Skolkovo Hosts Corporate Innovations Conference

Having achieved some success with marketing their products, Skolkovo's companies have more customers abroad than in Russia, according to Victor Vexelberg, president of the Skolkovo Foundation. „It is unfortunate that today their solutions generate more sales on external markets than domestically,“ said Vexelberg at the opening of the Corporate Innovations conference on April 11.

The event brought together close to 150 leading Russian and international companies, including Alfa-Bank, Hals-Development, Donstroy, VTB, ENEL Russia, Coca-Cola HBC, Gazpromneft, Magnit, Gett, X5 Retail Group, Schneider Electric, Rosneft, MTS, and Russian Railways.

From Tech Scouting to Industrial Strategy 

Initially, the Skolkovo Foundation was focused on scouting for research groups and assisting them with launching startups that would facilitate Russia's technological upgrade, said Kirill Kaem, Skolkovo's senior vice president for innovations. “In the first several years we were very successful and attracted many startups. As the years went by and the startups kept growing, we realized that we need to help them join the industry. This was when we understood that our collaboration with industrial partners was not sufficient.” 

According to Kaem, as soon as the foundation started focusing on orders from industrial customers to scout for specific technologies, the number of Skolkovo's collaborations with the industry increased manifold.

At the first stage, it was essential to change the mindset of scientists and persuade them to create innovations, set up companies, and make money. Now Skolkovo is faced with the challenge of changing mindsets inside corporations. “Now comes the time to help companies reshape internal processes and change their approach to working with new startups and new technologies,” said Skolkovo's senior vice president for innovations.

According to him, in the last two years Skolkovo successfully hosted several dozens of accelerators, with dozens more currently under way or in the pipeline. “When representatives of Skolkovo visited corporations and offered them a pool of digital startups, we thought that the foundation's job ended at that and was limited to tech scouting,” Kaem admitted. “De facto, we received a request to help companies build their technology strategies in a way that would reflect the best global practices. And this very question of building technology strategies seems to bottleneck the adoption of digital technologies for many companies.”

Skolkovo is hosting Corporate Innovations for the second time. The first event was held with much success last spring. 

“Skolkovo is the largest hub of innovative projects in the country,” said Kaem. “Each year, we screen thousands of mature projects in terms of their commercialization potential and maintain contacts with many of them for quite some time. On the other hand, the number of our industrial partners and their research centers at Skolkovo is constantly rising.”

Digital Transformation

How does business leverage digital technologies? Lindsay Herbert, the author of the book “Digital Transformation,” spoke about global practices in adopting digital solutions in business. The book is the result of her collaboration in digitization with the UN, WHO, World Wildlife Fund, many financial organizations and higher education institutions. The problems faced by small and large organizations in their digital transformation journey are similar, and so are the mistakes they make. Lindsay Herbert's  core message is that digital transformation is about companies learning to become more adaptive to change itself. 

Alexei Romanenko, head of management consulting and infrastructure and transport at KPMG Russia, presented the results of a local digital transformation survey of over 100 Russian companies from various industries. According to the survey, 63% of respondents claim that they have a digital transformation program. However, what they often have in fact is just a set of short-term pilot projects, said Romanenko.

The most popular technologies tested by Russian companies are big data analytics and predictive analytics (68%), chat bots (51%), and robotization (50%). In 2019, 36% of the surveyed companies are ready to invest more than 100 million rubles in the digitization of their processes, while 55% plan to spend under 50 million rubles.

The most impressive budgets for new technologies are announced by representatives of the telecommunications, banking and metallurgical industries. For the majority of respondents, investment in new technologies is very profitable – 51% of companies expect that the investment will pay off in less than 2 years, another 43% expect it will happen within 2-5 years.

A very important aspect in the digital transformation of any company is this company's culture. This issue was addressed in great detail by Agnes Ritter, CTO of Severstal Management. “Without a change in the company's culture, there can be no digital transformation. We do concrete things that help in the implementation of digital technologies. First, it is a radical change in goal setting. As long as people do not have ambitious goals that cannot be achieved without the introduction of digital technologies, they will never use such technologies.”

Ms. Ritter also emphasized the importance of having innovation centers in close proximity to main operations. “For example, if you work at an enterprise in Kostomuksha [Karelsky Okatysh, a division of Severstal, is located there], it means that specialists associated with the introduction of innovative approaches should be there as well.”


14 april 2019