How to develop and implement innovations to provide companies with technological independence

Olga Mikheeva, Adviser to the Governor of the Samara Region, General Director of ANO

Olga Mikheeva, Adviser to the Governor of the Samara Region, General Director of ANO “Institute for Regional Development” – the managing company of the world-class scientific and educational center “Engineering of the Future”.

Within the framework of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, the topic of import substitution was one of the main ones. How can Russia preserve and increase its scientific and technical potential? Is it possible to shorten the life cycle of scientific developments? And how to “make friends” of science, business and authorities? Olga Mikheeva, Adviser to the Governor of the Samara Region, General Director of ANO Regional Development Institute, the managing company of the world-class scientific and educational center Engineering of the Future, told about this on the radio Komsomolskaya Pravda.

– The world-class scientific and educational center “Engineering of the Future” is a relatively young organization. For what purpose was it created?

– Applied science must, first of all, work and fulfill the tasks of the economy and the current needs of production, therefore, in 2019, on behalf of the Governor Dmitry Azarov, the scientific and educational center “Engineering of the Future” appeared in the Samara Region. In a short time, it united six regions: the Samara, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Tambov regions, the Republics of Mordovia and Chuvashia became participants. The center was awarded the world level following the results of a federal competition on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. The world-class scientific and educational center “Engineering of the Future” is a consortium of bringing together a large number of scientists, universities, industrial partners, and development institutions. All of them work according to a well-established management system, which is aimed at ensuring vertical and horizontal links of interaction between the participants of the Center, the implementation of complex scientific and technical projects, their protection, and the commercialization of the results obtained.

– What are the relations between the Center and St. Petersburg?

– St. Petersburg is a pivotal region for us. Our representative office is opened here on the basis of the Rostec branch, our anchor partner along with the Roskosmos and Russian Railways companies. We work very closely with the universities of St. Petersburg, because the task of the Center is to develop and improve the quality of science and educational programs of regional universities. And the best scientific school in Russia is traditionally concentrated in St. Petersburg, so it is very important for us to interact, absorb the skills, experience and best practices that the professors and the scientific community of St. Petersburg universities have. We closely cooperate with Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University “LETI”. Together with Peter the Great University, we began to form the concept of the REC “Engineering of the Future”.

– Has the St. Petersburg Economic Forum become a meeting place for you with partners?

– Yes, participation in the forum is a unique opportunity to simultaneously meet our current and future friends with whom we need to build cooperation, because at each stage of our work there are new tasks.

– How does the REC “Engineering of the Future” build a system of interaction between universities, regions, and business?

– This is not an easy process, because we are not a legal entity. The Center brings together participants from various regions and it is possible to build work only on the basis of trust and independent management. The peculiarity of our structure is that we do not have a strict administrative management. Some of our participants – representatives of regional universities – are higher in their scientific status than our leaders, but at the same time they listen to us and meet all the deadlines for completing certain tasks. We have a large pool of cooperation and now we have moved to a new phase, when we need to rebuild the program for resolving import substitution issues.

That is, the REC “Engineering of the Future” is a kind of place of attraction for the leading scientific schools and industrial enterprises of the country?

– Yes, we act as a management company, as an integrator of all processes. We introduce the participants to each other, find partners, performers, if there is an application for innovation, we are looking for those forms and sources of funding that will help ensure the development of technology. Our task is to find, work out and defend applications, receive funding, because none of the industrial partners at an early stage of scientific development will invest in its development. But there are special institutions created by the state that are ready to do this, and we must establish cooperation with them – help prepare applications, receive grants and move towards the result that can already be presented and discussed with an industrial partner.

– What can the REC “Engineering of the Future” offer in terms of import substitution?

– We understand that we are facing serious tasks, therefore, without waiting for an order from the Ministry of Science, we have worked out the proposals we have. This initiative belongs to the governor of the Samara region Dmitry Azarov. We divided the collected proposals according to the levels of technological readiness of projects, looked at the analogy of an imported product or technology that this development can replace, looked at who could potentially invent and who is the potential consumer of this product. All these developments were collected in a table and sent to our corporations. Now there is already feedback on this information and we are working with it. There are adjustments, there are strict requirements to rework proposals, but this is normal, since science was not ready for such a challenge. And the industrial partners themselves faced it relatively recently.

– What events did the REC “Engineering of the Future” hold within the framework of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum?

– Our business program was aimed at the implementation of urgent current tasks facing the Russian Federation in the scientific, technological and socio-economic agenda. We paid special attention to working out the issues of cooperation between the regions and universities, authorities, and federal structures. It was very important for us to understand how and how to build a model of work. Because the life cycle of a scientific idea from its development to implementation in production today is 7-10 years, but now it is impossible to respond to challenges with such terms. We have one and a half to two years to develop technologies, but only scientists cannot take on such an acceleration. Responsibility for reducing the time should be shared by people who own technological regulations, regulate certain industries, because in the course of work one can come into conflict with the existing regulatory framework. Today, many technological requirements and guests are initially tailored to those technologies that were already on the market, so accelerated assistance from development institutions is required.

One of our most important events at SPIEF is the strategic session “Scientific and technical solutions for import substitution and import advance. Problems and ways to solve them”. First, a panel discussion took place, during which some participants shared their expert opinion and thus set the stage for discussion, and then a foresight session or, in other words, “brainstorming” took place. Officials who are responsible for the development of patenting the results of intellectual activity, representatives of enterprises, universities, corporations – all together were looking for an answer to the question: how to build work with innovations in order to find common ground between the scientific community and production. To move from import substitution to import advance.

– What were the results?

– We have developed a large table of proposals: which way to move, what challenges we face. What problems can the corporation itself solve by editing its internal documents and approaches, and what questions do we need to put forward for resolution at the level of the federal government, including at the legislative level. We touched upon the topic of regulation of technical documents, how to build the shortest possible cooperation in obtaining grants, how to work with the Federal Institute of Patenting. All this is very important, because many questions sometimes did not arise or were relegated to the background. There was no comprehensive approach, but we understand that there should be a clear work structure so that everyone understands how, when and with whom to work.

– It turns out that the REC “Engineering of the Future” solves the problems of market participants: it formulates a task and goes with it to the level that is necessary – federal, regional. And the process starts.

– It won’t work any other way! Boiling in one’s own juice, keeping silent about the problem, even if there is an understanding of how to solve it, is unacceptable in the current situation, because then it will not be possible to get a result.

– Tell us a little about how you work. For example, what do the Patent Landscape and Technology Transfer Centers do? What tasks do they solve?

– Each center was created to solve a certain range of problems. The center of the patent landscape is distributed, its methodological core is based on the management company of the world-class REC “Engineering of the Future”. Distributed teams will be located in each university of the region – these are the best specialists of the universities participating in the REC in the field of patent science, who understand how to build work with the results of intellectual activity, how to properly file patents, how quickly it needs to be done or, conversely, for something not worth wasting time and money. They will analyze the market to understand what to be prepared for. Now all universities work in their own way, and we will have to build a unified approach, methodology, roadmap – where to apply, with whom to work, what and how to prepare documents.

Technology transfer is a center that aims to promote scientific development. This is a whole range of solutions that will be based on an analysis of the need for import-substituting products. Therefore, it is important for us to form an understanding of the market – today’s, tomorrow’s, what quantitative and qualitative requirements are for development. And, of course, we need to work with scientists – to teach them how to promote, protect their developments, and understand who they compete with. This is also part of the promotion.

– That is, today a scientist is not only an inventor, but also someone who can explain: why and for whom does he work?

– Yes, that is why the Center also actively cooperates with the scientific community. We provide information that develops the ability of researchers to communicate with the audience, feel it and not be afraid. It is important to train the scientist in the skills that he will need outside of his scientific environment. This, for example, is the willingness, at least in general terms, to analyze the market it enters, its competitors, to critically evaluate its development and, perhaps, decide on its own to correct it. A scientist must understand all this if he wants to enter the market and talk to business on an equal footing. Not everyone can and is able to do this, so we are ready to help researchers establish relationships with the business community and not lose themselves.

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