Key events

InnoFest tech festival launched in Nizhny Novgorod; experts look forward to “new and disruptive technologies”

22 Nov '14
The report was first published in Russian on the Lobachevsky UNN website.

A big four-week event kicked off at the Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod earlier this week. The InnoFest festival of youth innovation is expected to become a regular feature at the region’s largest university.

Russian Venture Company (RVC), one of this country’s key development drivers and the national fund of funds for innovation, provides support as General Partner.

The Festival’s Strategic Partners include Intel, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Connect and Bosch, three of the world’s major multinationals. Promsvyazbank, a sizable Russian bank, offers support as Corporate Partner. Regional Partners include MTS, a leading Russian telecom operator and retailer, and Rugasco, a Russo-Norwegian gas equipment JV.

“Innovation is not something abstract”

At an opening ceremony, the audiences received warm welcome from some key players on the regional political and academic scenes and representatives of both local and international businesses. In a dynamic and very unconstrained manner UNN Rector Evgeny Chuprunov greeted the InnoFest participants and guests, underscoring that, “innovation is not something abstract; this is the application of sciences to the benefit of society, and it’s exactly the goal we’re pursuing by launching the program.” According to the rector, the idea of “bringing all UNN projects under one roof” has been in the air for quite awhile.

Regional Minister of IT, Telecom and Mass Media Sergei Kuchin found very timely and useful the format of “bringing together those who conceive an idea, those who know how to implement it, and those who are ready to invest in it.”

Deputy Minister of Education Ilya Korshunov said that, “we’re waiting for new and disruptive technologies,” and expressed hope that some of the university-born ideas that the Festival would feature “may one day change the way people think of life.”

Fred Ledbetter, deputy head of marketing at Virgin Connect, was glad to “meet young innovators face to face.” For his company, innovation is “its DNA,” he said, and Virgin is keen to look for partners with manifest expertise in innovation.

“We believe we stand a chance of winning our market share”

The focal feature of the first day of InnoFest was the Territory of Youth Innovation, presenting to the audiences more than 70 innovation projects developed by young regional scientists. A whole array of universities and research institutes took part in the show.

The Territory was also a venue for the innovators to compete for the attention of an expert jury that would pick and choose the best and brightest for the regional final leg of “U.M.N.I.K.”, a federal competition of innovation technology projects supported by Russia’s Bortnik Fund, also a Strategic Partner of InnoFest.

The guests and experts checked out tech solutions in a range of areas, including Medicine of the Future, New Devices and Hardware Systems, Modern Materials and Related Technologies, IT, and Biotech. Take a closer look at just a few of these:

Ilya Krylov, Lobachevsky UNN. He presented his project aimed at developing software for early breast cancer diagnostics. The effort, based on joint research by scientists at UNN and University College London, began last year after Ilya’s interaction with his London colleagues and is aimed at creating a safe, affordable and effective technique for diagnosing and forecasting breast cancer. The technology is using modern machine learning methods and is focused on DNA research. The developer said the solution would “be completely safe, have no side effects, and enable cancer forecasting prior to metastases.” He expects to commercialize the technology; but that hinges upon the cost of deriving necessary data from a drop of blood, now prohibitive for many in Russia. However, global trends show that the cost of medical analyses has decreased considerably over the past decade, and Ilya is bullish on the future of his effort. In the Territory, he managed to find a partner interested in the furthering of his project, he said.

Pavel Pasin, Alexeyev Polytechnic University. His project is focused on analyzing the quality of alcoholic beverages. He is developing a compact and affordable express analyzer that could help assess the characteristics of an alcoholic product stated by its makers, and also determine whether a bottle contains methanol, a deadly neurovascular toxin typically found in counterfeit drinks. The team has come up with a lab prototype that already can ‘sniff out’ a tiny 1-5% drop of methanol in a beverage that is expected to contain 40% of quality alcohol. According to Pavel, some of the alcohol producers and bar/restaurant owners he has approached “are interested.” “If we put together a correct advertising campaign, the solution is marketable. We target the Russian market first and foremost, where an estimated 20,000 people are taken to hospitals each year with acute alcohol poisoning, including about a thousand who fall victim to methanol content. But we look at the global market as well, where the situation is no better. Europe, home to about 15% of the global population, accounts for an estimated 50% of global alcohol consumption; and we began our project after word came from the Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey that numerous alcohol poisoning cases had been reported there.” Pavel hopes to raise investment to help fine-tune his new device and increase its accuracy. “We believe we stand a chance of winning our market share,” he said.

Sergei Matveyev, Lobachevsky UNN. He presented what he said is a new SiGe:Er based material. Using this combination of silicon, germanium and erbium will lead to the creation of silicon optoelectronic devices, including a silicon LED, an effort that may make it possible to integrate optical and microelectronic devices on a single IC, Sergei believes. This would help boost efficiency considerably while reducing the loss of energy in a microchip. Currently the integration is impossible because microelectronics is based on silicon technology, while classic optoelectronics is using materials incompatible with the silicon technology. “The project does have prospects, if we pitch in and continue research. As of today, it’s only a semi-finished product.” Sergei hopes participation in the “U.M.N.I.K.” federal competition will help him make a good start and ensure a seamless transition to higher-level R&D.

Denis Savinov, Institute of Applied Physics. His business idea calls for the creation of a gadget capable of controlling levels of acoustic fields in a pregnant woman’s womb. The gadget is expected to monitor and regulate sound pressure, neutralizing negative acoustic and vibration influences while making sure the fetus safely receives sounds that are vital for the development of the baby’s hearing system and can help improve his psychic and intellectual development after birth, Denis said. The device will also have wireless connection with music appliances which will be equipped with a special Baby Safe Sound option that ensures that no sound coming into the uterus exceeds the natural level of mother’s voice. The developer believes the project has “high prospects” for commercialization. “With about $22,000 in start-up capital next year—which we expect—we are ready to launch commercialization in 2016. According to our rough estimates, our team will make as much as $44,000 in the inaugural year alone. Over the next ten years we hope to bring this sophisticated product to the industrially developed world, and by 2025 we expect to reach estimated revenue of $1.4m a year,” the innovator said.

Maria Yashanova, a joint project between Nizhny Novgorod Medical Academy and Lobachevsky UNN. The project owners are developing an analyzer for early forecasting of type 2 diabetes complications which will operate by identifying a level of oxidation stress and disease compensation in a patient. Maria said that the technology is based on analysis of crystalline structures in a drop of blood plasma. Pinpointing cells’ oxidation damage and specific diabetes compensation markers is expected to help predict and accurately diagnose type 2 diabetes complications even at very early stages, the developers believe. “We envision two options for commercialization. One suggests the development of a physical device; and we’ve been in talks with our industrial partners regarding this. The other is the registration of rights for intellectual property, followed by phase 1 clinical trials on a limited number of volunteers (up to 100 people) and the selling of our IP rights to some of our competitors. These are companies that manufacture devices for oxidation stress analysis,” Maria explained.
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