Innopolis – Russia’s New IT-Capital? (Ambassador Yakovenko, for Russia Today)
Information and communications technology (ICT) continues to be one of the most progressive and growth-generating sectors of the global economy. Such areas as mobile internet, e-payments, robotics and artificial intelligence, cloud technologies fascinate both consumers and developers, steadily becoming less of a sci-fi and more of a know-how.
Russia is very much a part of this trend. Our ICT sector is already large and continues to grow. For example, Russia is leading in Europe in terms of the number of Internet users (about 70 million in 2014). Russian market of IT products and services was valued at around $23 bln in 2013.
The Russian internet scene is still ripe for more expansion. Granting the global success of many Russian IT companies, such as Yandex, Mail.ru, OZON, Vkontakte, Kaspesky, the Russian market is an attractive place for doing business for international companies. High quality labour is a crucial factor. According to Frost&Sullivan, Russia is a global leader in numbers of researchers, developers, scientists and engineers per capita, far ahead of India and China. What we need is to create favourable conditions for local experts and international companies to thrive.
The Russian Government understands and strongly supports this work. As part of the 2008 Long-term Development Strategy ICT stimulus programmes continues to be a focus area of high priority. Many Russian cities already provide an attractive environment with developed infrastructure and opportunities for domestic and international businesses. One of these is, of course, Moscow, a leading national centre in many respects, from number of universities to Wi-Fi coverage, from investment concentration to the innovative Skolkovo project.
At the same time, active regional development should not be overlooked nor underestimated. Historically, scientific and IT resources were dispersed throughout our huge country, from Murmansk to Vladivostok, thus creating a number of important centres. But there was never a true IT-capital, akin Cambridge or Bangalore.
Now there might be just the contender. Located in a picturesque spot on the great Volga river, 1.5 hours flight time from Moscow or 30 minutes drive from Tatarstan’s capital Kazan, Innopolis is the first city in Russian modern history to be constructed completely from scratch. A new city on the world map, where the best innovative solutions are developed, commercialized and used.
A few days ago I discussed the future of Innopolis with its Director General Igor Nosov and was impressed by his plans. It looks like the choice of Tatarstan is not accidental. It is one of the largest economic, industrial, scientific and cultural centres in Russia, voted to be one of the best regions for doing business, known for excellent quality of higher education and scientific environment, boasting one of Russia’s most efficient special economic zones (“Alabuga”).
Innopolis was officially launched in 2012, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev laid a capsule with a message to future residents at the site. In just two years, an enormous job of designing and constructing new city infrastructure and main buildings is close to be finished. When open for business, it will be a smart city with a unique innovative ecosystem, including a special economic zone, a university (Russia’s first to specialise exclusively in computer science and information technologies), a full range of social, commercial and housing infrastructure (schools, kindergartens, hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants, apartment blocks, townhouses and cottages). Together, it will provide an ideal environment for successful development of innovative projects.
For resident companies Innopolis will offer a number of benefits, such as special tax rates, favourable terms on land lease, connections to engineering networks, low administrative barriers, access to highly qualified specialists and to world-class business infrastructure.
I am sure that foreign companies will be able to find something interesting in Innopolis, a promising new window to Russia’s bustling high-tech industry.