Russian president discusses technological innovation and its effect on global relations

On the fifth anniversary of the Skolkovo Foundation, the ex-President of Russia has spoke about how the foundation has advanced technological innovation and how co-operation in the space helps to support international relations during turbulent political waters. 

Dmitry Medvedev, who held office from 2008 to 2012, signed a law during his tenure which gave rise to the not-for-profit Skolkovo Foundation which manages the innovation park of the same name. The goal of the foundation is "to create a sustainable ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation, engender a startup culture, and encourage venture capitalism." 

Thirty of the world’s most successful corporations have signed R&D partnership agreements with the Foundation, a list which includes; Boeing, Cisco Systems, EADS, GE, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Siemens, Nokia, Samsung, and more.

The world is one global place now, even when countries are on less than good terms

Whilst impressive, these companies have large spaces around the world for R&D and the funds to spend on it. Surrounding the perimeter of Skolkovo is expected to be around 1000 startups each competing to become a household name – if given the opportunity. 

Medvedev says: "Startups mean creativity. There are some startups which don’t get in. Some of the startups provide to be feasible, some don’t. As I see it, we still have hundreds of interesting technical startups and innovations. Every time we meet here, I am shown the achievements made here." 

Skolkovo has grown at a rapid pace and has a target of 47,000 offices. The vision of Medvedev is to create a smart city where the most innovative and forward-thinking minds around the world can work together and thrive – putting Russia back on the map for its scientific and technological achievements. 

Rafael Reif, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says: "Any innovation system like Skolkovo needs a research institution at the core of it. That is necessary of an innovation ecosystem, and that is what Skolkovo is becoming. A critical part right now is to attract the top talent, and as long as it finds that talent within Russia and the world it will be highly-successful." 

Western political tensions with Russia are high due to situations in Ukraine and Syria – along with images and videos of the culture of violence towards the homosexual community. Meanwhile, the current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, speaks of returning to "greatness" which evokes a 20th-century vision of using state muscle, military might, and oil wealth to command respect. 

Medvedev comments: "The political situation in recent times has not been ideal, but we continue to co-operate in science and we feel that’s important." 

He continues: "The world is one global place now, even when countries are on less than good terms with one another, we are trying to maintain the same level of innovation together. This is why I’m sure this project has a big future ahead of it." 

In the 1970s, educated Soviet Jews—like the parents of young Sergey Brin, who went on to become a co-inventor of Google—headed to the free West. By the turn of the century, it had robbed Russia of more than a half million of its most talented people. The new innovation city at Skolkovo is inspired by the relationship between Stanford University and Silicon Valley, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and hopes to bring Russian companies and talent back to their homeland.

Putting Russia back on the map for its scientific and technological achievements.

New laws could stifle the willingness of international companies to start business within Russia; such as the requirement for data about Russians to be stored on servers within the country. This has little effect on large companies such as Google – who have migrated their server to Russia – but could prove to be at too much cost for smaller businesses. 

Medvedev says: "Every country has its own national requirements – whether these are too harsh or not – only practice will tell you. According to the law, the data of Russians must be stored here in Russia. Google, or other large companies, migrate their servers here or look to local companies to do so. We don’t want to squeeze anyone out of Russia, we want to welcome anyone who wants to do business legitimately in this country." 

Do you believe innovation partnerships help to improve global relations? Let us know in the comments.

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