor Ilan Chet, neuroscientist Konstantin Anokhin, and the president of Samara University, Viktor Soyfer.