14 November 2011
Building the Russian Silicon Valley
Building the Russian Silicon Valley
By Jan Kagel
After years of negotiations, MIT and the Skolkovo Foundation finally agreed on the venture to create a graduate research university named SkTech. The university is to be built in Skolkovo, right outside of Moscow, where a new technology research hub is to be created. This research hub is meant to follow the example of the American Silicon Valley in California and attract more and smart and creative minds to the region. Tax incentives and slight changes in Russian bureaucracy have successfully attracted some very big companies such as GE, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Siemens, just to name a few (Metrodesk). Many more companies are showing a keen interest. But the real founding block for the Russian Silicon Valley will have to be a university to attract and create the smart and creative entrepreneurs of the future, just like in the original Silicon Valley, where the high-tech industry started developing around the Stanford campus.
Russia sought one of the most prestigious schools in America, MIT to help plan and set up the new research institution. After two years of painstaking negotiations, a collaboration agreement was finally signed. According to the agreement, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will participate in the curriculum design, recruitment, and job description of the positions for SkTech. There will be collaboration between the classes, students, and professors of both universities and even some professors of MIT are expected to join the new university. However, although MIT will be playing a key role in setting up the new university, SkTech itself will be considered an independent university and will not offer MIT degrees.
The Russian side hopes to gain a similar well-structured university with international prestige like MIT, while MIT hopes to expand its global reach, gain access to the Russia’s best research, and expose their faculty and students to “new ideas, collaborations and problems in an important country.” (MIT Media Relations).
The main focus of the new university is going to be entrepreneurship, for which MIT is a prime example, as many of its graduates are interested in starting their own business, whereas this is rather rare among Russian graduates.
Trying to create a Russian technology research hub, like the one in Silicone Valley, from scratch is a truly great challenge, even if it is backed by government funds. But a moderate success has already been achieved, as a great influx of high tech companies has been registered in the area, which brings Russia one step closer to achieving its goal. The area has been populated by companies from all over the world and many more are showing a keen interest to have part in that opportunity.
That means that Skolkovo will likely find it challenging to manage the high volume of interest shown in it. A great number of contracts will have to be created in Russian and the language of the interested foreign companies. The contract signed by MIT and the Skolkovo Foundation was no exception in that respect. Language Connections, an experienced Massachusetts-based translation firm, was involved in the signing process by providing expert interpreters during the contract meetings between MIT and the Skolkovo Foundation.
SkTech will also need to be bilingual to implement into the modern Russian market the research created from the American and Russian collaboration. The research must be “translated to address specific market opportunities such that, if successful, it may have commercial impact” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Skolkovo Foundation). This shows that the board of directors has recognized that due to the international standing and cooperation of the SkTech University, getting the research translated into the languages of economic interest will be a key feature to its success.
Getting foreign expert help from an established university like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has greatly increased the chances of the planned university becoming a generator of young Russian entrepreneurs that will make the research hub a long-term scientific and commercial success. It still has a long way to go, but the chances for it to become a success are there. In the end it will most likely boil down to the words of Zhores Alferov, one advisor of the project officials, who said, “The success of Skolkovo depends on one thing: that we do it together.”
MIT and Skolkovo Foundation announce collaboration
MIT and Russian foundation join to open tech research hub meant to be a Silicon Valley outside Moscow
Sloan to partner with SKOLKOVO
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