Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev extended his congratulations to Skoltech’s first graduates on Wednesday, ceremonially awarding the first diploma at Startup Village.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, somewhere in the melee of graduates. Photo:

Shaded from strong sunshine on the Open Stage, Medvedev was swamped by students looking for a selfie after handing out the first, collective diploma to 53 graduates of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.

 “I heartily congratulate the first graduates of Skoltech. I congratulate you!” Medvedev said.

Medvedev addressing the students. Photo:

“I’ve seen the lineup of those who have been studying at Skoltech and are receiving diplomas. These young guys and girls have studied in a diverse range of universities in Moscow and other cities, technical institutes, classical universities, but in the end chose Skolkovo. Many have done stints in places like MIT,”

Turning to the several dozen students behind him, decked out in robes and academic square caps, he asked: “Was it worth it? Have you enjoyed yourselves here?”

The response was a mix of “yes!” and “da!” – reflecting the diverse background of the students - but the sentiment was unequivocal.

“Well, if that’s the case, then we’ll persevere with this project. I hope with every year the number of graduates gets bigger and bigger, and that those graduates who stand before us, and the next generations of graduates will enjoy great demand in the market, will engage in research and science, will conduct experiments and enter manufacturing, and will earn money, which wouldn’t be a bad thing!" added the prime minister.

“I wish you success and happiness in the new life that is opening up for you today after receiving these diplomas.”

Medvedev then took his life into his own hands by agreeing on a selfie with the students, who nearly crushed the prime minister in trying to get in on the picture.

Medvedev, who as president signed the decree on the creation of Skolkovo in 2010 and sits on its board of trustees, shared his impressions of how the project is developing five years down the line.

“Walking around Startup Village, flying around the entire Skolkovo project in the helicopter, I caught myself thinking that not long ago, there will be this, there will be that, we’ll achieve these results, those results, and in some found hopes in those words, other found jealousy – they said ‘you won’t succeed, the money will disappear and you’ll have problem,’” he recalled.

“Well, today we can say the Skolkovo project is alive and well. Not only in the collection of residents – of whom we already have more than 1,100 that produce interesting projects that are being patented and commercialized, but also in the science and research and the training that’s going on here.”

Skoltech President Ed Crawley described the gravity of the occasion in no uncertain terms.

“These students decided to bet their lives, to bet their professional careers on going to this university, which really didn’t exist at all” back in 2012, its first year in existence, Crawley noted.  

“These guys are truly founders of this university. And they actually came in the fall of 2012, about 20 of them, who committed three years to get a master’s degree from Skoltech, and some of them already had a master’s degree. This is the kind of commitment that makes nations great,” he said.

'This group of students is prepared to change the world' - Skoltech president Ed Crawley

“This group of students is prepared to change the world,” he said, to thunderous applause. “Everything that’s being celebrated at this great event is what these students have been taught to do.”

“To solve the problems of market and society, to transform the knowledge base that they have and knowledge base of Russia, into industrial development and economic growth,” he said. “This is a great day for Skoltech, it’s great day for Skolkovo and for all of us here,” Crawley said.

The first group of graduates are mainly MSc students reading energy and Information Technology subjects.

Skoltech is a core ingredient of the Skolkovo ecosystem, supplying the brain power to create innovations that will be commercialized further down the road. More than half of the university’s current intake already have innovations that are either on the market or soon to be available.

Every year, Skoltech takes an active part at Startup Village. Presentations have been made this year by leading researchers including Crawley,professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou, Alessandro Golkar and others, and a working session of IPOCA – International Proof of Concept Centers Association was held, among other things.