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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at whose initiative the Skolkovo innovation city outside Moscow was founded in 2010, praised the project’s evolution at a meeting of the Skolkovo Foundation’s board of trustees on Wednesday.
“I’d like to say straight away that the project has not just been accomplished; it’s developing successfully,” Medvedev told the board of trustees, which he chairs, at his Gorki residence in the Moscow region, according to a transcript published on the government’s website.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opening the board of trustees meeting at Gorki on Wednesday. Photo: Government.ru.
“Skolkovo is truly one of the main reserves for building the economy of the future: an economy built on new ideas, intellectual products and breakthrough technologies,” said the prime minister.
The Skolkovo innovation centre was set up with the aim of transforming Russia’s economy from an oil exports-dependent model to a hi-tech economy built around lots of small, innovative companies.
The Skolkovo community is first and foremost its residents: those same small innovative companies, of which there are now more than 1,640, said Medvedev, noting that the key idea behind the Skolkovo project had been to create the necessary conditions for small hi-tech businesses to appear.
“Ten percent [of those resident startups] have already launched their products on international markets, which is great in itself, and in the last year alone, their revenues reached nearly 50 billion rubles ($825 million),” the prime minister noted.
“Skolkovo is also a research project, including for big business,” he continued. “The innovations subdivisions of our leading companies working in fuel and energy, machine building, electronics and other fields are already located here or are being built. Eighty-five industrial companies have signed agreements on setting up research and development centres, of which a third are foreign companies.”
Another aspect of Skolkovo’s mission is to become an educational centre, and this has also been successful, said Medvedev, noting the research successes of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), and the fact that the Skolkovo International Gymnasium will reopen after the summer holidays in its own brand-new, purpose-built premises at Skolkovo.
“In the last few years, Skolkovo has virtually transformed into a real city, where more than 3,000 people work,” said Medvedev, who has been a regular visitor to the Skolkovo innovation city since construction work here began.
“Residential areas are being built for students, teachers and employees of innovative companies, and a unique urban environment is taking shape that is progressive from the start, and which uses the latest architectural and engineering solutions based on contemporary ecological technologies,” he said.
Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg told the board of trustees that more than 300,000 square metres of new real estate will be brought online this year. “Above all, the construction of the Skoltech campus will be completed, and new residential areas and additional office buildings will be ready,” he said. More than 1 million square metres of property will have been built on the territory of the innovations city by its completion date in 2020.
“For the next stage, we propose the creation of an artificial intelligence centre,” said Vekselberg. “This is a field that is in extremely high demand today across all kinds of areas of activity.”
The volume of venture investment fell in the country as a whole last year, he told the board.
“However, we were able to increase the proportion of our venture investment by more than 20 percent, and today, about 40 percent of all venture investment in Russia is made within the activities of our foundation.” That’s about 8 billion rubles ($132 million) in venture financing, said Vekselberg.
Medvedev said his government was paying close attention to supporting Skolkovo, and “this year, really solid investment is planned. The foundation, in turn, is actively helping tech entrepreneurs who are just starting out, via grants, attracting investment, and protection of intellectual property rights, including abroad,” he said.
The prime minister called on the staff of his brainchild to help spread their experience beyond Moscow to help regional universities and other academic institutes to commercialise their scientific achievements, as Skolkovo was set up to do. Vekselberg told the board that that was one of the foundation’s priorities.
Other members of the board of trustees present included Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, Science and Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov.