The Skolkovo Foundation is a Russian nonprofit organization established in 2010 with the task of creating a science and technology innovation center in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo. The strategic goal of the Skolkovo Innovation Center is to concentrate international and domestic capital within a hub that will nurture and stimulate the development and commercialization of advanced technologies and house up to 1,000 start-up companies.
The initiative has been financed primarily by the Russian government, which decided to allocate more than $3.2 billion to the activity from 2011 to 2015. The funds are to come largely from the state Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, Vnesheconombank, with the state’s initial commitment fixed at 88.5 billion rubles (ruble-dollar exchange rate in May 2012 was 30-1). The center’s budget in 2010 was 3.9 billion rubles. The allocation was 22 billion rubles for 2012 and 17.3 billion rubles for 2013.
The project includes 40 innovation business incubators and technoparks and 80 venture funds—some of which are currently operating in various areas of Russia. In April 2012, there were 1,950 employees at Russian research centers supporting Skolkovo, which are also distributed throughout the country. This number is scheduled to grow to 2,500 by the end of 2012. At this initial stage, there is no requirement for matching contributions for receiving financing from the foundation, but the planned goal is to have 3-1 matching contributions when production activities are initiated. The number of companies that are involved is expected to grow from 20 in 2012 to 30–50 by 2015–2016.
Almost 300 companies/participants have expressed interest in the project. About 20 percent of applications by companies for financial support have been approved. Companies and other organizations with activities under Skolkovo’s
purview operate by laws that facilitate participation of international companies and encourage innovation. These laws provide tax breaks and administrative benefits, such as onsite customs facilitation and work permit issuance to overcome bureaucratic delays.
Biomedicine is one of the main sectors of interest. Eleven of 30 grant applications for biomedical start-ups had been approved by April 2012. A total of $76 million had been invested, with each grant for $2–5 million over 3–5 years. The strategic goal of the biomedicine cluster is to create an ecosystem for biomedical innovations that consists of more than 90 companies.
The biomedicine cluster focuses on four main fields: (1) clinical medicine and health care, (2) medical-biological and biological sciences, (3) bioinformatics, and (4) industrial biotechnologies (including purification methods and industrial technologies for the production of medical preparations). Plans call for a preclinical medicine testing center for cluster residents that should start operating in 2013. According to this plan, the companies will not have to transfer money from abroad to pay for preclinical testing of medicines.
The following U.S. companies have shown interest in activities of the cluster: Johnson and Johnson, Agenus, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Dow Chemical. ChemRar Ventures has entered into licensing and research agreements with Skolkovo Foundation, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer.
SOURCE: Information provided by Skolkovo Foundation, April 2012.