Skolkovo took its cooperation with one of Europe’s biggest tech startup nations to a new level this week, with the visit of the French ambassador to the innovation city and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with two French business organisations.
France's Ambassador to Moscow, Sylvie Bermann, outside the Skolkovo Technopark on Wednesday. Photo: Sk.ru.
Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to Moscow, visited Skolkovo on Wednesday, a day after the Skolkovo Foundation signed an MOU with Business France and the French Industries of Commerce Competitiveness Cluster (PICOM). The document was signed during a meeting of the Franco-Russian Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Council (CEFIC) in Moscow that was attended by both countries’ economy ministers.
“It’s very interesting to cooperate, in particular after the decision of our ministers yesterday on renewable energy and innovation, so I think it’s important to work together, of course to develop the presence of our French startups here,” Bermann told Sk.ru during her visit to Skolkovo.
Pierric Bonnard, head of Business France Russia. Photo: Sk.ru.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said during Tuesday’s CEFIC meeting that renewable energy projects were an area of potential cooperation between the two countries. During Bermann’s visit to Skolkovo, Anton Skibin, acceleration director within Skolkovo’s energy cluster, presented six Skolkovo startups working in renewable energy and energy to the French delegation.
French President Emmanuel Macron has made tech and innovations a key part of his economic policy, building on France’s emerging position as a European tech hub. In January 2016, when Macron was France’s minister for economy, industry and digital affairs, he launched French Tech Moscow – a programme aimed at helping French startups enter the Russian market – at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech).
“Our new president is very keen on developing not only the concept [of France being a startup nation], but also the concrete implementation of that,” Bermann told Sk.ru.
“We established a French Tech hub in London, where I was [posted] before, and he inaugurated the French tech hub in Moscow himself, here in Skolkovo. We are an industrial nation, well known for our aeronautics, space industries, and also nuclear energy, but now we have to work on the future as well. And so Skolkovo is of course the right place to do so and cooperate with,” said the ambassador.
Bermann said she also sees potential for cooperation between France and Skolkovo in the field of education, noting that there are already 20 French students at Skoltech.
The ambassador said she was very impressed by the Russian innovation city, including by its giant Technopark, where she was received by Alexander Chernov, Skolkovo’s senior vice president for communications. The Technopark was designed by a French architect, Jean Pistre, noted Chernov, who also hailed the influence of France on the global economy and the historical relationship between the two countries, and invited the members of the French delegation to attend the Startup Village, a two-day open-air conference and exhibition at Skolkovo for startups, tech entrepreneurs and investors from around the world.
The French delegation with representatives of the Skolkovo Foundation inside the Technopark. Photo: Sk.ru.
Both Bermann and Pierric Bonnard, head of Business France Russia, hailed the signing of the MOU the day before.
“We’ve been cooperating with Skolkovo for a couple of years, but now we want to go deeper in our relations in some sectors,” said Bonnard, who has previously visited Skolkovo.
“Yesterday we signed an MOU between Skolkovo, Business France and PICOM. This MOU is dedicated to relationships in retail technologies. The Russian market is very attractive to French companies and we think we have a lot to share with Skolkovo on that subject,” Bonnard told Sk.ru.
Nine Skolkovo startups went to Paris in September to exhibit their solutions at Paris Retail Week, and a series of major French companies have visited the Skolkovo innovation city in recent months in search of innovative talent, including the Decathlon Group sports store chain, the pharmaceutical company Servier, the tyre-maker Michelin and Auchan.
The foundation also has many French partner corporations, including Airbus, Alstom and Schneider Electric, which has an R&D centre at Skolkovo. During Macron’s visit to Skolkovo last year, the foundation signed an agreement with France’s largest state-owned energy company, EDF.
Further cooperation will be discussed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in May, which Macron is due to attend, along with many French companies, Bermann noted.