The Skolkovo Softlanding Program, which takes place multiple times a year, is an easy way for foreign companies seeking market entry into Russia and the CIS. By participating, they learn the ins and outs of the Russian market and the Skolkovo Innovation Center through the program’s seminars, lectures, and in-depth training. It also sets up meetings with partners, investors, and development institutes and provides a means to network, helps newcomers integrate with the Skolkovo community and take part in big events. The first online Softlanding Program of 2021 began on March 15 and goes on for four days.

Softlanding company participants. Screengrab:

Thirty-three companies hailing from thirteen countries (India, Italy, Nigeria, Algeria, Iran, South Korea, Hungary, USA, Finland, Belarus, Serbia, Germany, and Qatar) joined the first Skolkovo Softlanding online program of 2021 and will pitch their solutions for the fields of energy efficiency, biomedicine, IT, and advanced industrial technologies. The program also gives them the opportunity to apply for Skolkovo residency.

The presented developments varied greatly, but the solutions that “jump off the page,” so to speak, solve problems using technologies that were virtually unavailable a little over a decade ago.

One solution is designed to improve spectators’ experience at a sports event – football in particular. What does this mean? The solution produces player- and referee-perspective videos without the need to install stadiums with expensive equipment. Spectators can then relive some of the hottest moments of a football match, not from the usual bird’s eye view, but from the striker himself! It need not be said that this is a timely development, given that Qatar is due to host the world cup in 2022.

The Italian startup, Is Clean Air, provides a filter-free, water-based air purification system. ElseLabs of Qatar created a smart cooking appliance, which is run using a smart app and can cook several dishes without supervision. It has access to a recipe library, a meal planner and at the same time acts as an expert chef. It can make jam, bake cakes, braise stews, make stir-fry curries, to name a few. The Nigerian startup, Salubata, specializes in making shoes using recycled plastic aimed at low to median level disposable income consumers. This is a two-way solution, because it helps tackle the huge environmental problem of plastic waste, while also providing low-cost footwear. Subol company created a smart safety solution designed to detect gas leaks in households and notify the owner via their phone; the company owner stated that the development has already saved fifteen houses.

Daria Shunina, head of international startup relations at the Skolkovo Foundation. Screengrab:

The first day of the four-day program kicked off on March 15 with presentations on opportunities in Russia, why Moscow is a good place to do business, intellectual property in Russia, grants, migration legislation, what it means to be a Skolkovo resident and so on.  Andrey Bardin of the Moscow Agency of Innovations stated in so many words that Moscow people are more open to innovative technologies, given that the Moscow government has been implementing smart technologies into the city’s infrastructure since 2011. Indeed, the Moscow Accelerator is one such tool to help develop and implement innovative solutions into the city’s infrastructure. Mr. Bardin also shared the opinion that while many potential clients might not be ready mentally for an innovative technology, Muscovites, by contrast, are different in that respect and are much more open; he attributed this to the city’s already highly developed tech infrastructure, an almost cashless society, and ongoing rapid digitization. The event organizer, Daria Shunina, added to this by stating that unlike many urban centers around Europe, Moscow is a 24hr city and that Muscovites are used to having access to anything whatever the time of day.

Senior vice president of VEB Ventures Dmitry Politov stated that part of the goal of the innovation center and the current government’s goal is to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit into people at home; after 70 years of Soviet rule, the idea of entrepreneurship had been all but lost due to the fact that entrepreneurship had been illegal under communism. He also talked about the role of development institutes in Russia, not to mention their integration into the VEB.RF management sphere.

Maxim Romanov, deputy vice president of international development at the Skolkovo Foundation. Screengrab:

Maxim Romanov, the deputy vice president of international development at the Skolkovo Foundation, stated that Skolkovo is the best hub for an international startup seeking market entry into Russia to begin. Mr. Romanov then went on to explain in detail some of the key advantages there are to using Skolkovo as a launchpad such as the access to grants, investors, partners, equipment facilities, and so on. He closed his speech by saying, “Come here yourselves and experience the atmosphere that this synergy creates."