Russia has got money and interesting ideas for innovations, it has opened up possibilities for practicing abroad. What else is needed to increase the number of innovation success stories? – this topic was discussed at the workshop that took place recently in the framework of Nano and Giga-Forum in the main building of Moscow State University.

It seems that debates about the most favorable climate for commercialization of Russian innovative ideas will be exciting for Russian intellectuals for a long time. Although all Western theories as regards to new products promotion into markets were learnt long ago, comments of the experts successful in the innovation field were heard out, and individual links in the innovation chain seem to have started functioning represented by business agents бизнес-ангелов, venture funds, startups, it is generally considered that output innovations are still negligible. Though innovative production volumes are constantly increasing in absolute expression (for example, in 2010 the volume increased by 3.7 times as compared to that of 2003), in international comparisons, Russia sometimes yields even to the ‘rear echelon’ countries in terms of innovation rates. The lack of small-scale innovative companies is perceived particularly painfully. It is for them that multiple development institutes were established, including the local ‘silicon valley’ called “Skolkovo”, but innovative activity in the country is still low and, according to the latest data from the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), it even has a tendency to decrease. At one of the key events of the Nano and Giga-Forum – Innovation workshop – this tendency became clearly apparent: the audience comprised more innovation theorists and representatives of investment circles than innovators per se or at least those who is striving to try on this honorable role. According to my observations, students and post-graduates (the forum taking place in Moscow State University) preferred to attend scientific groups (where they reported in English about nanostructured meta-materials or about properties of heterostructures based on various oxides) than the workshop, – actually a meeting with investors and administrators of innovation processes, who explained in Russian or via an interpreter how to obtain money for new projects.

Meanwhile, the workshop attendees clearly defined one of the main weak links of innovation chain in Russia: innovators’ inability to sell their ideas. «Do you know the word «molybdenite»? “ asked the audience Sergey Mitrofanov, Director General of the international consulting agency «Brandflight», and, having received a negative answer he explained that it is a material significantly exceeding graphene in properties, although graphene is more hyped-up. «I am amazed how brilliant its promotion process was. The product is not in place yet but the brand has already been established », said Mr. Mitrofanov. In his opinion, two things have taken the first place in commercialization of innovations: a patent, i.e., the right to live in consumers’ mind, and a brand, which actually lives and is rising in price. And these two things, unfortunately, have not taken hold yet in minds of those who create innovative products.

Director of the Russian Association of Innovative Development Marina Shichkina has announce the launch of the “Time of Innovation” journal

 

As a matter of fact, it has turned out at once that activity has already started to form if not full-fledged brands but at least a good name of Russian innovations. Director of the Russian Association of Innovative Development Marina Shichkina said that a lot of projects were being launched, with the help of which «innovative ideas will be broadcast into the environment». For example, a specialized journal “Time of Innovations” is getting ready for publishing, a contest of new ideas is being organized under the sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to provide further winners’ support and popularization; the «Technopark» program about innovations is broadcast under sponsorship of the Russian Venture Company (RVC).

In general, Russia finds money for innovations when necessary, hopefully, good brand-managers for innovations will also be found, however, nobody can tell if innovations per se will appear as an outcome of all these and when it will happen. Even in case of highly publicized success stories, a potential innovator is to possess a significant reserve of optimism to dare to promote his business from scratch. The reasons, to my mind, are also in PR, in fact, with a minus sign, – it is sufficient to read at Internet forums citizens’ of Russia assess of the business climate in their country. It is difficult to calculate how fair this assessment is, but most likely it specifically forms distrust both to investors and to multiple authorities’ initiatives in support of innovations. Incidentally, one of the speakers asked the audience for serious: “What do you know about Skolkovo?” and added immediately: «I mean – what good do you know!», thus provoking laughter among attendees.

The US Embassy representative in the RF Dan Ferfuson has noted that young Russian researchers willingly participate in the US programs that do not provide grants for education but give an opportunity for a person to stay in the USA and to cooperate with various organizations for some time, and he urged to use this collaboration possibility even more actively.

Certainly, it is not worth concluding from the above that everything is bad and would never improve in Russia, and that it is necessary to leave for the US. Probably, given such evident interest of multiple parties in innovation development, some results will be noticeable sooner or later, and we can hope for success if there are more efforts than publicizing of these efforts.

Interviewed by Natalia Bykova, published by The Russian Nanotechnologies journal

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