Skolkovo Techno Park - A Russian Silicon Valley in Making

The synonym of a mega-project is almost always a failure; but the case of Skolkovo seems to exceptional one. The Skolkovo innovation center project was launched in 2010 in south-east Moscow. The main reason for the project is to create the first Russian research and innovation center that will combine science, education, and business. Skolkovo is usually considered as the Russian Silicon Valley, however it is not exactly a precise comparison, because Skolkovo is a city built from nothing and the process in the heart of city development is reversed from the case of Silicon Valley. There is nothing that can attract “brain” to this part of Moscow region, while Silicon Valley is an organic extension of Stanford University in California. 

Why is Skolkovo a Mega-Project?

Skolkovo was internationally oriented and sought to symbolize the transition to the new urban forms; previously uncommon to the soviet city planning, as well as aiming to attract worldwide companies such as Cisco, Boeing, Siemens, and others. In according the branch of science, the city is divided into 5 clusters: biomedical, nuclear, space, IT and energy. The development of each cluster is held under the supervision of the architects, who designed it initially in order to stay on a western track.

The  the central element of the Skolkovo Innovation Center is the 400-hectare technology hub west of Moscow that is to be home to 30,000 residents by 2020..

Officially known as Skolkovo Technopark, the hub has more than 200 startups which enjoy access to the local infrastructure, as well as financial and legal support that aims to foster entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Technopark  is the largest technopark in Eastern Europe provides the dry and web labs for all research and development activities of Skolkovo’s resident companies. The few hundred startups currently at Skolkovo are located in the Technopark Office Center along with the foundation management.

Here are five interesting startups that are already gaining traction internationally.

1. VIST Robotics

While robots are still a rare sight in city streets, they’re already making a difference in mining, and VIST Robotics is the force behind this. Russian specialists came up with a remote control system for mining equipment - such as excavators, dump trucks and loaders - making it possible to mine the quarry without humans present. VIST’s “smart quarry” project will increase mining effectiveness by 15-20 percent, cut costs by up to 15 percent, increase the safety of mining and help carry out this work in remote and severe climatic regions, not only in Russia, but in any part of the world.

2. Dommar (3D Smile Lab)

While long the most popular way to straighten one’s teeth, braces are now losing ground in Russia and across the globe. Transparent aligners were previously considered as too expensive for teeth correction, but this might change. Russia’s 3D Smile Lab is making aligners affordable, as well as more effective than international competitors because they can adjust both the tooth's crown and roots.

“We work with doctors who send us a cast of their patient’s tooth, then we scan it and come up with a 3D model. Our innovative software assesses the model and figures out the whole cycle of treatment,” said Marina Domracheva, general director of 3D Smile Lab. “Judging by the cost, our aligners are three times cheaper than Western ones and are almost equal to traditional braces that cost 200-250,000 rubles ($3,531-4,414) in Moscow.”

 

3. Motorika

Founded in 2015, Motorika is “transforming humans into cyborgs,” jokes Fyodor Kubyshkin, the company’s head of bioelectric prosthesis development. Motorika creates upper limb electro-mechanical prostheses (traction and bionic ones) for all age groups, catering to individual needs and preferences. The prostheses are individually designed and can utilize various technologies (such as PayPass), and function as a smartphone. The minimum price for traction prosthesis is around 100-150,000 rubles ($1,743-$2,615), while for bionic ones - about 350,000 rubles ($6,103), depending on features.

 

4. TRY.FIT

Ever struggle to find the perfect pair of shoes? Now it can be done faster and more efficiently. One of Skolkovo’s residents offers 3D scanning technology that finds the perfect pair of boots by scanning one’s feet. Then you can choose from available options in the database and find the footwear that fits best. The app saves the 3D model and sends a purchase request to a partner shop.

 “Right now we are cooperating with Decathlon, Ralf Ringer and Ekonika, and also testing technology with Adidas Group, New Balance and Intersport.” ,Vagan Martirosyan, general director of TRY.FIT, told Russia Beyond.

5. Samocat Sharing

The Russian startup, Samocat Sharing, has come up with a reliable system of renting stations for autonomous scooters that allow a user to take a kick scooter via a mobile app and go on their way. The cost of the service in Moscow is two rubles per minute. All scooters have anti-theft features – a solid construction without screw-off components and a GPS chip that can track the scooter.

 

 

 

The features that make Skolkovo Technopark favourable are:

Customs easing:

• Lower rental rates for the services of a custom representative.

• Reimbursement of expenses of paid import duties and VAT

Tax Exemption: 

• Exemption from the duties of the taxpayer for income tax.

• Exemption from the duties of the taxpayer for the tax on value added.

Migration policy benefits:

• Cancellation of quotas on foreign labor

• Cancellation of registration permit to attract and use foreign labor.

• Increase the term of the permitting documents up to 3 years.

Possibilty to apply for receiving a grant

• Non-dilutive grants up to $10m.

• 209 grants approved for the total amount of RUB 9.5bn.

 

The achievements one cannot deny

One of the greatest achievemenst of Skolkovo as a project was the successful avoidance being transformed into an ordinary residential and professional development project; which would have been the simplest way of profit extraction. In the case of Skolkovo, this scenario is no longer possible, as the concept shaped by the master plan is embodied on the ground and is currently functioning.

Notably, Skolkovo is one of the first “elaborated” projects. Beforehand, Moscow and Russia tended to have only developers construct projects aiming to bring economic benefits in a very short term. Skolkovo, on the contrary, is a long-term project launched to encourage the capitalization of hard science… however, it has nothing to offer to the human sciences domain.

 

The Technopark is well integrated with various other technoparks, startups, incubators, universities and development organiztions viz. Asian Science Park Association, Technopark Zurich, National Business Incubators Association etc., making it a part of an innovative community and a perfect platform for development and result-oriented collaboration.