In October, 2016, through competitive selection, development projects for innovation clusters that are leaders in global investment appeal were selected. The contest took place within the framework of a priority project by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia. The key objective of “new” clusters is to upscale business and significantly boost non-resource export in Russian regions. The Tomsk region joined 11 other winners with its Smart Technologies cluster development project.
Project leader, Andrey Antonov, Deputy Governor of the Tomsk region on economy, spoke to our website editorial office about the cluster’s objectives, markets and project alliances, and success criteria.
What is the idea behind the new cluster Smart Technologies? How is it related to other clusters being created within the framework of INO Tomsk concept?
The launch of Smart Technologies cluster development project is an attempt to grow a globally recognized player. The cluster has good chance to become a center of excellence in 4-5 key market directions, concentrate specialists and new technology solutions.
Implementation of the INO Tomsk concept and the development of six clusters within the framework of this project has shown that, as on today, it is required to reboot cluster policy – focus the clusters not only to domestic demand, but to foreign markets as well.
This is why Smart Technologies cluster was made of cross-industrial and cross-cluster projects with high exporting potential. The project portfolio was mainly structured depending on the scale of markets. For export markets, it was decided to form project alliances. For the domestic market, there are priority projects what we will grow within 3-4 years into exporting ones. The third group here is significant business initiatives that will be implemented in the region. As on today, project alliances are the top priority.
Who does the cluster focus on, large players or small and medium business? How are they selected?
The Smart Technologies cluster focuses on mature companies that already have an exporting chain and are ready to upscale their business, get a leap in terms of their exporting revenue in the context of a slowing down economy.
During negotiations with Tomsk companies, we found out that such companies as Micran, Elesi, Artlife, Elecard, Solagift and some others are ready to take on such ambitious endeavour. Thus, in our focus are tech companies that can ensure high growth of 16-30% in various directions.
What is the cluster’s objective? Which market directions were given priority?
The companies have identified 11 priority fast-growing markets for themselves. These include computer vision, telehealth and mobile health, industrial and medical robotics, probiotics, food and pharmacological ingredients, medical equipment, cosmetics, etc.
The cluster’s objective is to upscale business, create a new line of products, and by 2020 be present in specific market niches.
As on today, the cluster has formed four project alliances: biotech, drone-related computer vision, info-communication systems industrial application in remote areas, and a medical and industrial robotics alliance. Apart from companies, the alliances include universities, scientific organizations and “external” partners that provide the missing expertise.
Once the project is implemented, we will have a clear idea which companies we should grow into national champions, and which can become global champions and leaders in specific segments of the global market.
Can you tell us more about each of these alliances?
The first project alliance is called “A line of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biopharmsubstances”. The flagships here are Artlife and Solagift. As you know, Artlife is the main player on the market of food ingredients and gelatine capsules, while Solagift is the world leader in technology and prices when it comes to fir needle extracts. It is planned that they should achieve a tenfold increase in the volume of GMP-production and increase their exports revenue from 20 countries. Scientific expertise in this alliance is provided by TSU which has created the Institute of biomedicine and the IPHAR company in the framework of the “5-100” project.
The second project alliance is “Computer vision: a line of cross-market products for aerial, land- and marine-based drones”. The main player here is Elecard, which has, as they say, an NTI gene. Alongside their partners and universities, they have seen that the growing market for drones requires the supply of a key technology – computer vision. These algorithms have the highest added value. As on today, the project is undergoing an expert review by teams from National Technology Initiative.
The next project alliance aims to create integrated information and communication systems for extreme environments. We are talking about arctic areas, tropical regions in the Asia-Pacific countries and Latin America where natural resources are produced. The key participants of this alliance are Micran, Elecard and Elesi. From universities – TSU, TUSUR and TPU. Creating a new product in the form of a “Smart production point” aimed at development and operation of stand-alone wells and well pads for hydrocarbons production, as well as wearable gadgets to monitor personnel’s health will enable access to medical assistance in remote areas. Thus, the cluster will solve the problem set forth by federal project “Healthcare”.
The fourth alliance aims to create new technology solutions for industrial and medical robotics. As a result of alliance participants’ work we will get manufacturing lines for robotics components, digital control systems for unmanned submersible and medical robots, neurointerfaces and exoskeletons for rehabilitation, as well as robotized surgical devices.
What is the role of ministries in the development of the new cluster?
First and foremost, all the 11 winners of the contest have stated specific directions and administrative support measures. To implement these, transform into specific instructions and make the necessary changes in the legislation and administrative procedures, the Ministry of Economic Development will be ensuring inter-departmental coordination and work with development institutions.
What are the success criteria for the cluster’s development?
The contest criteria were quite clear. The main one is an increase in export revenue. If a cluster unites exporting manufacturing companies, it means that it is known in certain segments of the global market and is attractive for investment. Because investors invest specifically in exporting companies and high-margin ambitious projects.
The volume of financial support is still being defined. However, in 2017 it will be around 1.2 billion rubles for 11 clusters. Since at the end of the project it is required at least to double the export revenues, the funds will be allocated to support project alliances – making of export product lines for specific market niches on 11 fast-growing markets.