It appears like a fenced, mostly vacant plot of land in the middle of nowhere. But Russia’s Technopark Skolkovo just 20 kilometres from the Kremlin strives to become an international innovation hub in an area dubbed Russia's Silicon Valley.
Skolkovo, the pet project of Dmitry Medvedev, received a fresh boost on 28 May when the Russian premier visited the Startup Village international investor conference at the Skolkovo hi-tech hub.
When New Europe visited the project a couple months ago, officials showed off the only two Skolkovo buildings: the business centre Ural and the futuristic Hypercube. But since then a lot has been progressing, Doctor Anna Nikina, Head of Development, Partnerships, at Technopark Skolkovo, told New Europe by phone on 29 May.
Nikina noted that “currently Technopark Skolkovo resides in the rented facilities while its main building is being constructed in the city of Skolkovo. The aim is to begin this construction in June. The Skolkovo Foundation has announced an open tender for the construction of the new Technopark Office Centre. The Technopark office building will be located in district D1 of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. The new office will be constructed from modern, eco-friendly, energy-efficient, and fast erected modular construction technology. The total area of the building, consisting of four blocks, will amount to 30,000 square metres”.
Commenting on Medvedev’s visit a day earlier, Nikina said that “the residents of Technopark had an excellent opportunity to present their innovations, also to the high-profile guests”.
Earlier, Skolkovo officials have said they hoped that entrepreneurs and foreign companies will bring in fresh investment.
Both Vladimir Putin and Medvedev have committed their support to Skolkovo. During his presidency, Medvedev made modernisation the focal point of his administration and was keen to bring US know-how to Skolkovo. Arnold Schwarzengger inspected the foundations of Skolkovo in 2010 as the project caught the eye of the international media.
However, since Putin took over as president again in 2012, analysts and Russian observers have been watching developments at Skolkovo to see whether the high-tech project continues to get the same scale of top-level political backing and federal rubles.
On 28 May, Medvedev, who visited the technopark with Skolkovo Foundation President Viktor Vekselberg, reaffirmed his commitment to the Skolkovo innovation hub at a session where startups presented projects on renewable energy.
“At the moment, the use of renewable energy sources and green energy is far from what we would like to see. We only use an inconsequential part of our potential,” the Russian premier said. It has a bright future and the government will be reviewing its policies toward their broader use, Medvedev said.
The Russian premier argued that attitude that Russia should continue selling oil and gas instead of dealing with such “trifles” has now changed. “I see various countries and their leaders changing their approach to the issue of green energy, green growth and renewable energy sources,” Medvedev said.
“That is why we are also correcting our position. We, of course, believe that renewable energy sources have a bright future.”
On 23 May, the Russian government approved an incentive programme to increase renewable-energy production, targeting almost 6GW of new capacity by 2020 and its first solar parks. The decree includes measures to support wind, photovoltaic and small hydropower projects across Russia.
On 15 April, Russia’s Energy Ministry submitted a draft renewable energy law to Medvedev for approval. The law is aimed at supporting the deployment of renewable energy sources including solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants across the country.
The international conference organised by the Skolkovo Foundation brought together more than 2,000 startup companies, 320 investors and 260 partners to discuss problems and opportunities in Russia today.
The Skolkovo project provides for establishing five clusters to develop innovative projects. These are information, biomedical, energy efficiency, nuclear and space technology clusters.