The Skolkovo innovation centre graduated to the status of a true city on Tuesday with the arrival of its first residents, who received the keys to their brand new homes at a celebratory housewarming event.

Two of Skolkovo's youngest new residents unveil a monument to the writer Bulgakov at the housewarming ceremony on Tuesday as Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg (left) looks on. Photo:

The pioneering residents include employees of Skolkovo resident startups and the Skolkovo Foundation itself, as well as staff at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech). To mark the opening of the block of apartments, a monument to the much-loved Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov created by sculptor Yekaterina Kazanskaya was unveiled in front of the complex by two children for whom the new building will now become home.

“We finally have our own accommodation … and the city is beginning to live,” Victor Vekselberg, president of the Skolkovo Foundation, told the first Skolkovians.

 “You have a great responsibility,” he said, urging the first residents to set the neighbourhood rules and standards that future inhabitants will live by.

“Be creative, live here, make demands, enjoy yourselves, raise your children, and let’s try to create something here that we have never had before,” Vekselberg told them.

The pioneers moving into Skolkovo housing cited proximity to work and school, the fresh air and picturesque countryside setting, and innovative environment among their reasons for moving onto the territory of the innovation centre.

Skolkovo was founded with the aim of creating an innovations ecosystem, and it was this aspect that prompted Sergey Dutov, who is responsible for development and industrial partners within the Skolkovo Foundation’s IT cluster, to move into a Skolkovo studio from an apartment in the nearby town of Tryokhgorka.

“For me, the Skolkovo ecosystem isn’t just the range of startups, international companies and research centres; it’s the variety of forms of interaction and the roles of interesting and unique people from the world of tech,” he told ahead of Tuesday’s celebration.

“Imagine: people who would normally only encounter each other at specialist conferences or in meeting rooms will now meet each other on their morning run, as they drop their kids off at kindergarten, at school parents’ evenings, at the canteen or café, or just bump into each other in the hallways of the Technopark … Around you are like-minded people on the same wavelength as you,” he said.

The innovation city's first residents were handed the keys to their new homes by Vekselberg. Photo:

Dutov said the Skolkovo International Gymnasium, which his daughter is due to attend from April, was another major incentive to move to Skolkovo.

“There’s no better education in Russia for my children than the gymnasium, and not just because of its emphasis on technology, languages and International Baccalaureate,” he said.

“It’s a place of learning for the children of entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, researchers and trailblazers, set among the Technopark, research centres and Skoltech,” said Dutov, adding that his daughter would acquire a more promising network by the first grade than many graduates of expensive MBA programmes.

Sergey Dulin, a member of staff at Neurotrend, a Skolkovo resident startup, said he was moving from a detached house outside Moscow to Skolkovo because he liked the format of the project.

“It’s a good idea: a huge territory, attractive, clean streets,” Dulin told ahead of the key presentation ceremony, adding that part of his company might also move to the innovation city once a new rail link is opened that will connect Skolkovo with Moscow’s Belorussky train station with a journey time of just over 20 minutes.

Ksenia Novik, a student affairs specialist at Skoltech who is moving from the satellite town of Krasnogorsk in the Moscow region, said she was looking forward to being able to forget about commuting by metro and biking to work instead, as well as living in an ecologically clean area.  

Skoltech's Ksenia Novik brandishes the keys inside her brand new apartment. Photo:

All the residents were presented with the keys to their new home by Vekselberg, along with a welcome gift package containing champagne, Bulgakov-themed gifts, a robotic cat and home gadgets made by Panasonic, which has its own R&D centre on the territory of Skolkovo.

Speaking at the housewarming ceremony, Junichi Suzuki, head of Panasonic in Russia, congratulated the first residents and said that the Japanese electronics corporation was thinking of expanding its activities in the innovation city.

“Smart cities and smart homes are one of our company’s focuses. Today’s opening is the first step for Skolkovo to expand and be successful in the future,” said Suzuki.

Along with Panasonic gadgets, the new apartments and buildings are also equipped with tech solutions produced by the foundation’s own resident companies, said Alexander Chernov, Skolkovo’s senior vice president for communications.

“In this block, and in the others that are still being built, technology made by our resident companies is used,” he said. “For the Skolkovo Foundation, it’s a matter of principle that all solutions that make it possible to make the housing more economically and ecologically efficient are welcome, and we give priority to our residents.”

Accommodation inside Skolkovo cannot be bought, as it is designed exclusively for those working in the innovation city. The cost of renting it is about 1,000 rubles ($17) per square metre.

The Skolkovo innovation city is getting closer to completion every day. The giant Technopark – one of the biggest in Europe – opened at the beginning of this year and is already partially inhabited by Skolkovo’s resident startups, who can rent lab and office space in the building, as well as take advantage of a range of patenting and tax services available to Skolkovo residents.

A state-of-the-art new campus for Skoltech is rapidly taking shape not far from the new housing, and is due to open its doors to students this autumn, when the Skolkovo Gymnasium is also due to move to its purpose-built facilities. Currently, Skoltech and the gymnasium occupy other premises inside Skolkovo.

In another part of Skolkovo, the first facilities of the Moscow International Medical Cluster are growing visibly, and are due to open next year, along with the innovation city’s first sports facilities.

By 2020 – the year when construction work on Skolkovo is due to be completed – a whole host of other facilities are due to open, including a music theatre and a shopping centre.