Mikhail Antonov, Deputy Head of Russian Venture Company (RVC), Director of Innovation Infrastructure Development, spoke in an interview with Review about new services for participants and partners of the rating, as well as the creation of a single digital platform that will provide access to support measures for all development institutions.
— What changes have taken place in the technical success rating methodology this year? Has the selection process changed for companies?
— Over the past year, we have made some steps in the development of various services based on the TechUspekh rating. As a result, he became more technology involving. Firstly, we were able to open a new layer of Russian technology companies that were previously not visible not only on the federal but even on the regional level. Besides, this year the share of companies engaged in traditional technologies in the ranking decreased. At the same time, there were significantly faster developing, fast-growing companies in indeed new markets.
Another meaningful change — in May 2019, we moved to the new RVC Digital platform. The updated interface has significantly reduced the time to fill out questionnaires, eliminated the need for the exchange of paper documents, and increased the transparency of the evaluation criteria. Thanks to the platform, rating participants will soon receive a relatively wide range of opportunities, including from other development institutions. This is the next step in the globalisation of services, because today, of course, everyone is waiting for a single window of access to various support measures.
Therefore, this year, we completely reloaded both the content and the frame. Still, the essence of the rating remained the same — we are looking for those companies that are at the forefront of technological breakthroughs that are ready both to bring their technologies to the global market and to develop in the Russian context.
— What is the idea of automatic scoring within the platform?
— This is a test of technology for collecting information about companies. When we realize who we are working with, we take data from all possible sources. To the participants, in turn, we give access to a group of services that can be obtained directly on the spot; for example, a company can evaluate the export potential of its product. We plan that the number of such services will grow all the time. For example, now we are discussing with the MSP Bank service for assessing the size of a credit limit. In such a digital ecosystem, interactive communication is built between development institutions and businesses. By what services the companies used, we can track their strategies and dynamics. For example, we see that a company assessed the export potential, was looking for export financing, which means that, most likely, it is maturing a project for expansion into foreign markets. And here we no longer need six handshakes — most of these companies we either know personally or through our partners. We can talk with them, understand how RVC can be useful to them.
In the future, as affiliate services become available, we plan to turn the platform into a marketplace. Scoring models will be different for each partner, target ones. Now there are four NTI support programs on the platform, which include assistance in attracting financing, finding partners and customers in Russia and abroad, piloting projects, overcoming legal and administrative barriers. Besides, platform users can participate in the selection of the TechUspekh rating.
— That is, when a company applies, it can go through different scoring tools and immediately get some assessment of its potential?
— So far, scoring is ready only for the rating. So we check the participants for compliance with the main criteria of TechUspekh. Besides, we have a service that allows companies to understand whether they fit the paradigm of the National Technology Initiative and whether it makes sense for them to apply for appropriate support programs. An important issue here is the express examination. The company at the exit receives the application profile and overall assessment, which shows the overall suitability of its project. In this profile, you can immediately see where the indicators sag, what the company does not have enough to fall into the scope of the NTI — export ambitions, market capacity, and technology components. Companies often lack adequate feedback: they send applications, as if into space, and wait, draw prospects for grants, and the application lies somewhere in the corner of the file storage.
— How can TechUspekh be of interest to large businesses?
TechUspekh as a product has become attractive for our partners, representatives of large business, precisely because it is not just a ranked list, but an existing base from which you can understand a lot about companies. In general, last year was a turning point in the attitude of large corporations towards technological innovation: if previously they loved them from a distance, now we see a joint movement. On the one hand, the government is actively encouraging businesses to participate in innovation processes. On the other hand, corporations themselves are aware of the importance of the technology agenda. If a couple of years ago, corporations forced to create corporate venture capital funds, now they are actively working in this direction, some publicly, some, on the contrary, without attracting too much attention. We can say that the top 10 large corporations already have such venture funds.
On the other hand, it is objectively difficult for large businesses to work with start-ups — these are fundamentally different mentality, high risks. Corporations need ready-made solutions, and a start-up is most often ready to offer only a prototype. Therefore, very often, the priority for many corporations, in particular for Rosatom and Rostech, is a model where they take an average technology company that provides a comprehensive solution — hardware, software, specialists, and their training, product setup, monitoring, and disposal. And this medium-sized company integrates innovative solutions that come from start-ups. It is one thing when a small start-up deals with a large corporation, and quite another — an average company that feels quite comfortable in the market, knows the customs of business turnover, and has the experience, including abroad. This model is very convenient for corporations, and they are incredibly interested in finding medium-sized technology businesses. The TechUspekh rating is just able to help with this.
— Can you identify the corporations that are most active in working with you on TechUspekh?
— This year, the partners of the rating were the aircraft manufacturing corporation Airbus and Severstal. Both companies participated in the expertise of Russian fast-growing technology companies and will seek new technologies among the participants.
— What other services can appear on the RVC Digital platform?
— We have signed an agreement with the MSP Corporation, within the framework of which we are working on the possibility of integrating their service for technological gazelles on our platform. In addition to development institutions, we can work with industrial partners. In this case, the partner indicates technical priorities, and we conduct matching — we look for suitable products and solutions. The list of platform services is open. Some will leave, some will appear. I am sure that as soon as we place the service of the MSP Corporation, the number of applicants will increase sharply. Our scoring model is of great value to the Corporation: the search for companies through our platform removes a costly and non-core piece for the bank from their business process, and from us, they receive a client with a history.
— What companies get to your base? Are these not only the rating participants?
— The database includes users of all RVC services. TechUspekh is only one of them; companies participating in NTI support programs or, for example, technology contests are also accumulating on the platform. If the stop factors did not work and the company is not blacklisted, then we immediately take it into circulation.
— Do you collect information about what support measures a company has already used?
— Now we request this data from the Innovation Agency of the city of Moscow. However, colleagues are still working in test mode. They provide information on TIN about which support institutions the company applied to, where it received financing. Today it is probably one of the most advanced information expert systems.
The need to form a single “cloud” for all development institutions also appeared after a similar request — so that you could track the receipt of support measures by companies. Now situations regularly arise when the project is evaluated at the NTI Expert Council, and colleagues say that they have already allocated funding — this could be the Bortnik Fund or the Skolkovo Foundation. This is a regular practice for us since the number of grants is fundamentally different — the company could receive the first money from the Bortnik Fund and then grow to NTI. But it's essential to keep track of how the business is developing. If the first grants gave an impetus to growth, then we have the additional confidence that companies can allocate more support. The situation, when they received money at one development institute, did not complete the project, did not show the result, and then came to another, does not inspire confidence. When the unified system is launched, we will be able to track the transactions of recipient companies across all development institutions.
Interviewed by Tatyana Edovina.