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«Sand box» for Innovators

The ability to analyze trends is one of the key skills for those who are going to make management decisions in the field of science, technology and innovation. The students of HSE perfect it, studying theory, examining tools and cases. But it is known that knowledge and skills are much better learnt when resonating with the realities of life or with a relevant information agenda. Educational experience is shared by Dmitry Baryakin, a graduate of the master's programme of the ISSEK (HSE).

Once, in a warm spring evening of 2016, at a seminar on S&T policy, our teacher Alexander Chulok (a.k.a. of the deputy director of the Foresight-Center of the ISSEK) gave the task for mini-groups during the lesson to brainstorm and present a small project for the development of innovations. As a result of the collective thought of the our mini-group participants*, who later organized the Innovators Club (yes, yes, we exist!), the project named Sand Box appeared. This is how we defined the concept of a territory free of intellectual property (IP) rights.

The purpose of the project was to facilitate the knowledge and technology exchange in order to generate new ideas and commercial initiatives designed for non-existent or emerging markets, so that the growth of innovative enterprises in an early stage would not require additional licenses and/or IP purchase. An entrepreneur would proceed to the standard system of IP, only after confirming the commercial attractiveness of the project for scaling the business up, like moving from the "sandbox" to the main market. The key role in this project was assigned to state regulatory bodies because of the need to correct the principles of patent protection on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Done and forgotten. However, in a year and a half we remembered our "Sand box" after getting news about the tender of Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation on a project to create a "digital knowledge-sharing platform and copyright management". This initiative is directly related to the general trend towards economy digitalization and simplification of procedures in the field of IP management and involves the creation of a digital platform with smart contracts being the main element. The head of the Department of Science and Technology of the Ministry, Sergey Matveev in an interview with the portal Indicator.Ru named this project almost the same as we did in our educational project — a "sandbox" for the digital economy! Although, there is no territory for creation of pilot manufactures by independent businessmen, but such coincidence — in terms and general thoughts — has caused mixed emotions in our mini-group. On the one hand, it's nice when your forecast comes true or the captured trend shows up in reality. On the other — it's a bit sad that our "sandbox" has remained only a training project, even being highly marked by the teacher.

Imho, it is necessary for higher education system to create and maintain the feeling, in both students and teachers, that there are no borders between training and “non-training” projects, that promising ideas could and should be put into economy. So far, it is specific for the university culture in our country that the main and, in fact, the sole role of students within the walls of the university is to study, in contrast to the Western university traditions, which are not only educational institutions, but also the places for creation of new ideas, projects and companies, where teachers and students act mostly as colleagues.

The good news is that both HSE and ISSEK promote this approach favorably, invite leading practical specialists, encourage students for challenging initiatives and promising ideas, motivate to put it into practice. So, for example, after the completion of another project — for marketing of innovations — in a casual meeting, teacher Irina Bazileva asked Yaroslav Eferin and Sandra Bit-Varda "When do you launch Enerjeans?", making them highly surprised with such confidence in the success of the "training" project. Therefore, the details of this project will not be disclosed. Thus far.

*The project involved: Dmitry Baryakin, Sandra Bit-Varda, Valeriya Vlasova, Yaroslav Eferin, Dmitry Plekhanov (HSE Innovators Club) and Anna Golubtsova.

Text and photos by Dmitry Baryakin