Russian entrepreneurs seeking to enter the EU market need look no further than Prague, Skolkovo startups heard this week at a seminar titled “The Czech Republic: A Gateway to the EU Market.”

The Czech Republic offers a range of support mechanisms for small and medium-sized businesses aimed at creating an environment conducive to their development and ensuring sources of financing are available to them, Martin Bašta, head of the economic department at the Czech Embassy in Moscow, told the Skolkovo startups present.

The Czech Republic has implemented a range of mechanisms designed to support startups. Photo: Pixabay.

“Prague can indeed be a gateway to Europe,” said Bašta. “Nearly 30 percent of the Czech Republic’s trade is with Germany, so when you enter the Czech market, you are getting a recommendation on the German market too.”

During the second part of the event, which was part of a series organised by the Skolkovo Foundation’s international cooperation department to introduce resident startups to different markets, the entrepreneurs present were able to have one-to-one consultations with the experts present on entering the Czech market.

Those experts included Inna Melnikova, head of the Prague office of Opora Russia, a Russian NGO that aims to increase the role of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Russian economy. Opora opened an office in Prague back in 2015 and aims to help both Russian and Czech entrepreneurs to enter each other’s markets.

With its developed infrastructure, access to EU funding, eight science and technology parks and five strategic industrial zones, the Czech Republic offers plenty of opportunities for high-tech innovative Russian companies, said Melnikova, while Opora and local organisations devoted to helping startups there are on hand to offer practical advice.

“We promise to tell you if your product isn’t competitive in its current form on the Czech market, and we’ll tell you what to do to make it competitive,” said Melnikova.

Dmitry Miloslavsky, representing European countries within Russia’s Economic Development Ministry, agreed that the Czech market is favourable for Russian tech startups.

Trade and investment is continually developing between the two countries, he said, particularly in the areas of energy, atomic energy, agriculture and industry.

“The Czech Republic remains a traditional priority partner for us,” Miloslavsky told the seminar.

“We’re one of the key trade partners for the Czech Republic: we were 14th in terms of their trade turnover volume in 2016, while the Czech Republic in turn is in 19th place among Russia’s trading partners,” he said.

And while trade turnover between the two countries decreased by 10.6 percent in 2016 to $5.5 billion, this year has seen a different story: in the first seven months of this year, the trade volume grew 43 percent compared to the same period the year before, reaching $4 billion, said Miloslavsky.

“We have every reason to be optimistic over the future development of trade and economic cooperation between our countries,” he said.