On May 13-15 scientists, businessmen and public servants has discussed new opportunities for companies and universities at the VIII International Forum "From science to business" in St. Petersburg, Russia. More than 200 participants from 50 cities and 10 countries gathered on the event.
Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Russia Nikolai Toivonen described some trends, showing universities as generators of innovation development. One of the key task for HEI's is strategic planning alumni career expert says, concerning that young specialist change job each 3-5 years. Alexey Knyazev, Deputy Governor for Science, Education Sector and Innovation Policy of Tomsk region considers students also to be serious investor of regional economics.
ITMO University rector Vladimir Vasilev claims: "If universities wouldn't take part in the generation of main priorities of the government development it's complicate process of scientific research and training of highly skilled specialists. It's necessary to predict situation at least on decades".
Talking about technology transfer, Expert of World Bank Department of private and financial sector development for Europe and Central Asia Peter Lindholm mentioned some problems, that have impact on startup development and commercialization process in Russia. According to him, Russian government often support inefficient projects, entrepreneurial culture is still of low quality, young businessmen don't always have circumspect strategy. "Interest in commercialization is as love in the Internet — there's love, but there are no evidences" — says Lindholm. As an example — Facebook is equal to 20 biggest Russian IT companies (Yandex, Mail,ru, Ozon etc.). As a recommendation speaker suggested not to copy Silicon Valley, because its model is outdated, but create something new.
Nina Yanykina, head of ITMO University Department for innovation management and other experts claimed on lack of business angels, startup accelerators in Russia. This idea is supported by John Morris, Co-founder of Tech Coast Angels, the largest and most active US angel network. His vision is that cooperation of business angels networks and universities gives the former opportunity to reach young researchers. Among the trends Morris mentioned, that startups require much less money and crowdsourcing capital will disrupt everything. As for Russia, process of seeking for prospective projects in regions by Moscow and foreign investors is just starting.
In spite of different problems, Forum participants presented variety of success stories. 39 SME's created in ITMO University since the output of Russian analog of The Bayh–Dole Act, 6 master degree departments started in ITMO in cooperation with industry. ITMO disseminate its innovation experience in Russian regions, got in the course of collaboration with UCLA (USA) within the framework of EURECA program.
Practical advices on technology transfer were given by world known experts. Eugene Buff, Founder & President, Primary Care Innovation Consulting (USA) considers success as a timely killed projects, because it gives opportunity to start another, more prospective. Big difference in researchers' behavior, comparing with the situation 10 years ago, is that they are ready to collaborate — with other scientists and people from business. "One of the biggest difference between science and business is that researchers seek for the best solution, but businessmen want only something that is good enough" — says Buff.
On the third day, for the first time in the Forum, plenary session was dedicated to social entrepreneurship. This theme is new for Russia and volunteers, funds representatives, young entrepreneurs who are looking for best practices. The serious problem is deficiency of government support, so hardly Russia can expect growth of this sector in the nearest 10 years. In spite of this Russian universities aspire to support student's social projects and help to make them profitable, using created innovation infrastructure.