American Practices for Russian Innovations
In early June a HSE delegation visited the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Arizona, Tucson. The host universities are partners of the HSE in the Innovative Infrastructure Development Programme.
The aim of the visit was to explore the experience of the support of innovative entrepreneurship and university infrastructure which is able to spread new knowledge and technologies throughout the economic space of the city, region and indeed, the whole country. In addition to the representatives from the administration, the delegation included directors of three faculties and two research institutes, considerably widening areas for potential joint projects
The first university to welcome the HSE delegation was the University of Texas at Austin. In 1977 an interdisciplinary center was founded here – IC2 Institute (Innovation-Creativity-Capital). According to its founders, the IC2 Institute was created to research the hypothesis that science and technology are the main resources for economic development and enterprise growth. IC2 has become a platform for dialogue between the Austin government and representatives of the business and academic communities. As a result, over the last decade Austin has regularly come top in rankings evaluating the attractiveness of U.S. cities in terms of business creation and, as a result, employment opportunities.
The structure of IC2 includes the Austin Technology Incubator which during its life has helped more than 200 companies earn 750 million dollars. Students of the university, from all levels and areas of studies, have the opportunity to get practical training at the incubator. The incubator is designed to help new companies to overcome some difficulties they experience in their early days. The students work in close contact with highly qualified consultants – the incubator directors have vast experience in business development – and get a unique opportunity to study the processes of startups and to better understand the environment for business growth and access to international markets.
An essential criterion of the effectiveness of newly created businesses in Austin is the social importance of new services and products which are delivered to the market. The development of social entrepreneurship was an important topic for discussion with our American colleagues. In particular, the HSE has been invited to become an institutional partner at the annual Dell Social Innovation Competition. Despite the fact that, as in any other competition, there is only one winner, the organizers of the Dell Social Innovation Competition consider it important to attract as many student projects as possible. And not only to attract them but to support the participants in their desire to implement socially important projects. For this reason, the best 100 ideas receive further consultation support and the opportunity to work on the project in a community of like-minded people.
The delegation found many opportunities for cooperation with the University of Texas at Austin, in spite of the large geographical distance between the partners. For example, a brand new development of the IC2 Institute, The Innovation Readiness Series distance-learning course, can used in the second year of the university course in entrepreneurship at the HSE. This is a unique programme which covers the commercialization of developments, as well as ways to carry out business in the U.S. and is relevant for anyone interested in the topic of technology entrepreneurship, including that in the U.S. markets.
The topic of development educational programmes in entrepreneurship was also the focus of attention at the delegation’s meetings at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Arizona. This center is the oldest of its type in the USA and consistently comes top in rankings and nominations for the best educational programmes in entrepreneurial training. The students here study together, with undergraduate, master’s and MBA students from different faculties working in one class; they share their experience, create teams for innovative projects and create a social and intellectual foundation for their future businesses. Unusually, the students have to pass through a competitive selection process to be enrolled in the programme and the center accepts only 100 students a year.
Both hosting universities are seriously interested in cooperation with the HSE. All participants of the delegation agreed that it is also in the interests of the HSE. For example, Pavel Rudnik, Department Head of the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge Department for Private-Public Partnership in Innovation Sector, believes that the most promising area of cooperation is the development of a complex of methodical solutions which would adjust American university practices in technology transfer and intellectual capital management to the Russian environment.
Sergey Panarin, lecturer at the Faculty of Business Informatics Department of Innovation and Business in Information Technologies believes that it is possible to jointly use external technological innovations in various areas (biotechnology, alternative power sources etc.) and ‘pack’ them in business projects, with the use of the HSE’s expertise in economics and business.
For Svetlana Maltseva, Acting Dean of the HSE Faculty of Business Informatics, many ideas which have been realized in the partner universities, seemed familiar, since the HSE students are already implementing similar projects in their startups. She sees some opportunities for active collaboration in the near future on the basis of existing infrastructure.
Nikolay Filinov, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Management, also raised the question of developing potential opportunities, but from the perspective of ‘networking’: ‘To implement our plans, solid teams are needed. And it is their creation that we should start with’.
‘Such visits are always useful, since they help to organize joint work more effectively’, Alexey Novoseltsev, HSE Director for Innovations and Entrepreneurship Development, believes.’ And in this case the effect will be stronger, taking into account the fact that our delegation is interdisciplinary.’