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Russia’s Silicon Valley headed for illustrious future

The Lower House of the Russian Parliament has unanimously passed the initial version of a Kremlin bill for business - and R&D-friendly customs and taxation regimes in the planned Russian research and development hub in Skolkovo, in the valley of the River Setun just west of Moscow.     

Deputy Yevgeni Fyodorov heads the Chamber’s business committee: "The experiment is aimed at attracting the world’s best brains and putting them to work on this country’s ambitious innovation programmes. From Skolkovo, the innovation impetus should spread to other similar hubs across Russia, and from them, to industries".

Deputy chair of the House’s financial markets committee Liana Pepeliayeva tells us about the attractions in Skolkovo: "First, a ten-year tax break, with only contributions to retirement plans required from companies. Second, a radically simplified accounting system. Third, streamlined entry and work permit procedures for eggheads from abroad. Importantly, all other Russian research hubs including Novosibirsk  are getting similar preferences".    

The focus in Skolkovo will be on nuclear power, energy-saving, space, medicine, IT and software. The initial Russian outlay on the project is two billion dollars spread over three years. Many more billions should subsequently come from big foreign names like Cisco, Boeing, Nokia and Philips.         

Mr. Pepelayeva elaborates on selection and retention criteria: "Co-funding by the state will be limited to 50 percent, meaning a Skolkovo hopeful must first prove itself as a promising money-spinner. Its sales over the coming five years must amount to at least a half billion American dollars. Skolkovo-wide, this translates into a whopping 33 billion over the same period".

Hopefully, many Russian scientists now on contracts abroad will start flocking to Skolkovo to help their mother country make a decisive breakthrough into modernity.

Head of the Just Russia faction Nikolai Lenichev tells us about other than material attractions in Skolkovo. If the project is to take hold, not fizzle out after several years and start generating commercially viable innovation, it has to offer a special intellectual and cultural environment for the boffins on it. Art, music and inspirational socializing must be part of Russia’s first Silicon Valley offshoot.     

The Skolkovo bill before the Duma should become law in the coming autumn. 


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