Emerge of the “give before you get” mentality
The “give before you get” mentality, described by a well-known investor and entrepreneur Brad Feld, is gradually penetrating into the logic of the Russian innovation system. The backbone here lies in investing money, time and all the energy to the roots of innovation excellence – Universities – the places that are being adapted to the talent pipeline and experiential learning concepts.
The Russian Universities require a thought-through and market-adjusted model to meet future workforce needs. The enhancing determination to build an innovation-driven economy in Russia inherently leads to the development of STEM* education and careers. This is easier said than done.
The research shows that the “agents” (here – R&D centers, business incubators, techno parks, etc.) operating in the Russian innovation system contribute less than 0,030% to the national labour market. Adding to that, ICT sector, being a dominative and the most attractive player on the venture capital market, shares 0,6% in the overall labour market in Russia.
Shortage of STEM talents in the Russian innovation system
The underlying challenge here that faces the Russian innovation system is the shortage of STEM talents. Moreover, there is a huge communicative dissonance in collaboration between business and academic community. The business and industries giving profits to the economy require specific skill sets, while the universities live in the out-of-date entrepreneurial academic culture.
The Russian Venture Company (RVC) inquired the experts, business leaders, academic representatives and government officials to get the perception of the Russian innovation system, held by the local community. The results show that 55% of the respondents consider the academic staff to lack the competences of innovative and entrepreneurial leaders.
Technical “hard” STEM skills are not easily acquired. But in a market-driven economy, even a brilliant technological innovation may fail in the pitching session, just because the investors will not be able to see it being packed and adapted to market and potential target audience.
The Fund “Center for strategic research” take the Universities as the drivers in the innovation growth of the Russian economy. In general, Russia is positioned quite positively in the international specialized rankings (Global Innovation Index – 32, Bloomberg Innovation Index – 14). The shift in innovation mentality has been proclaimed at the national level with the programs and road maps marked this change (Acts in 2009, 2011, 2012). “The strategy of innovation development of the Russian Federation up to 2020” is all about making the framework and ground of the innovation system better.
The experts, engaged in the project of the RVC on giving the recommendations to the governmental programs, included the points about “Universities”, “supply of qualified candidates”, “academic and business partnership” in almost every part of the project:
- Developing territories of innovation (regards the support and “heating up” the innovation process in regions).
- Infrastructure of innovation, that touches upon the issue of enhancing the pipeline of the innovation market (business-Universities-business).
- Effective science (the interesting point here regards the creation of the environment and proper framework for cooperation with business and appearance of academic spin offs).
- Forming the competences of innovation activities, by applying experiential learning model to the education system and creating the specific culture in the Universities where a student can easily set up a spin-off, get all the support from the experts and IP specialists and successfully deliver the product/service to the market).
Moscow, being in the list of the innovation champions, strives for being a competitive region, especially the innovation leader (both on national and international markets). It possesses a good science-technology potential with the high universities concentration, R&D centers and shows a high entrepreneurial activity.
Almost every University (habitually with STEM profile, but with some exceptions like MGIMO University) localized in the Moscow region has a business-oriented department, company, club or other unit, aimed at providing all the facilities for their students to meet workforce needs. They actively apply different formats and techniques in University-Business partnership, such as business games, meetings with the leaders from industry/business, workshops, master-classes. But some of the Universities have moved forward by creating academic business incubators, which steer the creation of entrepreneurial culture in the University and startup community in the whole city.
The case of successful academic business incubator
The first academic business incubator was launched in 2006 on the basis of the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (the highly welcomed University among the Russian employers). The academic business incubator plays a key role in a jobs-driven economy. It simply aligns skills to jobs creating real partnership with business and providing competency-based education.
By this date it has already established a solid pool of partners from the business community, including Intel, Skolkovo, Russian Venture Company, Foundation of Development of Internet Initiatives (ФРИИ in Russian) and other venture and business angels companies – all that leads to establishing good innovation networks and shifting to “give before you get” mentality.
Recently the University management has set a goal to embed the training programs on entrepreneurial skills to the educational system. All the students, young founders (regardless of their background and University attachment) can easily get a residence status by presenting their idea of a product/service that will change our future or simply make it easier. And the experts or mentors of the incubator will show how to translate STEM into business language.
To put it simply, such “agents” in the innovation system help to re-envision the future of higher education in Russia and ensure a pipeline of skilled workers for the region, country and the world.
The similar units (that align innovation, education and business in their targets) have spread throughout the whole country. They have appeared in St.Petersburg, Kazan, where they successfully engage techno parks, business and Universities into the common idea of advancing innovation economy. There are about 500 agents (techno parks, R&D centres, business incubators, engineering centers, etc) comprising the Russian innovation system. Albeit the number, diversified and multidimensional profiles, the units of the Russian innovation ecosystem fail to build strong ties and effective communication – the challenge the Universities have taken the role to solve it.
*STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.