A new technopark opened its doors in Russia’s Far East port of Vladivostok on Wednesday, with the aim of fostering tech entrepreneurship and startups there with support from the Skolkovo Foundation.

Victor Vekselberg, Olga Vasilyeva and Nikita Anisimov at the opening ceremony of the technopark. Photo: Sk.ru.

The technopark was opened on Russky Island on the first day of the Eastern Economic Forum, which is taking place on the island on September 6-7. Russky Technopark will operate from the premises of the Far Eastern Federal University with the mission of helping to create a fertile environment for the development of hi-tech and knowledge-intensive industries, and is part of a broader government initiative to turn Russia’s Far East into a science, technology and education hub.

“We would really like this project to be a platform for the ideas at the heart of the Skolkovo project – innovativeness and youthful chutzpah – to show everyone, including ourselves, that there are many capable and talented young entrepreneurs, especially in the field of innovations,” said Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg at the opening, which was also attended by Science and Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva and Nikita Anisimov, acting rector of the Far Eastern Federal University.   

Resident startups of the Russky Technopark can make use of all of the same key services available to residents of the main Skolkovo Technopark – the biggest in Eastern Europe – such as support and facilities for producing lab samples, carrying out pre-clinical research, registering trademarks and brand names, preparing for participation in external events, training to make presentations in front of investors, and mentor support.

“With the opening of Russky Technopark, innovations in the Far East are getting a home port, while the Far Eastern Federal University is essentially becoming a leader of the innovative process, creating the material and technical foundation for all of the region’s promising startup teams that are eager to work here,” said Vekselberg.

“I’m sure that the Far East office of the Skolkovo Foundation, which has accumulated significant experience during the two-and-a-half years it has existed, will play a key role in the genesis and evolution of this technopark,” he said. 

There are currently 37 Skolkovo Foundation resident startups in the Far East. Ten of them are due to move into the Russky Technopark by the end of the year.

Vekselberg attending a meeting with the first residents of the Russky Technopark. Photo: Sk.ru.

As befits a maritime hub, one of the Russky Technopark’s focuses will be technologies related to the ocean, such as solving food supplies deficits, water pollution, declining biodiversity in the oceans, and shipbuilding technologies. Other focus areas include digital technologies, robotics, cybersecurity, space technologies and health: the development of telemedicine, systems for monitoring the health of the population, personalised medicine, solutions for ecological problems in large cities, and the testing of medical treatments and devices.

One of the Russky Technopark's first residents proudly shows off his certification of resident status. Photo: Sk.ru.

The opening of a technopark is part of the official plan, approved by the Russian government this May, to develop Russky Island first and foremost as a science and education cluster that will become a platform for Russia’s integration into the Asia-Pacific region. That plan was drawn up in accordance with an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin issued following last year’s Eastern Economic Forum, at which the region’s innovative potential was discussed.

Speaking at the plenary session of last year’s forum, Putin said the state was determined to set up a system on Russky Island for supporting startups, including venture funding, a network of labs for joint research and all the necessary business infrastructure. 

“The technopark is one of the anchor projects for the development of an academic university city on the island,” Anisimov, the acting rector of the Far Eastern Federal University, said in a recent interview with the TASS news agency.

“It’s around such projects that the whole infrastructure is being formed for those working at startups,” he said, such as schools and kindergartens, medical facilities, shops and entertainment centres.

The plan to turn the island into a hub for hi-tech companies and projects is due to be funded primarily by private investors. Eight investors have come forward and are prepared to invest a total of about 53 billion rubles ($926 million) in projects, according to TASS.

The Skolkovo Foundation will focus on developing tech entrepreneurship in Russia’s regions during the next few years, chairman of the board Igor Drozdov told the foundation’s scientific advisory council back in April. It’s no coincidence, however, that the first regional office was opened in Vladivostok back in 2015. As China’s role on the world’s economic and political stage continues to grow and amid strained relations with the West, Russia has turned its attention in recent years to the East.

The government has poured billions of dollars into improving infrastructure in Russia’s Far East, building the Far Eastern Federal University’s campus as a venue for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Coooperation summit, along with the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge over to Russky Island from Vladivostok. Special economic zones established in the Far East offer tax preferences to foreign investors, whom the Russian government is courting via this week’s Eastern Economic Forum for the third year running. Delegations from 24 countries are attending this year, including from China, Japan, Australia, the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Germany. 

Vladivostok has also submitted a bid to host the 22nd Asian Science Park Association annual conference in September 2018. The host is due to be selected next month at a meeting of the board of directors of ASPA.  

In another sign of the region’s potential as a tech innovations powerhouse, Skolkovo organised Startup Village by the Sea – the first regional spinoff of its annual Startup Village conference for tech entrepreneurs – last September in Vladivostok.