Novgorod State University Hosts ITMO.REGIONS Innovation Weekend

Last weekend, Novgorod State University hosted an intensive workshop on strategy and project management, which was given by ITMO University experts as part of the interregional network program of the ITMO.REGIONS startup school. The event was supported by the University of the National Technology Initiative (NTI) 2035. ITMO specialists provided insight into best practices of creating an efficient ecosystem for supporting innovation entrepreneurship in universities and shared topical how-tos and practical skills with aspiring student entrepreneurs and scientists. 

ITMO.REGIONS is a trans-regional network of ITMO University startup schools aimed at developing project activities and tech companies in Russia’s many regions. As part of this innovative project, the staff of ITMO’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Technologies have already hosted a series of startup schools in Crimea, Tomsk, Ekaterinburg, Sochi, Ulan-Ude, Volgograd and other cities. It was decided that Novgorod would get a special intensive workshop, during which not one, but several ITMO University specialists will share their extensive experience with participants. The workshop’s agenda was tailor-made to address specific challenges faced by the event’s host, Novgorod State University, the main one being the introduction of a project-based approach to the university’s educational process. ITMO experts suggested a bespoke format featuring not only induction materials for students and staff, but also templates of interaction practices such as business games and working with student audiences in question-and-answer mode.

“The ITMO-led Novgorod State University workshop was held as part of the University of National Technology Initiative’s educational intensives. Right now, we’re doing an experiment on intensive training of specialists in a range of innovative fields. In this we are the first university in Russia to implement the NTI University’s forward-thinking program. This is a very complex and serious task, and that’s why we at NSU are really glad that our colleagues from the trailblazing ITMO University, which has always been our reference point, have joined the program to share their vast experience and knowledge. This kind of intensive workshop is the only possible solution to achieve results in short-term as nothing is more effective than face-to-face communication and interaction in offering fast and constructive feedback we can really build upon. Educational process implies a long-run commitment and it’s not always easy to carry the torch, but these sparks of meaningful cooperation really help with motivation and adjusting educational trajectories. ITMO University is on a whole other level of vision and understanding of innovation entrepreneurship. Its staff are pioneers in the field, they have their own novel projects and continuously demonstrate high results. Most importantly, ITMO has succeeded in developing a special environment that is perfectly encapsulated in its avant-garde motto of ‘more than a university’. The experts we hosted have brought this environment with them, and we feel honored that our students had the chance to experience it for themselves,” shared Yuri Borovikov, acting rector of Novgorod State University.

ITMO-NSU Innovation Weekend
ITMO-NSU Innovation Weekend

The workshop’s extensive program was aimed at brainstorming project ideas based on the cutting-edge technique of Customer Development with a subsequent analysis of their viability, market performance, and potential sources of investment. Helping participants find answers to these topical issues on behalf of ITMO University were Andrey Myaskov, head of the Future Technologies accelerator, and Elena Gavrilova, head of Entrepreneurship Center. Project Management and Promotion Center analyst Daria Grischenko talked about digital economy and the National Technology Initiative, focusing on entry-point questions of how to attract external funding when pursuing projects within the framework of the NTI agenda and which mistakes to avoid when drawing up a project proposal. Head of Institute of Entrepreneurial Technologies and Dean of the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations Nina Yanykina touched on the complex subject of intellectual property, while Anatoly Semenov, leading manager at the Scientific Business Partnership Center, filled participants in on the specifics of interacting with business partners. The Department of National Programs and Projects was represented by its head Svetlana Bazueva and senior analyst Nikolay Bovtunov, who spoke about effective strategies for fundraising on a national and international level. Last but not least, advisor to the rector Oleg Malsagov shared his experience of collaboration with industrial partners and introducing next-generation technologies into their manufacturing processes.

ITMO-NSU Innovation Weekend
ITMO-NSU Innovation Weekend

“Over the many years of dynamic activity in the field, ITMO has developed a truly unique experience of building an innovation-fostering ecosystem, championing entrepreneurial thinking, using a novel project-based approach, and expanding on its effective fundraising record. By sharing our experience with other universities, we inspire them to broaden their horizons and provide them with necessary support; after all, new roads seem much easier when you already know the bumps ahead. My main goal was to advise the NSU staff on the available opportunities for funding their joint projects with international partners and provide insight into ITMO University’s experience of participation in the European framework program Horizon 2020 and other programs. Given that many of the participants were students, it was also very important to cover international education exchanges, which I did. I think that our main accomplishment as an ITMO team is that we have set new standards for NSU students and staff to aspire, and contributed to a shift in their approach to education and research,” commented Svetlana Bazueva, head of Department of National Programs and Projects.

The workshop's participants
The workshop's participants

The experts worked with an audience consisting of promising students selected via a pre-qualification contest. 100 applicants out of 300 made it to the final pool of participants, which was divided into 12 interdisciplinary teams following two-month intensive training provided by NTI University. Each team was set a specific project that fell into one of NTI’s three priority markets (aeronet, technet, and neuronet).

“The presentation I developed for the Novgorod State University staff featured material we’ve accumulated at ITMO University as a result of our extensive cooperation with the industry. We decided to put special emphasis on several crucial aspects of this work. First, we tried to describe current processes and trends in detailed yet accessible theoretical terms, for example, explaining what is knowledge-based economy, technology transfer, import phaseout. This theoretical debrief was also sustained by the related Russian laws and regulations as we realized that specialists often struggle with different legislative interpretations, which impedes them in their work. Our second and main emphasis was on researchers’ interaction with the industry. Here we touched upon the specifics of introducing new technologies into a company’s day-to-day operations. Lastly, we couldn’t not mention the difficult issue of technology indices for different products. We also discussed the role of innovation agents, people responsible for supporting and championing modernization on every stage of a project,” explained Oleg Malsagov.

Oleg Malsagov
Oleg Malsagov

According to the workshop organizers, more and more Russian regions experience the ever-increasing need in training a new generation of technological entrepreneurs, which calls for instituting a new kind of mentorship support, developing economic and industrial links, and providing students with up-to-date information about different formats of available state funding, as well as more sophisticated knowledge of business fundamentals such as financial models and identifying target audiences. The workshop’s goal was to help budding entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas.

On November 23, ITMO University's Project Activity and Fundraising Unit will host the annual School for Technological Brokers with parallel programs in ITMO and the Higher School of Economics’ Nizhny Novgorod campus.

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