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Global Сhallenges to Moscow

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The Moscow City Department of Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Higher School of Economics held a joint field foresight session in the scope of setting up the Moscow Innovation and Production Cluster. More than 200 experts — representatives of the research and education community, innovative businesses, and public authorities discussed priority areas for development of the capital city’s S&T sector, global trends affecting the city’s economy, and incentives and cooperation mechanisms which would help to make a technological leap.

A Trend Towards Deeper Cooperation

The Moscow City government didn’t systemically promote cooperation between innovation system participants in the Moscow metropolitan area before, but now strengthening this cooperation will provide the foundation for the Moscow Innovation and Production Cluster. It’s important to set relevant technology development priorities for the capital city right from the start, since the new cluster will not be industry-specific, stressed Alexei Fursin, Head of the Moscow City Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship: 'We won’t try to do everything at once. We’ll focus on specific objectives Moscow organisations can accomplish'. Alexei Fursin invited interested parties to email their ideas on developing the cluster at cluster@mos.ru.

Alexei Khokhlov, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believed the idea to establish a megacluster in the capital city’s metropolitan area was very interesting, and hoped that 'it will be successful, and help advance the city’s technological development'. 'Concentration of research, educational, and industrial potential in Moscow is so high, if we establish links between various components of this triad, we can produce synergy and make great progress in developing new technologies', noted Alexei Khokhlov. He reminded about the cooperation agreement signed last April between the Moscow City government and the RAS, and mentioned that cooperation in the scope of the Academy was also deepening; in particular, a number of institutes were considering setting up science parks.

Made in Moscow

Global trends which affect competitiveness of companies and whole countries work in unpredictable ways which are different for different players — either as threats or as opportunities. Right in front of our eyes they are changing the customary science and technology paradigm: the shape of knowledge-based economy is becoming increasingly distinct, along with relevant actions, perceptions, and sharing initiatives, noted the moderator of the foresight session Alexander Chulok, Director of the HSE ISSEK Centre for Science and Technology Foresight. 'Those who follow the dynamics of the Dow Jones index can see how companies which have been building their competitive advantages for decades, such as General Motors, General Electric, or Hilton, simply drop out of rankings being replaced by “upstarts” like Uber, Airbnb, or Alibaba. Who could have thought 20 years ago that an internet browser would become the biggest investor in intelligent infrastructure, medicine, and transport?' said Alexander referring to Google.

One way or another, global challenges radically change the economic landscape, so the key issue, believes Evgeny Kutsenko, Head of the HSE ISSEK Russian Cluster Observatory, is 'will Moscow be able to make products needed to meet global challenges, or will they have to be imported from other countries?' To enable the city to develop competitive technologies and products it would be critically important to establish cooperation between research and business, with the state playing a very active role in this process.

Which products made in Moscow will have demand in the city and an export potential, and which technologies are required to make them, the participants of the foresight session discussed in the scope of subject-specific working groups such as New Materials and Nanotechnology, Information and Communication Systems, Energy and Environment, and Prospective Transport Systems. As the second topic, the groups considered more effective tools for supporting cooperation in innovation, already being applied and brand new ones.

'A Night at the Data Centre' vs Digital Detox

Members of the Information and Communication Systems working group identified about 30 key STI development trends important for the Moscow cluster. The group discussion was moderated by Igor Agamirzian, HSE Vice President, and Konstantin Vishnevskiy, Head of the HSE ISSEK Unit for Digital Economy Studies.

In the next few years a boom in creative sectors is expected in Moscow, along with rapid adoption of new business models such as platform- and sharing-based ones (the Moscow car sharing industry is already among the most highly developed in the world). Given the growing information flows, 'data hygiene' skills are becoming increasingly important — i.e. the ability to identify relevant and reliable information. The group members agreed that increased information load may even lead to emergence of a new kind of people — digital vegans consciously trying to exclude themselves from the digital world. Accordingly, designing an adequate system of measures to make the city more comfortable in addition to more productive becomes crucially important.

The group members particularly stressed the need to establish 'institutional sandboxes' for application of digital technologies, along with relevant test beds; provide travel grants to young professionals — cluster members; and promote research, innovation, and educational activities (open door days at cluster member organisations, 'nights at data centres', etc.

Individual Transport Tariffs for Millions

At least 40 trends and 'wild cards' (events with low probability of occurring, but potentially leading to very serious consequences) were identified by members of the Prospective Transport Systems working group. The discussion was moderated by Nikita Krupenskiy, Senior Research Fellow at the HSE ISSEK, and Konstantin Trofimenko, Director of the Centre for Megacity Transport Studies in the HSE Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies.

Obviously, megacities will keep attracting new residents leading to increased density of construction and population. Using key demographic and economic challenges as starting points, the experts identified two forks: increased mobility, or abandoning physical transportation in favour of virtual reality due to growing value of time. One way or another, application of smart transport systems becomes vitally important for cities in the short term already, along with adopting the 'mobility as a service' concept which integrates all transport modes in the scope of a common software platform. Transport technologies will be adjusted, or even personalised to suit citizens’ specific needs.

New tools suggested by the experts to promote development of Moscow’s S&T potential included pilot zones (neighbourhoods) for testing new transport technologies.

City-wide Smart Green Environment

The Energy and Environment working group had a distinctly inter-disciplinary membership: it comprised experts in geophysics, meteorology, geo-ecology, economics, and energy. The discussion was moderated by Sergei Filippov, Director of the Energy Studies Institute of the RAS, and Alexei Bereznoy, Director of the HSE ISSEK Centre for Industrial Market Studies and Business Strategies.

Rapid growth of the megacity’s population, combined with the inevitable growth of the electric transport’s share will lead to explosive growth of energy consumption, and sharply increased load on the grids, agreed members of the group. At the same time the continuing digitisation of the city environment, including application of smart energy systems, robotics, and platforms for environmental monitoring, not only opens windows of opportunity which could radically improve Muscovites’ quality of life, but puts a heavy burden on the city’s infrastructure — since it multiplies the importance of cybersecurity-related issues. The experts paid particular attention to the megacity’s significantly aggravated environmental problems which now include not just the still unsolved issue of managing conventional municipal waste but also the need to utilise electronic waste, deal with diffused pollution of water resources, vibrational and electromagnetic pollution, and other new environmental threats common to the rapidly growing present-day megacities.

Speaking about more efficient ways to provide support to members of the newly created cluster, the experts noted the importance of eliminating institutional barriers hindering certification of innovative designs, and establishing specialised platforms and demonstration facilities for integrated testing of new equipment. They also noted the need to disseminate advanced practices among small and medium innovative companies, and set up and maintain a specialised portal for inter-cluster communications.

Growing Interest in Health-related Issues

The discussion of the Medicine and Biotechnology working group was moderated by Andrei Lisitsa, Director of the V.N. Orekhovich Research Institute of Biomedical Chemistry of the RAMS, and Olesia Maibach, Expert at the HSE ISSEK Information and Analytical Systems Unit.

The group’s experts noted that Moscow’s large solvent population was an important factor supporting the growing demand for products and services of very high quality. People become increasingly interested in health, their own and their children’s, which ensures high demand for personal health monitoring devices, food quality sensors, etc.

Due to specific features of their activities, medical organisations and biotech companies cannot operate from technology park offices. So the experts believed the main kind of support they needed was setting up specialised engineering centres equipped with powerful ventilation systems, waste management infrastructure and other facilities required for relevant research and production activities.

Materials of the Future: Guaranteed Success of New Technologies

The Nanotechnology and New Materials area is a 'cross-cutting' one, one way or another affected by more than 200 technology trends in various sectors of the city’s economy. The discussions of the relevant working group were moderated by Anton Maksimov, Director of the A.V. Topchiev Institute of Petrochemical Synthesis of the RAS, and Vladimir Salun, Director of the HSE ISSEK Centre for Industry and Corporate Projects.

Materials-related innovations can define competitiveness of products manufactured by the cluster members. The group’s experts noted the importance of 'integrating' relevant companies in production chains of such products’ manufacturers, the need to put in place specialised infrastructure for developing technologies, and launch production of new materials. The city’s industrial companies and research laboratories may make such infrastructure available. Accordingly, in the group members’ opinion relevant support measures should include setting up joint laboratories by entrepreneurs and R&D organisations, and launching pilot production in R&D organisations’ industrial parks.

Hypotheses Moving Closer to Practical Application

Summarising the results of the foresight session, Kristina Volkonitskaya, Deputy Director of the Moscow City Department of Science, Industrial Policy, and Entrepreneurship noted that the city government were completing collection and processing of opinions on development areas for the Moscow Innovation and Production Cluster. She hoped that in the coming months draft legislation, including the acts incorporating the results of all preceding expert debates, will be passed, thus providing legal basis for supporting innovation projects by members of the capital city’s megacluster.

See also (in Russian):

Moscow Supercluster will Create Conditions for Generating Commercially Successful R&D Results (RIA FederalPress, 17.08.2018)

Moscow City Authorities Intend to Apply Chinese Experience to Set up a Supercluster (TASS, Inc, 17.08.2018)

In Storming Mode: the RAS Got Involved in Setting up Innovative Cluster in the Capital City (Poisk Newspaper, 24.08.2018)