To properly cultivate and promote technology start-ups in Russia, technology parks should stop seeing each other as competitors and start working together.
Research and technology parks have long been one of the most popular tools of innovation around the world. Russia is no exception: depending on how you count, there are dozens, or even hundreds of technology parks in the country. For example, according to the Geographic Information System of Industrial Parks, in 2015, Russia had 33 technology parks in operation or under development. The Association of Clusters and Technology Parks gives another number: 178 industrial parks scattered throughout the country. At the same time, it warns that no more than 10% of that number meet the generally accepted international criteria, and only six of these hubs perform their function to their fullest extent.
Indeed, generally speaking, the classic definition of an innovation park is an area that creates favorable conditions for nurturing innovative businesses with a view to their future commercialization. In practice, this means not only the availability of commercial real estate for its residents, but also a wide range of specialized infrastructure, including laboratories, business incubators, centers of excellence; not only preferential tax treatment and a wide range of related services, but also the availability of a system of accelerating the development of entrepreneur-innovators, as well as channels of communication with investors and big business.
In Russia, this full range of capabilities is only offered at a very limited number of hubs. In this context, the research and technology park in Skolkovo has always had a special place. From day one, it was conceived, designed, and built according to the model of the famous Silicon Valley. Today, its 400 hectares of land hosts a technological park that meets the highest international standards, as well as Skoltech University.
Today, more than 100 startups are located here, some of which were invited from the Russian regions. This itself is a rather sensitive issue. It is no secret that regional technology parks have always been somewhat jealous of this type of migration to Skolkovo, viewing Moscow’s innovation hub as a bitter rival if not an enemy.
In my opinion, this view is a great exaggeration. In reality, Skolkovo is neither an enemy nor a competitor; it is a natural partner of the regional research and technology parks. In this sense, I have always liked the following sports analogy: the regional parks are like a US college program for elite athletes, while we are a Major League team.
There comes a time when successful startups need to embrace the national and then the international market. In this sense, Skolkovo is the best platform to reach a new level. Suffice it to say that today we are partnered with about 400 technology parks, hundreds of companies, and authorities of countries around the world. This gives us the ability to guide virtually any startup towards any platform and any market: a company simply has to point to a place on the map where it would like to operate and develop, and we will offer it comprehensive assistance.
The same opportunities are open for the regional industrial parks too. If they see Skolkovo as a partner first and foremost, it will open the way to the creation of a truly strong and coherent Russian system of cultivating, maintaining and promoting technology companies from their inception until their penetration into international markets. This is a classic example of a win-win situation.