Tech entrepreneurs, scientists, representatives of international companies and governments, and investors from all over the world flocked to the Skolkovo innovation centre on Wednesday for the first day of the annual Open Innovations forum.
Skolkovo's Technopark opened to the public for the first time for Open Innovations. Photo: Sk.ru.
The forum is also something of a housewarming event for Skolkovo’s giant Technopark, which opened its doors for the first time to host the event.
“Gathered here are the people who are creating the future,” Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told those gathered at an informal opening ceremony in the middle of the Technopark, which is the size of 12 football pitches, making it the biggest in Europe.
“These are talented people who are trying to make money, and we support them,” said Dvorkovich.
Participants were also welcomed by Victor Vekselberg, president of the Skolkovo Foundation, who said that building the infrastructure was only the first part of developing Russia’s innovations ecosystem, and wished participants luck with the next stage: turning their idea into a successful, money-making company.
People arriving at the forum on Wednesday. Photo: Sk.ru.
An agreement was signed at the opening between Skolkovo and Dutch tech giant Royal Philips, which will open an R&D centre at Skolkovo next year under the agreement signed by Vekselberg and Conrad Smits, executive vice president of Royal Philips.
The R&D centre will focus on the opportunities presented by using IT in healthcare, specifically on machine learning, artificial intellect and the analysis and processing of data, and its results will be incorporated into the company’s global research. Students and post-graduates from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and other Russian universities will have the opportunity to complete internships at Philips via the R&D centre.
The foundation also signed an agreement for the creation of a flagman children’s technopark in the new building of the Skolkovo International Gymnasium, which is still under construction. The children’s technopark will occupy nearly 1,000 square metres under the terms of the agreement signed Wednesday with Marina Rakova, head of the Agency for Strategic Initiative’s project for a new system of extracurricular education for children, and the driving force behind the Quantorium chain of children’s technoparks.
The Quantorium technoparks teach children robotics, aviation, industrial design, nanotechnology and energy.
The partner-state of this year’s Open Innovations forum is Israel, dubbed the “startup nation.” Speaking at the plenary session on Wednesday, Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis pointed out that a crucial role had been played in the development of science and tech innovation in his country by the million immigrants from the Soviet Union that Israel accepted.
The following speaker, Alexander Galitsky, a managing partner of Almaz Capital venture fund that has offices in California and Moscow, added that scientists from the former Soviet Union had made no less of a contribution to the U.S. and Silicon Valley.
The Open Innovations forum, which has been held since 2012 with support from the government and Economic Development Ministry, is a reflection of the government’s efforts to stop that ongoing brain drain. The forum is being held at Skolkovo for the first time and will run for three days at the innovation centre, which was set up in 2010 with the aim of diversifying Russia’s energy exports-dependent economy into a modern, science and tech-based model.
Representatives of Twitter, Google, Amazon and Hyperloop are among the 600 speakers from all over the world due to address the forum.
The main hall was briefly evacuated during the plenary session as a safety precaution following an apparent short circuit in a speaker system. Those present, who included Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, returned after the area was given the all-clear.