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A delegation from the Finnish innovations powerhouse of Turku visited the Skolkovo Technopark on Thursday to explore possible areas of cooperation with the Skolkovo innovation city.
Turku Mayor Aleksi Randell (2nd from left) and Skolkovo's Pekka Viljakainen (3rd from left) together with other representatives of the Finnish delegation and the Skolkovo Foundation at the Technopark. Photo: Sk.ru.
The delegation, led by Turku Mayor Aleksi Randell, was welcomed by Skolkovo’s resident Finn, Pekka Viljakainen, an advisor to the president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Victor Vekselberg.
Skolkovo presented its Technopark and innovation city to the Finns, who in turn gave presentations of Turku Science Park and Turku University of Applied Sciences. With their focus on the future and hi-tech innovations, the potential for cooperation between the two cities is immense.
There are lots of similarities between the two projects, said Randell. Vesa Taatila, rector of Turku University of Applied Sciences, agreed.
“What I think is very important for us and actually very similar to your case is that we aim for innovations, we have similar tasks,” he said.
In other ways, the projects are quite different, leaving scope for them to learn from one another. While the Skolkovo project is still quite young, having been established in 2010, the Turku Science Park was set up in 1989 and is now approaching a mid-life crisis, joked its executive director, Niko Kyynäräinen.
Unlike Skolkovo, which is situated in a greenfield site just outside Moscow, the Turku Science Park is in the centre of the city, said Kyynäräinen.
“We are a university city and that is the backbone of all of our innovation system,” he said, explaining that the city’s two universities, 22,000 companies and 320,000 inhabitants are all linked via the science park’s activities.
Turku has a strong history of innovations, and is part of the Northern Growth Zone, a cross-border plan to make the Stockholm-Turku-Helsinki-St. Petersburg corridor economically competitive by linking the region’s companies through a world class business cluster.
The economic focus of the Baltic city – the oldest in Finland – is focused around its port.
“We make the most advanced ships in the world in Turku, and that influences all of our business activity,” said Kyynäräinen, adding that the ships being built now are more like “floating smart cities” than ships.
“Rolls Royce just announced that its worldwide R&D centre for automonous ships will be based in Turku,” he added. “We hope that in one or two years, autonomous ferries will be a reality.”
While landlocked Skolkovo has no such shipbuilding ambitions, it is actively working on autonomous land transport – an area that members of the Finnish delegation were keen to learn more about, asking whether there would be a car sharing system in the innovations city once it is complete, and whether those cars would be driverless.
Anton Iakovenko, CEO for UDAS Skolkovo, the legal entity responsible for the construction of the Skolkovo innovation centre, presented UDAS’ master plan to the delegation on Thursday and outlined the city’s transport plans.
The basic model for the car sharing system is a three-wheeled electric car being developed by a Skolkovo startup, he said. Residents will be able to book a vehicle via their smartphone, he said, though he added that with frequent electric buses operating throughout the territory, not a lot of demand for cars is expected.
“We are the only approved territory in Russia where pilotless cars are allowed for experimental exploitation, and we plan to be the first place in Russia where driverless electric buses will be introduced. We have three residents working in that field, and we believe one of the three will be the provider,” said Iakovenko.
One area with particular potential for cooperation between Turku and Skolkovo is that of biotech. Turku is home to Finland’s leading biotech cluster, BioTurku, and about half of Finland’s pharma and diagnostic industry is located in Turku, according to Kyynäräinen.
Last September, the Skolkovo Foundation’s biomed cluster signed an agreement with Finland’s BioCity Technopark to build a biotech technopark at the Skolkovo innovation centre.
“We are trying to bring the experience developed in Turku over the last 24 years and create the best place in Russia for the development of biotechnologies,” Dmitry Gudimenko, director general of BioCity Technopark, told the meeting via Skype on Thursday. Building the biotech park at Skolkovo will open access to Turku for Russian companies seeking to bring their technologies and product to the market, and vice versa, he said.
The testing grounds for the biocity will be the Moscow International Medical Cluster, a state-of-the-art medical hub currently under construction at the centre of the Skolkovo innovation city. The medical cluster’s first building – a diagnostics centre being built at the expense of the Moscow government – is due to be complete by the end of this year. The Skolkovo biotech centre is planned to be launched in May 2019, said Gudimenko.