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Encouraging economic growth through the 2015 Russian Startup Tour is the best way to combat the difficult political conditions currently facing the country, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Saturday.
Speaking at the International Investment Forum in Sochi, Dvorkovich said focusing on improving Russia's startup business climate was paramount in the face of global tensions.
"The best answer to that challenge is the maximum expansion of innovative activities," said Dvorkovich, formally an economic advisor to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich (center) at the International Investment Forum in Sochi on Saturday.
Frayed relations with the West might be evident on a political level, but Dvorkovich said he had received assurances from U.S. and European business leaders that they are keen to continue doing business as usual.
"Everyone wants to work: The Americans, the Europeans – there are no problems. For them the main thing is to remain as active as possible. One, two or a dozen successful projects will repay the efforts put into creating hundreds," he added.
The 2015 Russian Startup Tour (RST) is an initiative led by the Skolkovo Foundation to promote entrepreneurship and encourage innovation in Russia’s regions.
In front of an audience of local startups, experts from Russian development institutions and venture capitalists impart their knowledge on how to turn an idea into a commercially viable product.
Speaking of the RST, Dvorkovich noted: "It's exciting, it provides skills and it presents the opportunity to find out about success stories."
The tour also makes it easier for provincial startups to interact with local authorities, a key stage in attempting to go global, Dvorkovich said.
The local startups get the chance to pitch their products to the RST team, and those that give the most impressive presentations are invited to Moscow for summer’s Startup Village. Beside the Hypercube at the Skolkovo Innovation Center on June 2-3, the teams will face off in pitch sessions for the chance to win thousands of dollars’ worth of grants.
Last year’s Startup Tour visited 27 cities around Russia, but next year’s event is open to startups from more than 80 cities.
In a first, the tour rolls into the Kazakh capital Astana in March, and pays a visit to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in April.
Kazakhstan and Belarus are part of a Russia-led customs union. The Russian cities along the tour include Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk and Ufa.
The tour will spend two days in each city rather than just one from previous years.
Skolkovo Foundation vice president Alexander Chernov added that the exact itinerary of RST 2015 will be announced next month at the Open Innovations forum in Moscow.
The Skolkovo Foundation is organizing the Russian Startup Tour 2015 alongside venture investors RVK, the RUSNANO state corporation for implementing government nanoindutry policy, the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, the Foundation for the Development of Small Technological Enterprises, the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia.