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Global collaboration, cross border entrepreneurship: ingredients for growth

A recent survey among science parks conducted by the IASP suggested that many of them are expanding their activities and sphere of influence beyond their physical boundaries, getting involved in managing other parks within their own region or country, and even participating in the creation and management of other innovation-based projects besides science parks. What the data doesn’t tell us though is that there is a growing trend of parks working or collaborating outside of their own countries – with some significant initiatives promoting cross border innovation and entrepreneurship.

It’s clear that a lot more is happening across borders. For example, only this week there was a major initiative signed between Russia and China, and India has been developing its own Bangalore/San Francisco/Silicon Valley linkage.

One of the big announcements this week was the signing on 5th June 2012 of a framework agreement on collaboration between the Skolkovo Foundation and Beijing Zhongguancun Science Park (Z-Park), during the state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to China. The agreement was signed by president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Viktor Vekselberg, and general director of the Z-Park Administrative Committee, Guo Hong.

Skolkovo

Skolkovo’s strategic goal at its innovation centre in Russia is to concentrate international intellectual capital, stimulating the development of breakthrough projects and technologies.  In recent months large multinational corporations like Microsoft have announced they are establishing their presence in Skolkovo.  Other key partners working with Skolkovo include Intel, IBM, Cisco, EADS, Siemens, Ericsson, and Nokia. Most of them plan to set up their own R&D centers in Skolkovo, where Russian and foreign scientists, engineers and managers will be working together.

Before the signing ceremony this week in China, Viktor Vekselberg paid a visit to Z-Park and held talks with Guo Hong. Z-Park is home to the offices of 217 Chinese and foreign technology companies accounting for about a third of all investments in high technologies in China.

The Skolkovo Foundation president also held talks with deputy minister of science and technology of the People’s Republic of China, Cao Jianlin, to discuss in detail the prospects for innovation collaboration between the two countries. An agreement was reached to set up two joint working groups – the first will elaborate the collaboration strategy, while the second will propose specific cooperation projects in designated scientific fields. More details of the announcement are available on the Skolkovo Foundation web site.

In recent months, Skolkovo has also been building bridges in Israel and Japan. According to Globes newspaper in Israel, the Israeli Industry Center for R&D (MATIMOP) and the Skolkovo Foundation are to announce a call for papers for joint R&D project by Israeli and Russian start-ups to obtain support from Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel and the Skolkovo Foundation. The latter’s VP, Stanislav Naumov, said, “The difference between Russia and Israel’s entrepreneurial system required thinking together to find a formula for cooperation. The formula we reached enables us to move forward to the stage of extensive collaboration by ventures of the two countries. The special call for papers that we are publishing is another important stage in developing cooperation between Russia and Israel, which began a year ago with the fostering of innovation and the commercialization of advanced technologies.”

Two Israeli start-ups Indoorgo Navigation Systems Ltd., which is developing navigation systems within buildings, and Inango Systems Ltd., which is developing appstore applications for the smart home, are already operating at Skolkovo, outside Moscow.

Transforming from raw material to innovation economy

Skolkovo is part of the Russian economic development strategy to transition from a raw material-based economy to an innovation-driven economy. Skolkovo has been established to create an environment to promote and commercialize cutting-edge technologies. It is a town outside of Moscow which will be built by 2014, but the project is already underway, and will soon have 500 participants—technology companies and research centers. In 2011, foreign investments in technology projects there amounted to $150 million; in 2012, it is expected to more than double, according to the foundation. They are planning to be self-sufficient (i.e. no government funding) within five to seven years.

India’s Silicon Valley link

While India has strong links with the USA in terms of economic collaboration and trade, there is a cross border initiative of another kind, between Bangalore and San Francisco.  The cities have twinned together some time ago and were promoting the initiative at the recent TiECon 2012 conference in Santa Clara (CA, USA).  There is also a ‘Cross Border Entrepreneurship’ initiative between the Bay Area of Silicon Valley and Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India.

SF Bangalore

This latter initiative is based in the belief that innovation-lead entrepreneurship is the way to bring Indian start-ups on to the global platform.  Its key objectives are to a) help innovative, commercial and global product ideas move beyond the concept phase; b) create a global network of people, funds and resources and make it accessible to all entrepreneurs of Indian origin; c) curate and mentor ideas and help them be funded by investment capital, and d) encourage execution through global teams – increasing cross border collaboration.

One of the programs in India benefiting from this partnership is the ‘eHealth Technology Business Incubator’, sponsored by the Government of India’s department of Science & Technology. An innovation fund provides idea stage funding with a provision for scale up funding increasing the success rate. The incubator has entered into an MOU with University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), to collaborate on joint technology entrepreneurship development initiatives; on joint research and development, providing opportunities for start-ups to establish their operation in special economic zones (SEZ); on activities to enhance their growth potential and facilitating collaborative research; and to providing access to mentors in Silicon Valley plus access to venture capital firms and angel investors in the Silicon Valley.

The role of the Indian diaspora in the USA in enhancing innovation ecosystems – through capital and knowledge transfer – is increasingly becoming important. Over the last few years, many successful Indian entrepreneurs in the USA have been turning their attention to nurturing companies and ecosystems in India. Even the US state department recognizes the Indian diaspora’s importance both in the India and the USA, as we have seen in the remarks made this week to the U.S.-India World Affairs Institute in Washington DC.

This diaspora’s role in cross border collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship can be seen very effectively both with Indian and Chinese communities worldwide. As has been said on various platforms, the role of the diaspora is more than just providing remittances back to the home country. What we are seeing now though is how the BRICS countries – and in this article I have just highlighted Russia, India and China – are using global collaboration to really cement their place in leading-edge positions on the global innovation map.

Nitin Dahad, CEO & Publisher, The Next Silicon Valley

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