Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ingria Techno Park: A Promising Start

by Tetiana Protasova

Among the many incubators and techno-parks of Russia, Ingria proudly stands out from the crowd. Not only does it possess a substantial amount of capital (the total volume of investment in the creation of Ingria techno-park equals to 720 ml euro , but it also seems to have learned a lot from the success and failure of similar projects worldwide.

Overcoming Superficiality
Russia currently harbors over a hundred business incubators, most of them financed publicly. The standard list of services provided to the residents includes: free or under-priced office premises, conference rooms, channeling communication with investors and potential clients and mentoring. However, to-date most Russian business incubators and techno parks have not yielded any substantial innovations. World practice shows that getting the money and building a large office block is not enough for a government-initiated project to work. Similar to having the water fill the banks of a river, human capital in the face of incubatees and small businesses along with prospective investors need to come together, and with a bunch of innovative ideas, bring life to the freshly-built premises of a techno park. No wonder such concept as virtual incubators is up and running - material endowment can only be extra to knowledge and networking.

Good Examples
The number of successful enterprises that have left the incubator is by far the most important signal for the prospective incubatees. “The fact by itself that a business incubator has tenants is not a proof of success; the latter can only be decided if we are able to examine the incubated clients and their survival rates in a perspective of 3-7 years.”  Ingria has only been launched in 2007, and with such short history it is too soon to label it complete success, however its pilgrims have gained merit even in this short time frame. Ingria currently harbors sixty-four residents , many of them about to leave the nest of the incubator. Those who already did, are currently co-owned by big international corporations and appear to stand on solid ground.

Media and Culture
Another important success factor of a techno park is its popularity in the media and the familiarity with the concept of incubation in the society. Given it is a fairly new concept for this part of the world, incubation appears to gain popularity among the progressive Russian youth. IT specialists are in the forefront, as Internet is flooded with information concerning incubators and the success stories worldwide.  Further, ideology plays a crucial role in attracting IT specialists to business, as the popular US movies  give a sense of courage, and a feeling that a good concept and a will to succeed are enough to make a break. The fact that Ingria cooperates with all the major universities in St. Petersburg is also a good sign. Universities can offer entrepreneurs equipment, laboratories, training programs and special services that would not be available to them in their own organizational framework . Students and fresh graduates, having closely observed the incubation while studying may also aspire to become a resident, to invent and to cooperate. Acquiring professional skills and specialization is also easier and faster when a student knows what skills he would require after graduating.

Reasonable Eligibility Requirements and Transparency
Eligibility criteria has to be clear and reasonable in order to attract innovative projects. For instance, one of the requirements introduced by Skolkovo is to have at least one foreign specialist on your team when you apply for their residency. No wonder Ingria is already 2 years ahead of Skolkovo . According to Russian press , Skolkovo simply doesn't want to attract prospective specialists, it is said to harbor corruption, as the sphere of nanotechnology is difficult to monitor. This is why Ingria's apparent transparency, ensured by regular report publication, statistical data provision and the support of large multinational corporations is a good start to attract further success.

Hopefully Ingria will continue the inspiring trend and will further serve as a fine example of wise policy-making to science parks, incubators and innovation clusters in other developing countries.


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