The business mission is taking place in online format and has been organized with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Moscow and Swiss Business Hub Russia

The Skolkovo Foundation and its Swiss partners have organized a two-day Russia-Switzerland business mission in which nine Skolkovo AI companies are pitching innovative developments in the field of artificial intelligence to a Swiss audience. The event is in partnership with the Swiss Innovation Agency, the Joint Chamber of Commerce of Switzerland, Switzerland’s Union of the Chambers of Commerce, the Swiss Russian Forum, the Embassy of Switzerland in Russia, Digital Switzerland, Swiss Cognitive, and the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI.

The mission is taking place in the framework of the UN’s international program “Global Challenge – Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, which contains seventeen points that are a blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. The event brings together over 30 Swiss and other European technological companies that are interested in adopting artificial intelligence in the global arena.

Chairman of the Board of the Skolkovo Foundation Viktor Vekselberg opened the session with a speech welcoming the participants but also expressing his views on what this business mission could do for both sides.

“This year we celebrated the tenth anniversary of our project. Ten years ago, it was just an idea; now, we have the biggest technopark in Eastern Europe,” said Mr. Vekselberg. “But it is not just about having 2500 startups; it is about providing a full set of services that help companies grow and develop innovation projects. Skolkovo today is in close cooperation with industrial companies and we have over 50 agreements with global leaders in different areas. I would like to say that Skolkovo is an innovation hub with an advanced ecosystem that helps companies develop innovative products and bring them to market.”

Viktor Vekselberg: "Swiss startups should have the opportunity to present their products to the Russian market and the Skolkovo Foundation can a play the role of facilitator; we can open the door for small and medium businesses to enter Russia’s innovation sector.” Screengrab:

Mr. Vekselberg pointed to academia relations and industry relations as two key channels for development, citing Skoltech, Skolkovo’s international science and technology institute, as an example. Skoltech stands out from the average traditional Russian university in that it actively fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in its postgraduates and faculty, while also working with large corporate partners, both Russian and international. Skoltech has already signed an agreement with the Swiss company Oerlikon to open a laboratory at its campus. In terms of academic relations, given that Switzerland is home to a dozen or so world-class universities and that Skoltech already has academic ties there, the potential benefits of developing such a relationship further are manifold.

“I believe it should be a two-way street,” said Mr. Vekselberg. “We should have Russian scientists and startups working with Swiss industry and vice versa. Swiss startups should have the opportunity to present their products to the Russian market and the Skolkovo Foundation can a play the role of facilitator; we can open the door for small and medium businesses to enter Russia’s innovation sector.”

The board chairman then pointed to government regulatory support, which allows for the use of new products, technologies, and the implementation of new ideas on Skolkovo territory, as a crucial factor for innovative companies seeking market entry to Russia, especially for those involved in medical activities.

“For me, Switzerland is not just another international opportunity for Skolkovo and this is much more than just a video conference,” said Mr. Vekselberg. “I would really like for all of us to find new relations, new collaborations, and new opportunities between Skolkovo institutions, Russian partners and Switzerland. That is extremely important, especially in this difficult time.”

The Swiss Ambassador to Russia Yves Rossier, to whom Mr. Vekselberg pointed as playing an active role in developing cooperation with the Skolkovo Foundation, stated that an important point in Swiss-Russian relations in the field of innovation was when the former Swiss President Ueli Maurer met with President Vladimir Putin last year:

“When Mr. Maurer met Mr. Putin last year, the decision was made by them to intensify the exchange between startups in the field of innovation,” said Mr. Rossier. “For us Swiss, we have a different approach to Russia, France, or the UK – countries with a strong vertical tradition. We are naturally oriented towards the bottom-up approach, and that is why I was impressed when I visited Skolkovo, because for me it was like a little bit of Switzerland here in Russia.”

Ambassador of Switzerland to the Russia Federation Yves Rossier. Screengrab:

Ambassador Rossier went on to say that artificial intelligence is not just important for innovations, but also in politics for overcoming conflict and misunderstanding.

The Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich opened his speech with a positive outlook on the mission:

“I believe that good ideas can be born in any situation and we can be optimistic about the future, whatever happens,’ said Mr. Dvorkovich. "Our online business mission to Switzerland is happening in the context of a special international program: Global Challenge – Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

As already mentioned, there are a total of seventeen sustainable development goals agreed upon by the United Nations, and Mr. Dvorkovich was quick to point out that there are just ten years to fulfil them. According to him, 2020 impeded progress in many areas related to those goals, but he also pointed to the introduction of technologies in health and education that are aimed at fulfilling some of them.

Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich. Screengrab:

“Today’s mission is to inform our partners and to link them to companies that have been able to develop those technologies, and that we are both eager and ready to start introducing those technologies to the market,” he stated.

On day-one of the business mission, nine Skolkovo startups from the IT cluster made seven-minute pitches to their Swiss audience, while day-two is dedicated to B2B meetings between the two sides. Here are some examples: Warden Machinery offered a computer vision-based AI system designed for landfill management. BioSmart company pitched its contactless palm vein identification system, which identifies an individual by scanning hand vein patterns. WebioMed pitched its AI predictive analytics and risk management system for healthcare. SOL pitched an online translator for the deaf. Singularis Lab provides an automated inspector designed to detect defects on the blades of wind turbines.

According to Mr. Dvorkovich, those are but examples of what could be presented from the Russian side to Swiss partners. “We have dozens of companies and solutions that we can work on together at Skolkovo, and a useful opportunity is to expand cooperation based on Skoltech. We already have a very strong cooperation with universities, companies, and with Skoltech,” said Arkady Dvorkovich. “The potential is really huge in AI, quantum computing and communications, and 5G solutions. Let’s do business together; I am sure that the potential is very bright and I am optimistic about the implementation of this potential.”