2017 has been another packed year for the Skolkovo innovation city. The last year saw the Skolkovo Foundation’s total number of resident startups reach about 1,800, with the first of them moving into the newly finished Skolkovo Technopark at the beginning of the year. It was a year that saw resident startups raise investment, win awards and enter new markets. The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) reached new milestones, as did the Skolkovo International Gymnasium. New buildings inside Skolkovo were completed and opened their doors. These are just some of the highlights from 2017 at Skolkovo.
This year has brought a whole host of new investment deals to Skolkovo resident startups. Photo: Sk.ru.
The year began with a momentous occasion for Skolkovo: the innovation centre graduated to the status of a real city when the very first residents moved into brand new accommodation. The pioneering residents included employees of Skolkovo resident startups and the foundation itself, as well as staff of Skoltech.
In the same month, the annual Startup Tour, Skolkovo’s roving quest for talented tech entrepreneurs across Russia and neighbouring countries, kicked off in the northern city of Yakutsk, the coldest inhabited place on Earth, located just a few hundred kilometres below the Arctic Circle. Yakutsk was the first of 11 Russian cities visited by the Startup Tour, in addition to the Kazakh city of Almaty and Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. The tour ended in the southern city of Astrakhan in April, and the winners of each regional stage of the tour’s pitching competition came to the Startup Village in June to present their ideas to an international audience of investors and experts.
Also in January, the Skolkovo International Gymnasium celebrated its second birthday with a day of musical performances for parents, as well as masterclasses and lectures for the children.
On Valentine’s Day, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who founded Skolkovo in 2010 during his tenure as president, paid a visit to the innovation city to check up on his brainchild’s progress. Medvedev watched brief presentations by several startups at Skolkovo’s giant Technopark, including a demonstration of a driverless forklift truck made by RoboCV. Medvedev also dropped in on a lecture for Skoltech students being given by Professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou, head of Skoltech’s robotics lab, where the prime minister was presented with a personalised bright orange smartphone case that students of the institute had made for him using a 3D printer.
Medvedev praised Skolkovo’s contribution to modernising the Russian economy, noting its world-class centre for commercialising technologies.
This year's roving Startup Tour began in January in the chilly northern city of Yakutsk. Photo: Sk.ru.
February was also a good month for Skolkovo IT cluster resident Playkey, a cloud gaming service that allows gamers all over the world to play the latest video games on outdated PCs and laptops. The company raised $1.5 million from Darz, a major German IT service provider and data centre owner, in exchange for an undisclosed share of the company.
March saw Skolkovo residents receive a flurry of awards and investment. Half of the categories at the Startup of the Year awards organised by the Higher School of Economics were won by Skolkovo startups: Koshelek (CardsMobile), an app that allows users to compile all their bank, transport and discount cards into one electronic wallet, won the best fintech startup award, while Apis Cor, a mobile 3D printer that can print entire buildings in 24 hours, won the best hardware startup category.
In the meantime, WayRay, a resident of Skolkovo’s space cluster that makes augmented reality (AR) technology for cars, raised $18 million in Series B financing led by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.
In the same month, NFWare, which develops network software that enables the high-speed processing of internet traffic, raised $2 million in venture funding led by Sistema Venture Capital fund, while LETA Capital venture fund invested a further $1 million in Brain4Net, a developer of software for upgrading and managing networks.
On the international side of Skolkovo’s activities, four Korean companies arrived to take part in Skolkovo’s pilot soft landing programme for foreign startups.
In April, Skoltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) held a joint scientific conference at the Skolkovo innovation centre. Topics at the two-day event, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, included multimodal brain mapping in the era of big data, and nucleic acid delivery systems for RNA therapy and in vivo genome editing.
Hot on the heels of the conference came another much anticipated event: the annual Skolkovo Robotics conference and exhibition, where international experts discussed trending topics such as that of robots replacing humans in some professions, the idea of a universal basic income and driverless vehicles.
The annual Skolkovo Robotics conference and exhibition was held at the Technopark in April. Photo: Sk.ru.
In other robotics news, the Skolkovo Foundation celebrated a double victory at the end of the month when Skoltech won first place in the national final of the Eurobot international amateur robotics contest in Kaliningrad, and the Skolkovo International Gymnasium took second place in Eurobot Junior.
Meanwhile, the Startup Tour visited the northern city of Arkhangelsk,to see how local entrepreneurs are making use of the region’s resources.
May was another packed month at Skolkovo. As the world reeled from the WannaCry global cyberattack, Skolkovo’s resident cybercrime sleuths Group-IB helped Russia’s Interior Ministry catch a gang of hackers suspected of using a Trojan virus to steal money from more than one million bank accounts via mobile banking apps.
Getting to Skolkovo got easier with the launch of the innovation city’s first car sharing scheme, BelkaCar. The cars quickly became a regular sight in Skolkovo’s main car park, and next year, the company plans to add electric cars to its fleet for use inside Skolkovo, making it the first electric car sharing scheme in Russia.
The RBC news agency released its list of 20 “young and promising heroes of tomorrow,” and nearly one-third of the inventors and entrepreneurs represented Skolkovo companies.
Meanwhile, 10 Skolkovo startups headed to New York to showcase their products and solutions at TechCrunch Disrupt.
June is traditionally one of Skolkovo’s busiest months, which sees thousands of people flock to the innovation city for the annual two-day Startup Village, and this year was no exception. At this year’s event, agreements were signed with Philips and AEON, six prizes were awarded to winning startups in the pitching competition, and investors hailed the official launch of Skolkovo Ventures: three new investment funds devoted to IT, industrial technology and biotech.
In May, Skolkovo resident cybersleuths Group-IB helped police catch a gang of hackers. Photo: Group-IB.
Over at Skoltech, the university’s Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery unveiled its new state-of-the-art laboratory devoted to research and development into technologies for producing oil and gas that cannot be extracted using traditional methods, while Dr. Kim Binsted, the principle investigator on the NASA-funded HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) programme gave a lecture to students on her research into how small teams of astronauts might survive the long, long, flight to Mars in a confined space – without killing each other.
In July, 25 Skolkovo aerospace startups showed off their products, designs and solutions at the MAKS international aviation and space salon in the Moscow region town of Zhukovsky.
International partnerships bloomed, as Skolkovo’s resident rehabilitation exoskeleton maker ExoAtlet raised $2 million in investment and grants in South Korea, and the French pharmaceutical company Servier scouted Skolkovo for promising e-health technology.
Meanwhile, Galina Balashova, who designed generations of Soviet spacecraft interiors, gave a talk about her fascinating work as part of Skolkovo’s Days of Industrial Design festival.
August was another successful month for resident startups, with Optogard Nanotech, which has developed a laser-plasma technology for strengthening the surfaces of metals and alloys, raising $1.8 million from the Garant investment group, and Navigine raising $900,000 for its indoor navigation system from an international syndicate of investors.
Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg launched a new scholarship programme for Russian students to study at MIT, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin spoke at the Skolkovo Technopark, and, as the summer drew to a close, the innovation city hosted its second Skolkovo Jazz festival.
The innovation city got its first car-sharing scheme this year with the arrival of Belka Car. Photo: Sk.ru.
The Skolkovo International Gymnasium celebrated the start of the new school year on September 1 by moving into a brand new purpose-built building with more than twice as many pupils as the previous year.
Russky Technopark opened in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, with the aim of fostering tech entrepreneurship and startups there with support from the Skolkovo Foundation. Resident startups of the Russky Technopark can make use of all of the same key services available to residents of the main Skolkovo Technopark, such as support and facilities for producing lab samples, carrying out pre-clinical research, registering trademarks and brand names, and mentor support.
In startup successes, Inspector Cloud, an online auditing platform, and credit assessment service Scorista were selected to take part in the Starta accelerator in New York, guaranteeing them $130,000 each in funding. Apis Cor, the parent company of Skolkovo resident Apis-Cor Engineering, which uses 3D printing to construct buildings, raised about $6 million in investment from the Rusnano Sistema Sicar venture fund.
Thirteen other Skolkovo startups were propelled to fame when they were selected to compete for cash in an ongoing reality TV show titled “An Idea Worth a Million” that started showing in December.
Pupils at the Skolkovo Gymnasium line up on the first day of the school year in September. Photo: Sk.ru.
October was another packed month for the Skolkovo innovation centre, not least for the three days in which it played host to the annual Open Innovations forum. At this year’s event, speakers including Jack Ma and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel discussed the role of education in the digital economy with Dmitry Medvedev, international space experts debated the potential of asteroid mining, and Skolkovo startups displayed their innovations for all the world to see.
Over at the Golden Autumn agricultural exhibition, the Skolkovo stand offered visitors a glimpse into the future of farming, while Skolkovo resident AMT made the headlines when it unveiled the biggest residential building to be made using 3D printing technology in Europe and the CIS: a fully-fledged family house in the Russian city of Yaroslavl.
Back at Skolkovo, Russia’s first co-working lab for biomed startups — Sk BioLab — opened at the Skolkovo Technopark, providing a platform for budding biomed entrepreneurs to test their theories and turn their ideas into a commercial company.
November saw the opening of a state-of-the-art Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (AM Lab) at Skoltech, boasting a globally unrivalled collection of 3D printers that includes Russia’s biggest. Over at the Technopark, Russia’s first commercial research biobank, National BioService, opened a laboratory there that will provide other Skolkovo startups and companies with the biological samples they require to assess the effectiveness and safety of the medical drugs they are developing, using in vitro models.
The Skolkovo innovation centre hosted major events devoted to cryptocurrencies and the use of technology to improve life for disabled people.
The first resident startups moved into the giant Skolkovo Technopark at the beginning of this year. Photo: Sk.ru.
It was a great month for Skolkovo startups VisionLabs, which sold a 25 percent stake in its face recognition system to Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank, and ExoAtlet, which launched a joint venture in Japan together with South Korean partners and investors.
Meanwhile, three other Skolkovo startups swept the board at awards ceremonies.
Things didn’t quieten down towards the end of the year, on the contrary: Sberbank opened the country’s biggest data-processing centre at Skolkovo, and the innovation city hosted a major conference devoted to legal tech.
Skolkovo resident Playkey, Russia’s first cloud-based decentralized gaming platform, raised more than $10.5 million in an ICO, while a drug being developed at Skolkovo to treat acute myeloid leukaemia raised $6 million in investment.
And to round off the year in the spirit of both national and international cooperation that characterises so much of the foundation’s activities, Skolkovo joined forces both with other Russian development institutes to launch a new wave of tech competitions, and with the U.K.’s AMR Centre to combat the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.
Stay tuned next year to keep up with the Skolkovo innovation centre’s news and achievements in 2018!