Press about RVC

The next virtual nurse will come from Russia. Mikhail Antonov, RVC


In December, “The NTI Ecosystem: A Strategy for the Future” forum organized by RVC was held in Sochi. The participants of the NTI (National Technology Initiative) discussed the results of the work and made plans for the coming years. The main goal is not only to bring Russian business to the world market, but also to put 50% of the economy on technological footing. On the sidelines of the forum, Hightech spoke with RVC Deputy General Director Mikhail Antonov about how realistic the goals set for the Russian economy were, in what areas Russia had chances to outrun world markets and whether Russian start-ups could exist under sanctions.

RVC, Russian Venture Company is the state fund of funds and the Institute of Development of the Russian Federation, the project office of the National Technology Initiative. The headquarters is located in Moscow. The RVC currently has funds in 225 portfolio companies. The total amount of monetary funds approved for investment is 17 billion rubles. The top three key areas of RVC investment include biotechnology, IT and electronics.

Mikhail Antonov is Deputy General Director, Director for Development of the Innovation Infrastructure at RVC. Ph.D. in Economics. He held the posts of Deputy Governor of the Perm Oblast and Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Perm Krai. From 2008 to 2011 — Vice-President for Strategic Development at Uralkali OJSC. In 2012, he joined the project office team at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, where he has been employed as Director until 2017.

“In cases where you are ahead of time, you get a competitive advantage”

— At the forum you talked about the fact that Russian companies should seek leadership in world markets. But how can you explain to business why you need to stay in Russia or establish a second company in the USA to operate globally?

— If we say to companies that they need to do something, we will lose immediately. It is our competence to show advantages and opportunities of working within the Russian jurisdiction, but, of course, business always takes the decision itself.

There are two extreme options. One is when a Russian company with its staff is located and pays taxes in Russia, and travels abroad as necessary on business trips. Another option is that the company is no longer in Russia, the founders have not only a Russian citizenship, and only 1.5% of the business remains in the country. These are two extremes. Between them lies a huge number of options. Business always chooses the one that is more convenient for it, and we cannot and not going to prevent it. Nothing can be achieved by force.

— You work a lot with the regulatory framework to make life easier for businesses in technology, but do we now have some areas in Russia where businesses could get more profit than elsewhere?

— These things are called “regulatory sandboxes’, they exist at the global level as well. For example, China today extremely tolerates gene modification. And all the research, start-ups, large companies engaged in that field are in China or made in China. Once you make the regulation less strict, create the ‘regulatory sandbox’, you can await visits of those who specialize in this area. Then they will make a copy from you, and other states will analyze your experience and tell you what they will do and what they will not. But in cases where you are ahead of time, you get a competitive advantage. There are several platforms of this kind in Russia.

— Do you have in mind Skolkovo, Innopolis?

— I have in mind several industries in which we have a different regulation than elsewhere in the world.

— Which ones?

— For example, we have in Russia different guidelines governing the use of personal data and social networks than elsewhere. A huge amount of research is conducted here based on these data. Talk to experts in the sociology of social networks — they will tell you wonders. There is a team in the “Higher Schol of Economics” for sure and in Tomsk as well.

Concentration transforms into quality

— Many participants said t the forum that Russia should have much more technology companies — dozens of thousands. Are there so many potential startups and companies in the country?

— Yes, of course. About 600 companies annually get into our ranking of fastest-growing companies TechUspekh. At the same time, I am absolutely sure that we cover at the best 30% of this market. Let alone startups. Earlier, when one of the GenerationS’ KPI (accelerator of RVC technological startups — “High-tech”) was the number of startups brought into the GenS orbit, we had 4 thousand startups every year. The flow of startups and medium-sized companies is quite significant. But we are not good at working with it.

— Does this figure make sense at all? Can quantity transform into quality?

— I would formulate this argument a little bit differently. Not quantity, but concentration transforms into quality. On the one hand, if I had one startup and established another one, their number doubled, but I wouldn’t have acquired any concentration. When I had 100 startups, and their number reached 150, I would have a slighter increased, but dramatically enhanced concentration.

— Now, it is obviously not the most convenient economic and political situation for business development. How realistic is it to make such plans without liberalization of the economy — for 50% of the economy to be based on technology?

— The world is now so global that it cannot be completely closed with no sanctions. Even North Korea where economy is squeezed in all aspects by sanctions is still doing something. Therefore, I think that you can achieve a target if you chose the right strategy to achieve it. The main thing is to choose the right tools and points of these tools’ application. For example, the industry of modern medical equipment. We have lost this market. Visit today any clinic, from a district clinic to the one servicing employees from Kremlin: Philips, Toshiba, Siemens. No matter how hard we are trying to catch this train today, we won’t be able to reach any destination. And, for example, artificial intelligence in healthcare is an open topic. And we have a sufficient number of teams that work globally. Maybe the next virtual nurse will come from Russia.

The International Medical Cluster in the Skolkovo IC is already working with Russian patient robots — they can be saved from a stroke, undergo laparoscopic and endoscopic surgeries, gastroscopy, urological and gynecological interventions. Of course, they imitate not all the anatomical structure of the human body, but one or another organ or the necessary functions (breathing, pulse, etc.).

— But giant companies have, so to say, monopolized the market.

— They have ceased to be high-tech. Take a push-button phone. A disk, landline phone, which is a great rarity today. After all, 50 years ago such phone was produced by high-tech companies. Later we saw Apple and Samsung coming on market, those other guys. And the manufacturers of button phones — they just disappeared, they do not exist today. If we figure out today what will be this phone tomorrow, where are best practices and market potential, we will find players, the future world leaders.

“Blue Ocean Strategy” is a business strategy book published in 2005. It speaks of the rapid growth and high profitability of companies that can generate productive business ideas, creating a previously non-existing demand in the new market (“blue ocean”), with almost no competitors at all, instead of competing with many companies in low-profit markets (“scarlet ocean”)

“Blue oceans” mean all industries that do not exist today, they are unknown market areas. In “scarlet oceans” the industry boundaries have been defined and agreed upon, and the rules of competition are well known to everybody.

— Yes, but these are not the markets of the future — you are building the NTI Strategy, and all these markets are related to the present day.

— Of course. If today we overcome some technological barriers, then tomorrow we will overcome the other ones. For example, this year we launched Up Great Technology Competitions, competition for breakthrough technological solutions and innovative products conducted in order to overcome technological barriers in the priority sectors and NTI markets. As a result, we expect to get fundamentally new technologies that will form the basis of commercially successful and competitive products on global product markets.

Contributed by: Ivan Bocharov

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