The Skolkovo Foundation’s international forum, Open Innovations, ended yesterday with the launch of yet another one of its international initiatives: the Skolkovo soft-landing program. The program is designed to help hi-tech foreign companies enter the Russian market via the Skolkovo Innovation Center, and this time round, approximately three-dozen companies from eight different countries are taking part. “We purposely timed the launch to coincide with the end of Open Innovations so that companies could immerse themselves more into the innovative ecosystem and take part in the forum,” said Daria Smirnova, the head of the Department for Attracting Foreign Startups and curator of the soft-landing program.
The country offering the largest number of participants in this new soft-landing program is India; the rest of the companies originate from Brazil, Iran, Hungary, Finland, and so on, the spectrum for the participants’ different fields being as broad as their geographical origins.
An example is the Indian biomedical company, Incredible Devices, which specializes in cleaning catheters and other medical equipment so that it can be reused. The Finnish project, Nu Cycle, is an eco-platform based on artificial intelligence technologies that can reduce the amount of garbage produced by humanity. The Brazilian startup, Hangarar, created a development that is aimed at business aviation pilots. The application informs the user about prices for refueling, servicing an aircraft, and so on. The logistical platform, Truckstorm, is from a Bangladeshi company and positions itself as a meeting point for carriers and customers. The majority of participants for the soft-landing program are in IT, with ten teams; biomedical technologies takes second place, with seven company participants.
Yuri Saprykin, the vice-president of the Department of Regional and International Development at the Skolkovo Foundation, describes the program as follows: “A company takes part in the soft-landing program, which is oriented towards answering the questions – ‘Do I need the Russian market? What do I want to do there?’. For us, a sign of a successful program is when startups apply for Skolkovo residency based on the results of their participation. That means that they plan to open offices, it means that they are ready to take on employees and to conduct real activities. We have over a hundred companies participating, and today there are a dozen and a half applications for Skolkovo residency.”
According to Daria Smirnova, taking part in the Skolkovo program allows foreign startups to create a Russian market success story. One of the South Korean companies, which specializes in facial recognition, recently agreed to implement its development at Kaluga airport.
The soft-landing program, which is taking place for the sixth time (its second time in online format), aims to introduce foreign startups to the opportunities in Russian innovative infrastructure, the market, the rules for conducting business in Russia, the activities of development institutes – the Skolkovo Foundation most of all – and so on. It provides lectures, seminars, training, detailed analyses of participants’ projects, operational support and consulting, integration into the Skolkovo community, introduction to Russian partners and, not least, the country’s culture.
On the first day, Kirill Sergashov, the deputy director of the Investment Policy and Entrepreneurship Development Department at the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, gave a lecture about the opportunities that open up the Russian market to foreign startups. Mr. Sergashov talked in detail about the capital’s potential for innovation. According to him, Moscow (Skolkovo included) is the best place to launch an innovative project. The Russian capital is without competitors in terms of its low crime rate, its high-quality medical services, and its ease of doing business due to the spread of digital services.
According to Maxim Romanov, the deputy vice-president of the Department of International Development at the Skolkovo Foundation, Skolkovo is the best hub for a foreign startup looking to enter the Russian and CIS markets. There is nowhere in the world like Skolkovo because of its unique combination of factors; these include the startup community, investors, industry partners, and its powerful university – Skoltech. “Come and experience for yourselves the atmosphere that this synergy creates,” said Mr. Romanov to the soft-landing participants.
He went into detail about the fundamental elements of the Skolkovo ecosystem, highlighting that 40% of deals on the Russian venture market take place with the participation of the Skolkovo Foundation. Mr. Romanov informed the program listeners on the financial support measures and non-financial supports that exist at Skolkovo; he talked about acceleration opportunities, corporate and sector accelerators, Russian and foreign partners of the Foundation, including leading multinational companies. Mr. Romanov mentioned VisionLabs, Rock Flow Dynamics, Group IB, and EIDOS as among the Foundation residents with some of the best technological teams, not just by Russian standards, but by global standards.