Due to the Federal Law No. 217 that came into force in August of 2009 72 small innovative enterprises within universities have been established for the last two years in Tomsk. In total 244 such enterprises appeared in Siberia within the framework of this law. So, Tomsk accounts for 30% of innovative start-ups of Siberia.
However, quantity is not most important. “We support 350 Tomsk innovative projects per a year through different forms and mechanisms, – says Alexei Pushkarenko, Acting Deputy Governor of Tomsk Region for Research and Innovative Policy and Education. – As a result we have two students-dollar millionaires. But if we take a particular student Ivanov and instruct him to become a dollar millionaire in three years it won’t ever happen.” In other words, a specific feature of the process is that only about 10% of the total number of patented scientific developments turns to business. Every year Tomsk scientific and educational complex receives about 500–520 patents and generates 50 innovative companies – the 10% that has become a world regularity.
Time to Shift Focus
Actually, small innovative business that a priori cannot be large is only a part of the whole picture. Small and medium-size business in Tomsk region has been doing well for a long time. Tomsk is a leader in terms of conditions for the development of entrepreneurship not only among Siberian regions but also in the whole Russia. According to experts, small scale business can be compared with oil industry in the structure of incomes of the regional budget. It forms directly or indirectly (through the personal income tax, for example) about 20–24% of the budget revenue side. Taking into account that in 2011 regional budget revenue side amounted to 37.5 billion rubles small business accounts for at least 6–7 billion.
At some particular moment actively developing small business reached its historical peak and turned from a social stepson of economy to a full-fledged sector. Today, 230 thousand residents of the region are engaged in this sphere. There are 32 thousand individual entrepreneurs and 27 thousand small companies. Most subjects of small business traditionally refer to the service sector. But following innovative way provides for the focus of private and state support on enterprises engaged in the sector of new technologies.
Gradual drift towards innovative area is especially obvious in the sphere of state support of entrepreneurship. So, innovative business in Tomsk has the best chance to get a state subsidy, a company from the service sector also does while for a retailing company it will be difficult.
In 2011 Tomsk region allotted 276 million rubles for regional programs of support of small entrepreneurship. 167 million of them were federal funds including 20 million rubles allocated for innovative business. “Our task is to maintain the flow of federal funds and use them efficiently, – says Andrey Trubitsin, Deputy Governor of Tomsk Region, Head of the Department for Development of Business and Real Sector of Economy. – They may help us to fill the gap between R&Ds and industry. From the one hand – to attract companies to this sector, from the other hand – to create an environment where business of different scale must arise.”
It is obvious that significant differences between traditional and innovative small business led to the situation in which apart from the program of support of small entrepreneurship a special line appeared in the program of innovative activity development. The program is strictly aimed at the development of new economy and provides for subsidizing of expenditures of innovative companies for the arrangement of product manufacturing (up to 5 million rubles) as well as high-tech manufacture support (up to 4 million rubles). Tomsk Region Administration has formed a working group to control the process. This group will analyze the activity of small innovative companies established on the basis of higher education institutions within the Federal Law No. 217. The attention of local authorities to innovative start-ups is obvious to grow with the approval of “INO Tomsk 2020” Concept. So, future dollar millionaires will have money to start their business.
Mecca for the Smart
Tomsk limited liability company Cybercenter was the first Russian enterprise established within the FL-217 in 2009. Since then due to this law Tomsk university innovative zone has grown by 72 enterprises. 257 positions have been created in these small companies, that is 4–5 positions in average per a company. Tomsk Polytechnic University is the leader in terms of the number of small innovative enterprises (25 companies). It is followed by Tomsk University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics (22 companies) and Tomsk State University (13 companies) as well as by Tomsk State University of Architecture and Building and Tomsk Scientific Center of SB RAS (each of them established four enterprises). 64 companies received state subsidies for beginning innovators (up to 500 thousand rubles) for the last two years including 38 companies established under the FL-217.
“Our University is classic and we can hardly compete with technical universities, – says Gregory Dunaevsky, deputy rector for research work of TSU, – nevertheless, we are oriented to the establishment of large enterprises. Eight companies out of the thirteen established possess 1–3 million rubles as their charter capital. We try to follow this trend and launch about five enterprises every year. We offer such a company some technology to upscale which means to build a manufacture with good rates of production.” The best example is glyoxal manufacture with the use of nanostructured catalysts. As a result Russia has become the eight country in the world that possesses its own technology for the production of this substance.
“I do not believe large-scale production enterprises will appear in Tomsk in the nearest future, – Alexei Pushkarenko says, – There will never be cars manufactured in Tomsk region. We have another way. We must create a powerful scientific and university center. About 15 thousand people graduate from our universities every year including 1.5–2 thousand graduates with the diploma with distinctions. If we create conditions for these “cream of society” to stay in Tomsk we will become a Mecca for smart people.” It is obvious that if clever people will be offered favorable conditions to start their own business they will stay. However, according to the statistics, about 10–15% of start-ups shut off their business in some time since the development does not go further. “But I do not see any tragedy if business does not succeed, – says Andrei Trubitsin.- As a rule, if people have already tried entrepreneurship they will not stop. Small business is a way to develop a manufacturer, creator but not a consumer in a person.”
The problem of receiving start-up capital by a small innovative enterprise consists in the quality of project development. “For the second year we have been facing problems with spending funds for acting innovative enterprises, – says Andrei Trubitsin. – It is a psychological issue to a greater degree. The matter is that while the rest part of business has already got used to the fact that we do not give money in advance but refund expenditures incurred innovative companies cannot usually show this expenditures.”
State structures can admit this problem while private investors can hardly do. As a result we observe capital unwillingness to invest in the innovative activity. Meanwhile, hundreds of projects must be financed concurrently to develop innovative economy. And we should realize that most of them won’t succeed. “A small company can receive from 5 to 10 million rubles from different sources, for example, from the regional budget, with the support of the Mayor’s Office, from Bortnik Fund. But the following sum – from 10 to 90 million – is hard to receive. This range is to be financed by the Russian Venture Company, Regional Venture Fund and other private venture companies. But they don’t do it. Conditions for funds allocation are so strict that every project must turn to a new Intel or Microsoft. But it is unrealistic,” – complains Alexei Pushkarenko.
“Unfortunately, financial institutions currently operating in Russia are not tailored for innovative entrepreneurship. As a rule, loans are given to trading and service companies,” – confirms Oksana Kozlovskaya, the chairman of the Legislative Duma of Tomsk Region. She offers to consider intellectual property as a mechanism of support and in particular the possibility to use it as a pledge of collateral for a loan taken by a company. “We don’t know yet how to work with such a pledge of collateral but we must do it since the whole civilization is following this way,” - she believes. According to her, Tomsk region may become a pilot region for mastering new mechanisms and tools in the sphere of financial support of innovative small and medium-scale business. Then a future student-millionaire will have not only a start-up capital for breakfast but also support for lunch and probably even for dinner.