The III Annual Forum "Innovation Ecosystem" was held in Sochi on 5 and 6 December 2016; it was organized by RVC, which was attended by over 400 representatives of the venture capital market of the 25 Russian regions and four countries. The objective of the forum was to determine the main directions in the development of a new model of the innovation ecosystem.
Discussions were based around the key areas in building an effective innovation ecosystem. The participants of the "Universities" track jointly determined the path of transformation of Russian universities into innovation hubs, carrying out a transfer of knowledge and technology. An important task was the creation of a vision for the search and development of the system of talent — the HR basics of successful technology companies.
The "Regional innovation ecosystem" track was devoted to identifying effective ways to involve the Russian Federation in the technological development and the participants' interaction in the ecosystem as part of implementation of NTI. The participants of the "Regional investment activity" track discussed the ways and tools for rebooting the regional venture capital funds for the tasks of advancing economic development. The "Communication and Community" track was devoted to the study of tools to popularise science and technology and the involvement of an external audience of experts, scientists, representatives of the education system, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and the new media.
According to the Acting General Director of RVC Evgeniy Kuznetsov, despite the difficult circumstances and the external environment, the recent years have brought a good development of the innovation sector:
The Forum was opened with an interactive debate on the choice of strategic priorities in the construction of a new innovation ecosystem development model where each participant could influence the final result. The first topic of discussion was the universities. The participants' opinions were divided as to the key values of universities for innovative development of the country as follows: training of specialists / talents — 57%, research and development — 23%, and the creation of start-ups — 20%. The second focus in the discussion were corporation companies. The participants gave the preference in the voting on the issue of "The main corporate value for the innovation development of economy" to the answer "order of technologies" — 58%. The leading role of corporation companies in the innovation ecosystem, as investors in startups, refer 39% of the participants, meanwhile, only 3% voted for the creation of new jobs. The third issue for discussion and voting was government regulation. Votes on "What should be sent to the state program of development of innovation?" were equally given to both human development and project / research activities (by 41%), and 18% have voted for the creation / development of companies. In the final session of the forum, the participants selected by voting the main focus of the further development of RVC. The answers were as follows: the creation of new financial instruments — 43%, the creation of ecosystem services - 30%, the integration of innovative processes — 27%.
Commenting on the results of voting, Artem Shadrin, Director of Strategic Development and Innovation Development of Russia emphasized:
The forum included a number of presentations on venture capital market research, which were held in 2016, and the results announced by specified subjects of discussions in different sections. Hence, at the special session: "Venture Market: the results of the year and future trends" of Russian Venture Capital Association (RVCA) was provided an overview of direct and venture investment market for 9 months of 2016, prepared in association with Russian Venture Company and Venture Innovation Fund (VIF).
According to Albina Nikkonen, Executive Director of RVCA, most indicators of investment activity make it possible to predict the positive results of the year. The venture market keeps its position, showing the investment activity, which is based on the fourth quarter may exceed the level of 2015. Over the three quarters of 2016, as many as 145 transactions were carried out; a total invested capital amounted to $ 105 million. (74% and 71% of the total level of 2015). The venture market actively continues to attract new players: for the three quarters of 2016, as many as 13 new venture capital funds appeared — it is only one-third lower than the previous year. The proportion of funds with state participation, which entered the market this year has decreased dramatically compared with 2015: This year, 12 out of the 13 new funds are private. The corporate investment trend is continuing to strengthen, while in the corporate funds there is a growing number of investments at early stages. Their share was 21% in the first three quarters of 2016 (13% in 2015), the amount exceeds 8% by the end of the previous year (22% in the first three quarters of 2016 compared to 14% in 2015).
The experts and participants of the forum were interested in the results of the first in Russia monitoring over the effectiveness of innovation activities in universities, which was conducted by RVC and the ITMO University and 40 federal universities — participants of the program "National research university" and Project 5-100. The monitoring has shown that the development of innovation and the business environment in universities is one of the strategic priorities of universities and political support at the management level that is likely to become the key to future growth. The weakest results were demonstrated in the technology transfer unit. Currently, the results of intellectual activity of universities with rare exceptions, are not commercialised by small innovative enterprises (IIP), yet do not bring profit to universities. The technology transfer is mostly presented by off-budget research and development (R & D), engineering services commissioned by outside companies. The average turnovers of SIEs are around 1.6% of the university budget. Although, there are several leaders, whose SIE share turnover is around 10% of the total budget.
A real event for the participants of the forum was the summing up of the analysis of business incubators and accelerators, which was conducted by RVC, together with the business incubator of the Higher School of Economics and UBI Global Research Centre as part of a large-scale study of Russian entrepreneurial ecosystem and incubation programs. As many as 59 universities and 13 independent incubators of Russia have been compared with the European and international reference groups in three categories: the value to the ecosystem, the value for the start-up clients, and the attractiveness of the programs. Some of the most successful university business incubators include business incubators of the ITMO University of St. Petersburg, a business incubator Irkutsk State Technical University, and Tomsk Business Incubator "Druzhba" TUSUR. The best business incubators affiliated with universities are Technopark "Zhiguli Valley", the Zelenograd Development Corporation and the residency of the business incubator "Ingria". The first positions in the category of university accelerators were taken by "Captains of Russia" of REU named after G. V. Plekhanov, iDealMachine of ITMO University, and "UrFU" accelerator of the Ural Federal University. From accelerators, associated with universities, the best were recognized as Kazan Pulsar Venture Capital program and Moscow accelerators FRII and NUMA Moscow. Awarding of the ranking's winners took place in a festive atmosphere with the participation of Ali Amin, the CEO and cofounder of UBI Global.
A landmark for the Forum was the signing of a cooperation agreement between RVC and the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) and approval of the joint work program for 2016-2019. The Acting General Director of RVC Evgeniy Kuznetsov and TPU Rector Petr Chubik signed the agreement. The Work Program of the Agreement provides for the development plan and the beginning of the transition to the concept of TPU University 3.0. The model will be applied to the TPU in the 2018-2019, in the long term — and in other Russian universities. Commenting on the signing of the Cooperation Agreement, Evgeniy Kuznetsov said that the priority of cooperation with the Tomsk Polytechnic University will be the development of innovative companies by means of the University, relying on a strong engineering school of TPU:
The forum participants had the opportunity to chat with the legendary Jim Simmons, the managing partner of the seed stage fund Simmons Goodspeed Ventures (the fund specializes in wireless technologies, semiconductors, environmental projects). Jim Simmons, with dozens of years of work with technology entrepreneurs and dozens of success stories, proposed an inspiring hymn to the enthusiasm and perseverance, on which successful tandems are standing: "the founder of a start-up and a business angel". According to Jim, the innovation ecosystem for the technology entrepreneur — is primarily an environment in which he will seek funding sources. "Family and friends", business angels and venture capitalists have, in his opinion, to be considered not in the first place. Most importantly, at an early stage, is to find one or two investors in the region that the entrepreneur will be able to satisfy. At this point, the appearance of business angels becomes priceless.
The participants were greatly impressed by the meeting with Suhas Gopinat, a 20-year-old Indian businessperson, a child prodigy, the youngest owner and manager of a multinational company in the history of the world economy. Suhas was only 14 years old when he founded Globals Inc. Today, the company has more than 200 customers from all over the world, and representative offices in 11 countries on different continents. The company employs more than 400 people; the average age of the programmers is 21 years. The oldest of them — 26, the youngest — 12.
The second day of the Forum was opened by summing up the first day, announced by the Acting General Director of RVC Evgeniy Kuznetsov. As to the "Universities direction", the participants of panel discussions and roundtables identified a number of constraints that do not allow the university to develop the ecosystem as a source of generation and transfer of technology and talent. Among them, the lack of competence in technology commercialisation in universities; isolation and closeness of universities for other participants in the innovation ecosystem; low level and pace of adaptation of university programs to the needs of technology companies in the search and cultivation of talent. Solutions proposed by the participants of the track: establishment of joint industrial councils and centres of competence under the requests of high-tech industries; organization of networking with the participants of the ecosystem through networking of acceleration programs, inter-university centres of technology transfer, and sharing infrastructure facilities; integration of project / business activities in the educational process; attracting graduates as mentors, forming project teams together with students. A separate promising solution was the formation of university departments, which are responsible for the integration of the implementation of the National Technology Initiative and the establishment of schools, accumulating and developing talents for Universities 3.0.
The participants of the "Regional infrastructure" track worked out the effective models of development projects within the framework of markets and cross-market areas of NTI; they discussed possible mechanisms to support innovation clusters based on the example of 11 members of the priority project of the Ministry of Economic Development named "The development of innovation clusters - Investment attractiveness of the world level leaders." The experts agreed that for the regions chosen for the pilot projects of NTI today are relevant both organizational difficulties associated with the period of testing the order of support for NTI projects and lack of awareness of participants in the regional innovation ecosystems on specific mechanisms for the implementation of NTI. According to the participants of the Forum, the solution may be a wide popularisation and the NTI awareness campaign in the regions, as well as the development of the regulatory framework of NTI based on the experience and realization of the first projects in a constructive dialogue with them and working groups on the development and implementation of the NTI Road Map. The development of the NTI regulatory framework based on the experience of the first projects in a constructive dialogue with them and working groups on the development and implementation of the NTI Road Map. With regards to the development of regional innovation clusters, the following key issues were identified: the absence of long-term investments in infrastructure and personnel; lack of awareness of regions about neighbours’ experience, poor visibility of Russian clusters on the international markets, and the lack of quality of regional cluster development teams. As one of the possible solutions. It has been proposed the following: working out of long-term programs of development of clusters, with the inclusion of the investment program on personnel and infrastructure; inclusion in the activities of work groups of the RVC project office and the Ministry of Economic Development of a separate direction on innovative clusters in terms of export support, investment, development of innovation infrastructure; promotion of Russian clusters in international databases; participation of cluster managers from Russia in international forums, fairs, and business - missions; training teams on the development of clusters of world-class programs, application of the best international teams appraisal techniques, cluster representatives participation in international professional associations.
The participants of the "Regional investment activity" track offered solutions in the framework of the task to restart the regional funds as instruments for the development of innovation ecosystems and improve the investment climate in the region. The following problems have been identified: the lack of private co-investment, venture capital financing for projects at various stages of development; shortage of qualified managers of investment teams in the regions; poor quality of investment projects for funding. During the discussions, the participants talked about the preparation of proposals together with regional authorities, the Ministry of Economic Development and RVC for the meeting of the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation on economic modernization and innovative development of the Russian capital increase of regional venture funds. It was also suggested to involve corporate and foreign capital; the creation of corporate venture funds and private equity Funds in the federal districts; implementation of training programs to enhance the professional skills and competencies of staff of venture capital funds.
On the second day of the forum, the participants discussed the updated version of the national report on innovations in Russia in 2016, prepared at the initiative of RVC. A preliminary version of the report was presented in October at the "Open Innovation" forum. (http://goo.gl/1yEZ4P). According to Andrei Aveeno, co-author from Boston Consulting Group, an innovative environment in Russia is improving by a number of indicators, but remains a problem in the overall innovation activity. The reason for that is the focus of innovation policy. The report proposes to focus on the corporate channel of innovation: it activates other channels and will eliminate the lack of demand for technology and growth companies.
However, as the Acting General Director of RVC Evgeniy Kuznetsov noted it, Russia's largest state-owned corporation (70% of the market) are not the driver, but the barrier for innovation:
Artem Shadrin, director of the Department of Social Development and Innovation of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation proposed to expand the focus and take into account the competitive opportunities of private companies — leaders in high-tech markets:
Artem Shadrin was supported by Pavel Gudkov, Deputy Director General of the Foundation to promote innovation, referencing to his experience in leading one of the groups to analyse the programs of innovative development corporations:
At the end of the discussion, Alexander Kashirin, director of the Centre for Open Innovations of GC Rostec, he suggested RVC to create a separate "map of problems" for each subject and object of the innovation ecosystem, and then address them subsequently.
According to the participants, the Forum has turned out to be fruitful and productive, thanks in part to a sharp focus on priority areas, high-quality selection of participants and careful designing of joint proposals development.