Moscow 'Smart City' Update: From the Desk of CATA Director & i-CANADA Chair Bill Hutchison: Skolkovo: a multibillion dollar initiative of the Russian government innovation & commercialization initiative
February 21, 2012


Skolkovo is a multibillion dollar initiative of the Russian government focused on 
academic research, post graduate education, innovation and commercialization.  It was 
announced in 2010 and construction has already begun on 1000 acres of green field 
land on the outskirts of Moscow. I am pleased to be a Member of the Skolkovo Smart 
City Expert Advisory Board. 

The initiative is intended to help resolve a number of social and economic issues for 
Russia and the strategy includes significant foreign collaboration and partnering which 
means many international opportunities.  For complete details on Skolkovo and its 
mandate, structure, funding, initiatives and opportunities go to this URL:
http://www.sk.ru/ru-RU/Model.aspx?sc_Lang=en 


Skolkovo's MIT Seeks to Stop Brain Drain

Here is a summary of an article in this week’s Moscow Times, describing a recent 
gathering in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the founding conference of the Skolkovo 
Institute of Science and Technology or SkTech – a joint venture of MIT and Russian 
President Dimitry Medvedev’s Skolkovo Innovation Centre.  The complete article follows 
this summary.  

• Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, or SkTech — a joint venture 
of MIT and President Dmitry Medvedev's Skolkovo Innovation Center announced 
in October, 2011.
• The new institute will be situated at the Skolkovo site in the Moscow suburbs, its 
core language will be English, and it will be focused on entrepreneurship 
and bringing research to market. 
• The new university is intended for Russian graduate students so they can attend 
a world-class research-based institution while staying in the Russian Federation, 
said SkTech president Edward Crawley, an MIT professor who has served as 
chairman of the NASA technology and commercialization advisory committee.
• Designed to help reverse a Russian brain drain that has had a major impact 
on the nation's economy and educational system. Each year, 15 percent 
of graduates leave the country, and since the fall of the Soviet Union, 800 
institutes have closed their doors. In all, about 800,000 scientists have emigrated 
from Russia, said Almaz Capital partner Sergei Beloussov during a presentation 
at the conference.
• SkTech is expected to open the doors of its $1 billion campus, designed 
by Beijing Olympic stadium architects Herzog and de Meuron, in 2014. By the 
end of the decade, it aspires to reach the scale of CalTech, with 200 faculty, 300 
post doctorates and about 1,200 graduate students.  
                                  -----------------------------------------------------------------
                     The Moscow Times  

Skolkovo's MIT Seeks to Stop Brain Drain 
17 February 2012
By Justin Varilek

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts —
"I'm probably not going to move back for a couple 
of decades," said Yekaterina Paramonova, a third-year undergraduate majoring 
in nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
echoing the sentiment of many Russians who have tasted life outside the motherland.
"In the United States, there are secure job opportunities, and you know the process 
to obtain a job isn't really corrupt, but in Russia you need to have connections," she 
said.

Paramonova, an aspiring young scientist whose parents immigrated to the United 
States four months before she was born, was one of many representatives of the 
Russian diaspora gathered last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the founding 
conference of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, or SkTech — a joint 
venture of MIT and President Dmitry Medvedev's Skolkovo Innovation Center 
announced in October.

The new institute will be situated at the Skolkovo site in the Moscow suburbs, its core 
language will be English, and it will be focused on entrepreneurship and bringing 
research to market. 

The Skolkovo Innovation Center is a government initiative striving to concentrate 
industry, academia and investors in a single location to form a Silicon Valley on the 
outskirts of the country's capital.

The new university is intended for Russian graduate students so they can attend 
a world-class research-based institution while staying in the Russian Federation, said 
SkTech president Edward Crawley, an MIT professor who has served as chairman 
of the NASA technology and commercialization advisory committee.

The brain drain has had a major impact on the nation's economy and educational 
system. Each year, 15 percent of graduates leave the country, and since the fall of the 
Soviet Union, 800 institutes have closed their doors. In all, about 800,000 scientists have emigrated from Russia, said Almaz Capital partner Sergei Beloussov during 
a presentation at the conference.

Rutgers University professor of molecular biology Konstantin Severinov bucked 
the trend and returned to head a lab at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute 
of Molecular Genetics in Moscow in 2005. Since then, he has become one of four 
faculty fellows for SkTech. He witnessed 40 talented Russian students passing through 
his Rutgers' lab, but only two returned home — a tendency he hopes to reverse.

"We want to create the opportunity for those who have left to come back," MIT's 
Crawley declared at the conference, in concert with Severinov's aspirations.

The drain has reached such a scale that president Crawley, an American, was the only 
representative of any Russian academic institution at the World Economic Forum 
in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January. Presidents of about 20 of the world's top 
universities attended the event, including Cambridge, Columbia University, Harvard,
MIT, National University of Singapore, Oxford, Tsinghua University and University 
of Zurich.

SkTech: Russia's Response

SkTech is expected to open the doors of its $1 billion campus, designed by Beijing 
Olympic stadium architects Herzog and de Meuron, in 2014. By the end of the decade, 
it aspires to reach the scale of CalTech, with 200 faculty, 300 post doctorates and about 
1,200 graduate students.

All of the faculty and student body will be engaged in research to solve problems in five 
strategic scientific areas defined by the Russian government: biomedical, nuclear, 
space, information and energy science.

Within the framework of these five fields, about 15 research centers — with budgets 
of $6 million to $12 million each — will form an integral part of SkTech. Each center will 
combine faculty and students of a Russian university with those of a non-Russian 
university and SkTech to collaborate on research projects, which will "solve 
the problems of the 21st century." 

SkTech will strive to skip the evolutionary process that MIT, Harvard and Cambridge 
underwent to become economic engines of growth, said Crawley, pointing to the 
benefits of being surrounded by about 200 resident companies of Skolkovo, including 
IBM and SAP.

Accordingly, one of its defining and novel features is the Center for Entrepreneurship 
and Innovation, or CEI. This organization will provide two main functions: 
entrepreneurship research and education as well as assistance in commercializing 
research results. The center will offer grants — each worth up to 3 million rubles ($100,000)
per year — and mentoring to research centers and faculty so their projects reach the market. It will 
also manage all bureaucratic tasks: patenting inventions, managing conflicts of interest and acting as liaisons to industry.

A Long Way to Go

However, since ground is not expected to be broken until late this spring, the only 
presence SkTech has so far in Skolkovo is administrative offices within the Skolkovo 
School of Management, a separate institution. Much work is required before 
the aforementioned facilities and programs are up and running.

"The procedure, everything is being created as we speak," Severinov said.
To navigate the unmarked territory, the SkTech founders are organizing pilot programs 
and expect a continuous ramping-up process.

Starting in August 2012, the first 20 students will participate in a three- to four-week 
"boot camp," SkTech special projects manager Lyuba Semirog said. The program will 
focus on courses in entrepreneurship and innovation as well as engineering. 

Following that, the students will pass through a year long pilot program at MIT or 
potentially Stanford, Imperial College London or ETH Zurich — with all expenses paid 
for by SkTech.

Seeking to be financially independent, Crawley said the first development session 
for the endowment has already taken place, and they are planning on raising $1 billion 
with a long-term goal of $2 billion. The endowment, he said, should, within 10 to 20 
years, be able to pay for 20 percent to 30 percent of all the university's costs.

The Skolkovo Foundation — the governing body funded from federal coffers and tasked 
with developing conditions favorable for innovation — foots the bill for all of SkTech's
operating expenses and the creation of the research centers, said SkTech vice 
president for administration and development Alexei Sitnikov. However, in time Crawley 
foresees research projects contributing major sources of capital, as multinational 
corporations, international grants and private investors fund projects.

Dispersing Fears

Undergrad Paramonova told The Moscow Times that she would like to attend SkTech
for graduate studies, especially since the education was free, but the uncertainty of how 
the master's degree would be accepted by international institutions and businesses 
caused her to focus on universities in France.

To attract students, SkTech is providing three years of free education. During the
first year, students study abroad at a world-class international institution before
returning to SkTech for the final two years. 

Franz Hover, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT attending the conference 
to learn more about the research proposal process, said his greatest concern was 
residency. He had already worked abroad in Singapore, and the experience had been 
very difficult for his family and career.

Severinov, however, dismissed concerns that it will be difficult to attract professors 
and researchers. "If the price is right, there will be no problem attracting Russian 
professors," he said.

He pointed out that there is currently a large undersupply of funding in the United States 
and that many labs are closing. Most research grants are $250,000 per year for four 
years, he said, whereas SkTech would be able to provide twice that amount.
SkTech is also focusing on attracting younger professors, Severinov said.

Each junior faculty member will spend an all-expenses-paid year doing research under 
a leading senior faculty mentor at another institution — at the moment MIT. However, 
agreements are being made with other institutions, Crawley said. After the first year, 
the professor will return to SkTech, but the mentoring relationship will continue to be 
cultivated — a cost footed by SkTech.

Stanislav Emelianov, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who emigrated 
to the United States from Russia 20 years ago, visited the conference to evaluate 
the potential SkTech may have as a collaborative satellite university for his institution.
His main concern for the research centers was whether all universities would be given 
"a fair shake." He wanted to see more transparency in the research proposal selection 
process — that politics would be kept out of it.

I want to be sure the distribution of money doesn't just turn into some "money 
laundering" scheme, he said. 

"Look, I'm leaving MIT to go and create this university," Crawley said in response 
to questions of whether corruption could seep into the process for funding allocation. 
"I'm not going to put up with anything. If I find something like that, I'll stop it and if I can't 
stop it, I'll leave. So if you see me leave, ask why."

The Future

Not completely convinced, but further reassured, Ruslan Valiyev, head 
of nanotechnologies at Ufa State Aviation Technical University, based in Russia's Bashkortostan republic, said he had arrived with 10 percent confidence in the potential 
of SkTech, but after the two days, he was nearing 40 percent.

MIT professor of health sciences Leonid Mirny, an emigre, and bioengineering professor 
Mikhail Gelfand at Moscow State University, are ready to jointly apply for a research 
project in clinical and functional genetics, which would bring their respective universities 
together in a collaborative project at SkTech. Mirny expects strong competition for the 
funding, predicting possibly 20 applications in their field.

Crawley, however, doesn't gauge success by the number of applicants the university 
receives or how confident professors are in SkTech's potential.

"The real measure of success," he said, "is when people start wanting to come 
to Skolkovo to work. When the first graduate student applies to Skolkovo and MIT 
and gets in to both places and goes to Skolkovo — that day I will smile all day."

After the conference, Paramonova was still convinced that she would most likely do her 
graduate studies in Western Europe next year. But she said she foresees getting 
a second degree at SkTech and joining the battle to stop the brain drain.

"I'm going to try to get everything I can," she said, "and then go back [to Russia] and try 
to change something." 

Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/skolkovos-mit-seeks-tostop-brain-drain/453233.html#discussion#ixzz1moTT4bx3