Two of the top three prizes in a reality TV show that followed the fortunes of Russian tech startups went to residents of the Skolkovo Foundation.

Vitaly Savelyev, commercial director of KB Avrora, receiving first prize for the Agrobot project. Photo: VEB.

The show “An Idea Worth a Million” was shown on NTV for two weeks in December, and ended with the selection of three winners: Agrobot, a self-driving tractor designed by Skolkovo resident KB Avrora; Una Wheel, a device that makes ordinary wheelchairs electric-powered; and Skolkovo resident Motorica, which makes prosthetic hands and arms for both children and adults.

Agrobot took home the first prize of 25 million rubles ($438,000) to put into the further development of its autonomous farming system. Una Wheel was awarded 20 million rubles for second place, while Motorica’s third place ranking won it 15 million rubles.

The Agrobot project is not limited to self-driving tractors, but foresees the creation of a whole smart agriculture ecosystem in which food is produced and large amounts of data processed with minimal human input. Its creator, Skolkovo IT cluster resident KB Avrora, is also working on developing a fully-fledged autonomous transport system at Skolkovo that will be completely integrated with the innovation city’s infrastructure.

Avrora Robotics wants to create Russia's first fully robotised farm in the Ryazan region. Video: Avrora Robotics. 

Motorica, a resident of Skolkovo’s biomed cluster, is currently working on creating a bionic hand for children, having already designed and built cable-operated prosthetic hands (operated by the wearer by moving the wrist joint) for more than 150 children in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and recently launched its first adult bionic hand. In the first stage of the TV show, which saw the participating startups launch crowdfunding campaigns for their products and solutions, Motorica surpassed its target sum of 500,000 rubles, raising 582, 540 rubles for its multifunctional bionic prosthesis complete with useful gadgets.

Ilya Chekh (right), CEO of Motorica, with Konstantin, a tester of the company's bionic prosthetic hand. Photo:

The “Idea Worth a Million” prizes were handed out by members of the competition’s jury, who included Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin.

“Your project isn’t just a tractor,” Oreshkin told Vitaly Savelyev, commercial director of KB Avrora, who was on hand to receive the award for Agrobot. “It’s at the crossover of several innovative fields: both autonomous movement and artificial intelligence. It will help the Russian economy to develop faster and better.”

A total of 13 Skolkovo startups were selected to take part in “An Idea Worth a Million,” whose launch was announced at the Skolkovo Jazz Science festival back in August. The show was organised by VEB Innovations, the hi-tech investment arm of Vnesheconombank Group, which provided the prize money. The Skolkovo Foundation was one of the show’s partners, together with the Foundation for the Development of Internet Initiatives (FRII).

The show’s aim was to identify the best innovative business projects, and also to inspire young inventors to start their own businesses. Seven teams from an initial 35 taking part in the programme made it through to the final.