Innopolis: Russia Launches Its Silicon Volga

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Five hundred miles east of Moscow, Russia has created a new city from scratch dedicated to IT. Innopolis, located on the shores of the Volga River, boasts cutting-edge infrastructure, according to Vasily Brovko, Head of communications, information and research, Rostec. The city includes spacious office buildings, a new university, two high-tech incubator areas, and exhibition facilities for conventions and trade shows.

Image of Vasily Brovko via Rostec

Rostec, a state-owned non-profit corporation that lead the creation of Innopolis, is a $5 billion per year conglomerate that holds a portfolio of 663 companies with a mixture of defense and civilian businesses.  "Currently, Rostec encompasses R&D and manufacturing facilities that, prior to launch of Michael Gorbachev’s 'perestroika,' ensured Russia’s parity with the U.S. in this industry," said Brovko. "These facilities are a terrific core yearning for development. Rostec is building on that. We are actively developing not only software companies but also 'iron' manufacturers that come from inside of our holdings There are quite a few of them."

The non-profit is among the first official residents of Innopolis.  Rostec is building a technology implementation center of 64,000 square meters that will be the focus of its IT efforts moving forward. Almost 5,000 IT professions will be developing and integrating solutions for the Russian market, as well as localizing mission critical technologies for the benefit of Russian manufacturing.

Part of creating Innopolis is keeping talented IT professionals in Russia, rather than seeing them leave to work outside of the country.

"It’s open knowledge that over a million first-rate IT professionals left Russia over the last 25 years," Brovko stated. "Many of them are in high demand at the world’s leading companies. You would be hard pressed to find a Japanese or U.S. IT company not employing Russians. There is no question about the potential of our professionals. We are attempting to create an environment that will be a match for these professionals. Innopolis fits the bill perfectly. Products built here will become Russian history."

Rostec expects Innopolis will be the home to the largest and most innovative high-tech companies in Russia, akin to Silicon Valley or Boston's 128 corridor.  "Working here will be synonymous with successful professional growth," said Brovko. "One of the main advantages of Innopolis is a contained, comfortable and saturated environment. Everything you need is just around the corner."

The new university will support up to 5,000 students and will be the only one in Russia where all course are taught in English.  Bachelor's degrees are available in computer science, while graduate degrees will be offered in software engineering, cyber security, data science and robotics.

Image of Innopolis University via Rostec

Innopolis is expected to deliver benefits across multiple fronts. "For us, Innopolis is central to creating advanced products that use high tech, and this is how we are going to promote it. During the first phase, we  are going to focus on our domestic market and on B-to-B audience," Brovko stated. "That said, we already have foreign partners who are interested in Innopolis, and they are ready to join its active development. Innopolis is currently developing concepts and participation programs, which we are certain will be of interest to our foreign partners. And of course, we are going to exhibit Innopolis at major international trade shows and promote it on the speaking circuit."  Brovko wouldn't say what foreign customers had shown interest, due to the early stage of conversations.

Image via Rostec

At this point, Innopolis is focusing on IT.  Moving forward, it plans to involve other high-tech industries, including microelectronics, nanotechnology, robot design, alternative energy and biotech.

An interview for this piece was conducted by the author via email, with questions and responses translated between English and Russian. It is possible some nuances were lost in translation. 


Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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