This year’s Startup Tour that kicks off on February 1 will have a difference: as the Skolkovo Foundation launches its annual nationwide hunt for promising startups in all branches of science and technology, the Open University Skolkovo (OpUS) is specifically on the lookout for agricultural projects.

Andrei Egorov, head of the Open University Skolkovo. Photo:

In previous years, OpUS’s role in the Startup Tour, which this year begins in Irkutsk, has been to organise lectures for university students and young scientists on the basics of tech entrepreneurship, the opportunities offered by Skolkovo and other related topics. This year, OpUS is holding a competition of its own.

“We’re organizing a competition to find participants for our international Summer School, which will be dedicated to the use of science and technology – primarily biotechnology – in the agricultural industries of Russia and the BRICS countries and to international cooperation between young researchers from these countries,” said Andrei Egorov, head of OpUS.

There will be two stages to the competition, Egorov explained. “Upon registering for the Startup Tour, participants can apply for the Summer School. We get in touch and they send us a description of their project,” he said.

OpUS is looking for researchers and tech entrepreneurs aged under 35 who are focused on the creation of competitive technology for agriculture, and who are interested in international cooperation and working on the global market, he said.

“From the applications received, we’ll choose up to 10 projects and invite their creators to a face-to-face final in each of the 12 cities being visited by the Startup Tour. The winner will receive an invitation to the SmartAgro BRICS+ Summer School, which takes place on July 3-8 at Skolkovo,” said Egorov.

The applications will be assessed by a jury comprised of representatives of OpUS, including  young scientists from the university’s regional community, and representatives of other subdivisions of the Skolkovo Foundation, he said, adding that OpUS is coordinating the search closely with the foundation’s biomedicine, IT and space clusters.

“We’re working on the basis that about 120 people will take part in the Summer School – that’s our usual figure,” said Egorov.

“Taking into account that the school is international and also includes students from the BRICS countries, Commonwealth of Independent States and several other countries, that leaves about 20 places left for Russia. About half of them are reserved for winners of the competition we’re holding within the Startup Tour,” he said.

Competition in the final will be fierce, he predicted, noting that a lot of applications have already been received.

“In the first two cities on the Startup Tour – Irkutsk and Vladivostok – we have received an impressive number of applications: about 80 projects from each city,” said Egorov.

The priority areas of focus for the competition are:

-          Services based on satellites and UAVs for precision farming

-          Agricultural solutions using Internet of Things technology

-          Crop farming (genetics and selection, soil microbiology, plants as biofactories)

-          Livestock farming and aquaculture (cell and genetic engineering biotechnology, livestock breeding)

-          Automation systems for livestock farming, poultry farming and crop farming

-          New materials for use in agriculture

-          Industrial biotechnology in agriculture (bio-catalysis and bio-transformation, metabolic engineering, development and improvement of fermentation processes)

-          Processing of agriculture industry produce

-          Quality and safety control of produce

-          Produce preservation and storage

-          Forestry (molecular and genetic projects, added-value wood processing)