Strange but true. Research and Production Company Micran has become a brand of Tomsk innovation sphere for the twenty years of its experience. But until recently it was terra incognita for many Tomsk citizens. A lot of people knew there was such company in Tomsk but did not have any idea of what it was doing and how its activity integrated with the plans of innovative regional development. A breakthrough happened in September 2010, when the IX scientific and technical conference “Technological Modernization — Basis for Competitive Growth of Radio-electronic Industry» was held in Tomsk in front of Tomsk Drama Theatre. Micran deployed its mobile digital communication complex “MIK-MKS” with a 32 meter mast based on an eight-wheel KamAZ. Then there were only two such impressive gadgets in the world ordered by the Ministry of Defense. Tomsk residents saw that complex two weeks after it was demonstrated at the international exhibition of arms, weapons and ammunition at Zhukovsky. The governor of Tomsk region Viktor Kress was very true when quoting a line from a Russian song saying that citizens thought there were military training exercises.
However, “MIK-MKS” despite its raving success (the complex is supposed to provide broadband communication during the Olympic Games in Sochi) is only an example of possible applications of Company developments. The range of their application is very broad. In a nutshell, it is super frequency electronics: components and systems, microwave (UHF) components, equipment for telecommunications, measuring tools. We may say that Micran has achieved some kind of clustering in UHF-developments. And it is this achievement that allowed the Company to make a breakthrough in development three years ago.
From 8 to 1 000
Today several companies of the State Corporation Rosnanotechnologies, Air Defense Concerns Almaz-Antey and Vega as well as Sukhoi Design Bureau are among the customers of Micran Company. Micran has some special relations with aviation. The Company produces transmit/receive modules for active phased antenna arrays which in fact serve as “eyes and ears” of MiG – 35 fighter aircraft. Radars of such type are used for river fleet, too. River radar transmission power is less that of a cell phone but it can “see” a log or a piece of ice in the river at the distance of 12 kilometers.
Developments in UHF-electronics allow Micran to compete with such giants as Ericsson today. Competitors can hardly know that the Company appeared in 1991 and consisted of 8 people. Today there are more than 1000 employees working in Micran. “First we produced components and supplied them to other manufacturers, – says Viktor Gyunter, General Director of the Company, – At the beginning we engaged in an interesting project with Moscow Scientific and Research Institute of Radioengineering aimed at the development of low Earth-orbiting satellite system “Signal”. We invested 90% of our resources in this project but it burst out. Nevertheless, it allowed us to exist for another four years and we equipped an Earth-based dummy satellite with our microwave devices. This was enough for our systematic development in this area. When in 1994 the customer cut off funding, there were 30 of us already. And we found our niche that was digital radio relay communication stations. We possessed a good technology and by the year 1996 we managed to produce our first samples and started to sell them. This allowed us to live and develop.”
Today Viktor Gyunter is glad to show the site where the future Micran plant for radio electronic devices is being constructed. Design and production of goods will take place here. A five-storied 14 thousand sq. m. building will cost the Company 600 million rubles. “This building is of one of the oldest Tomsk plants, – explains Viktor Gyunter. – We have made a design and arranged our own construction department. We will develop and produce the most advanced radio electronic devices which will plan to bring to the global market.” To the question “why is it so expensive real estate in the center of the city?” the General Director expressed his surprise: “Would you like to have another shopping center here? No, indeed… This will be a clean manufacturing enterprise where people will work with comfort and pleasure.”
As for the “clean manufacture”, Viktor Gyunter is not joking. Micran products are based on chips made of gallium arsenide which is one of the most significant semiconductors. This material outperforms traditional for microelectronics silicon and is essential, for instance, for military equipment. So, in the “clean room” where chips are produced the air is cleaner than in any operating room. Special clothing does not allow static electricity to accumulate. Because a chip can be spoiled even due to one dust particle or microdischarge… So, it is hard to arrange an excursion to the “clean room”. But it is possible to see all the rest and even touch some products. Integrated microwave electronics, digital radio relay stations with traffic transmission rate up to 155 megabit per second, wireless broadband access devices based on WiMAX and LTE technologies, navigation systems…. All these made the Company establish a separate control and measuring systems department, in the products thereof we rest special hopes.
Control and Order
Micran Information and Measuring Systems Department engages in the development and production of measuring tools. First they were designed and assembled for our own needs connected with microwave electronics testing. But the quality of devices was so high that other Companies became interested in them. Today, the geography of our supplies of measuring tools covers the whole Russia and it is no wonder. Only two companies in the USA and Germany produce goods of such range. “We have developed a full range of measuring equipment for 10 years, – says Evgeny Andronov, Director of the Information and Measuring Systems Department. - Such companies as Hewlett-Packard focused on such devices before, and now one of its departments is dealing with that. Russian measuring tools market capacity equals five billion rubles. We are producing goods for 300–400 million rubles annually so far.”
Nowadays the annual volume of sales of Micran products exceeds one billion rubles. The strategic goal of the Company is to reach the same level of commercial sales of test and measurement equipment on the domestic market. By 2013 the total volume of sales may reach two billion rubles. The following step will be to enter global markets. “The average cost of one product is about one million rubles, – says Evgeny Andronov. – We do not copy products from, for example, the USA as our colleagues from China do. We elaborate our own products. This is the microwave test and measurement equipment. Apple Company, for instance, bought 16 thousand devices of the German Company Rohde&Schwarz a year ago to assemble your iPhones and iPads. There are some components that function within this frequency range. They need testing. Our consumers today are manufacturers of everything associated with radio-electronics. I can say that 90% of all Micran product components are produced by our Company”
Tomsk engineers believe that it is quite possible to enter the global market with equipment of their quality. So, it takes only 5 minutes now to test a MiG-35 module, before that, 10 hours was required for the same testing. Today, Micran accounts for 20% of the Russian sector of measurement equipment market. The quality of equipment is constantly improved since 75% of the total product volume of the Company is oriented to the military industry. And quality requirements in this sector significantly differ from those used for civil products.
A Matter of Time
We may say that the year 2011 has become a watershed moment for the Company. “The point of no return” was passed ten years ago and last year became the reference point of new possibilities. Among recent achievements of the Company we may point out the start up of production of 4G base stations in The Center of Wireless Technologies (joint project of Micran and Finnish Nokia Siemens Networks) (see “4G Comes to Russia through Tomsk” in “Expert-Siberia” No. 48 of 2011). A new 1.85 thousand sq.m. laboratory building of the Engineering Center is to be commissioned in the second quarter of the current year in Tomsk Special Economic Zone where the manufacture is located. Manufacturing site for the development of LTE base stations will move there.
Another joint project on the development and introduction of technological basis for system engineering and production of analog and digital microwave equipment based on our own hardware components will be offered to Tomsk University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics (TUSUR). In 2010 Micran won a federal competition: a half of the total cost which is 600 million rubles will be invested by the Ministry of Education and Science, and the rest sum will be covered by the Company funds.
Besides, Micran is preparing to represent new development areas including devices for control and protection from information leakages through compromising emanation and cross talk channels as well as a pilot sample of a new generation high resolution radar system RLS MRS – 1000 designed for IT objects protection. The Company also continues its work on the development of broadband access technologies which Tomsk authorities dream to employ for the all-around access to the Internet.
It is obvious that 20 years is enough both by Russian and international standards for a start-up to grow into a strong company. And apart from the wish to sweep the international market which is natural for any ambitious company, Micran has a goal to implement rather feasible idea, that is to create a Siberian cluster for the development and manufacture of electronic microwave component base and products based thereon. And regarding this project as well as any other idea of Micran we can say – this is a matter of time.