Innovation Development: How ITMO University Turns into New Generation University
In the international educational community new generation universities are called “universities 3.0.” They expand horizons and stop being traditional institutions that function like higher education providers. Apart from research and educational activities, such universities take part in civic life as well as participate in a variety of meetings and events at the country level and also develop international projects. New generation universities aim to support promising experts who will be key players in the innovative and business arenas. Nowadays several leading Russian universities start following this model by developing innovative infrastructure and commercializing students` projects in order to bring new inventions to market. ITMO University experts shared what activities turn ITMO University into university 3.0.
Innovations for young people
No one is born an entrepreneur. The best period to start business activities is studentship. Thus after graduating a young entrepreneur will certainly know how to develop a project from scratch and where to find support. That is why ITMO University launches special practice-centered training courses and organizes extra academic activities. Thanks to Department of Technological Management and Innovations our students can turn almost any idea into reality. The Department supports specialists preparing their projects and developments for commercialization. Using experimental prototypes students develop hands-on experience, which is necessary for comprehend theoretical knowledge.
“Department of Technological Management and Innovations is going to launch several student contests this year. One of them was initiated by ITMO University international research centers in order to hire gifted project managers who are ready to develop research projects. The other contest aims to choose the best marketing and advertising strategies for a project “Video360Production”. It was organized together with Design and Multimedia Center of ITMO University. We are also going to launch several training courses taught in English. Among the other things we develop a project of our own business school,” said Igor Kuprienko, vice dean of Department of Technological Management and Innovations.
According to Ekaterina Egoshina, head of Marketing Department of Project Management and Innovation Department of ITMO University, a new department will support not only business-oriented students. All young researchers will have an opportunity to fulfill themselves.
“We understand that not everybody wants to become entrepreneur. That is why we offer a variety of projects such as small innovative enterprise consulting, participation in interdisciplinary accelerator team. We also need specialists on financial management. Our department initiated a technology brokering school, which will be opened in November, 2015. Furthermore we organize annual contest “Marketing for Innovations.” We try to help all students who want to fulfill potential,” noted Mrs. Egoshina.
ITMO University students have an opportunity to develop a startup without mentors` assistance. An experimental research lab “OLIMP”, initiated by ITMO University students, is a place where any researcher can develop his own project such as airplane model or hi-tech quadrocopter.
“Some students want to take part in those projects that are out of an education plan. We give them an opportunity to develop a variety of research activities. There are no professors here. “OLIMP” is a lab where you can find like-mended students and go deep into friendly atmosphere,” said Maksim Ivaschenko, head of the Lab.
Developing startup projects all young entrepreneurs need financial and tutorial support. Thanks to ITMO University business accelerators “SumIT” and “Future Technologies” all promising entrepreneurs will be able to develop their startups turning them into full-fledged enterprises.
“Future Technologies mentors are qualified enough to prepare our residents for collaboration with Russian and international investors. A new accelerator session is coming. There are a lot of applicants but we will choose the most promising projects. I want to underline that ITMO University is the key promoter and the main investor,” said Future Technologies expert Aleksey Solomatin.
To support hardware projects new generation universities organize their own prototyping centers. Following this trend ITMO University initiated a “FABLAB” and Engineering Center "M2M Telecontrol and Instrumentation" where residents can invent unique details using 3D printers, computer numerical control systems and other modern equipment. These departments have been working for a year but they have accomplished a lot of projects.
“Apart from collaboration with business accelerators, Strategic Communications Department, Department of Project Development and Innovative Activities and other departments of ITMO University we also organize workshops and excursions for residents and newcomers,” mentioned Aleksey Schekoldin, head of “FABLAB.” “To attract more and more students we are going to promote our lab by developing our own social network. Thus all participants will have a profile containing the information about all accomplished projects. We are open for all students interested in our activities that aim to develop hands-on experience. We also collaborate with a variety of companies.”
As regards financial and other support all ITMO University researchers can receive them in Engineering Center.
“To turn a research development into a industrial pattern a developer needs investment. We help them to prepare required documents and provide certification activities,” noted Sergey Symontsev, deputy director of ITMO University Engineering Center.
Innovation enterprises development
The next trend is that modern entrepreneurial universities develop their own small innovative enterprises. Currently about 40 successful innovative enterprises are based on ITMO University.
“About six small innovative enterprises appear at our university every year. It is very hard to organize legal arrangements of these enterprises. However nowadays Russian legal system becomes more open giving universities more opportunities for entrepreneurial development,” said Aleksander Ostrouhov, head of SIE Cooperation Office of ITMO University.
Future belongs to venture
Seed funding is a key element of a startup. It is possible to use public finances but investors` support is more effective. University-based venture fund is very promising trend. ITMO University fund consists of 300 million rubles. Among our investors there are Russian Venture Company and other private investors attracted by “ITMO Venture Partners”. We have a lot of plans for a future. We aim to develop ITMO University venture fund, a variety of project and entrepreneurial activities as well as increase income and attract international partners such as “HORIZON 2020”. We are going to initiate more and more competitive hi-tech companies,” said Nina Yanykina, head of of Project Management and Innovation Department.
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