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“And the winner is…”: some of Russia’s future best and brightest in technology pronounced in Nizhny

1 Dec '15
Rosmolodezh, the federal agency promoting social and political agendas for young Russians, held on November 28 the semifinal leg of its Young Innovator of the Year national competition. It was Nizhny Novgorod that provided the venue for the event this year; and regional academia, primarily Lobachevsky University (UNN) and Polytech, were among the key partners of the competition.

The contest is aimed at boosting motivation in young technology developers in Russia, and at incentivizing the formation of a comfy environment for all stakeholders to talk and share experiences.

According to UNN’s Technology Commercialization Center, the Nizhny leg of the federal competition was part of InnoFest, a major youth innovation focused event which the Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod is currently holding for a second time to offer young inventors and technology entrepreneurs a platform to present their project ideas, make themselves known, and hopefully bring themselves to the attention of potential investors. You can click here to learn the details of how InnoFest kicked off on November 18.

An authoritative panel of experts handpicked for rigorous semifinal pitches 140 projects out of more than 500 applications. Competition partners, including Russia’s LOGA Group, the Russian office of the Seed Forum International Foundation, Russian lawyers from AK Patent Law Group and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), also added their expertise when assessing technology ideas. Research areas covered this time included some of the most advanced scientific and business fields, such as new materials, instrumentation, cleantech, IT, and biomedicine.

The 45 winners of the semifinal leg were pronounced at Lobachevsky UNN’s Institute of Economics and Entrepreneurship. They will vie for the top awards on December 19 in Moscow during the National Youth Innovation Convent, a major Rosmolodezh program.

Having a good technology solution is not enough; a “good package” is also needed

During the Nizhny leg of the national competition the partners offered participants and guests an awareness-raising program called “Regional Sessions of Practical Consulting.” The program has been put together and led by RVC, one of this country’s key development drivers and the national fund of funds for innovation, which is also providing support as General Partner for UNN’s InnoFest.

According to Alexander Loktionov, the CEO of LOGA Group and the Seed Forum International Foundation in Russia, most of the projects pitched at the contest were of decent quality, but they all lacked a “good package.” Helping young tech developers learn the ropes of how to work with investors to take their ideas out of the labs and into the world is what the new RVC program has been designed for, he emphasized.

One of the focal points the experts called the audience’s attention to was the importance of intellectual property protection, an aspect scientists in Russia tend to unthinkingly overlook. Vitaly Kastalsky, the managing partner at AK Patent Law Group, pointed out that by getting focused on just narrow segments of home markets many project developers make a grave mistake, especially in their search for funds. It’s whether a project might have global market potential that the investor is interested to know. Of course, it’s clear that few pre-seed and even start-up stage projects have deep enough pockets to back their international patenting ambitions; but looking for ways of protecting one’s IP globally is an objective. To successfully pursue it a team has to think carefully before picking a patent attorney, and make sure third-party developers don’t get their own IP rights infringed in the process.

Dr. Maxim Kiselev, the director of leadership programs at Skoltech, a new type of university set up at Skolkovo, Russia’s largest innovation hub just outside Moscow, talked about some delicate issues in a developer’s interaction with investors. A professional psychologist, in his work with innovators he has come across a serious problem where developers get so overwhelmingly in love with what they have created that they get too blind to see that investors are unlikely to feel the same affection. Dr. Kiselev warned that the approach is dangerous as it leads to a developer’s inability to highlight in his pitch what investors want to know.

Before he concluded, the expert put emphasis on the importance of the right “dispositions,” a psychological term for something that predetermines one’s behavior and should be thought about prior to making a pitch.

“When people approach an investor, they say, “Please give us money.” Would you enjoy being asked for money? No one would. Money for what? The only correct and working signal to an investor is this: “Let’s make money together. We have an exciting thing, a technology, which we have developed and are now offering you partnership to jointly make money out of it.” And this produces an entirely different effect! The only goal of a pitch is building a bridge to a continued conversation. No one will ever shell out any money right after your pitch,” the expert underscored.
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