Volga | Finance, business | Technology & innovation

Experts at KomTech-2015 in Nizhny Novgorod: innovators must listen to what industry needs

26 May '15
The Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod (UNN), the largest university in this mid-Volga region, on May 20-22 hosted its innovation session called KomTech-2015, a spokesman for the university told Marchmont News. This was one in a series of events scheduled for a whole year and designed to help university teams of tech developers better understand the market and put together doable commercialization strategies.

The main driver behind the session was the Technology Commercialization Center (TCC), a new UNN department established last year to assist university innovation on its way to the customer. The key participants were, of course, tech developers as well as Russian and international experts invited to join in and share personal experience in strategy development and tech commercialization.

Most of the international experts came from the U.S. For example, Dr. Paul T. Harper, Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration, arrived from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Vlad Likholetov, PhD, MBA, runs International Partnerships and Initiatives in the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri and formerly headed MUs International Technology Commercialization Institute (ITCI). Adrian Erlinger is the Program Manager for Innovation and Capacity Building at American Councils for International Education, the co-organizer of the US-Russia Innovation Corridor, a bilateral initiative facilitating entry into the vast American market for Russian tech start-ups.

By the way, Mark Pomar, the president of the US-Russia Foundation (USRF), also joined the Nizhny event on Friday, May 22. USRF is the primary supporter of the Innovation Corridor under the EURECA Program.

On the opening day, Paul and Vlad conducted their master-classes for Nizhny-based developers. Dr. Harper spoke of business models, the development of winning start-up strategies, and innovation for medicine. Dr. Likholetov brought to the attention of a local audience the key aspects of tech commercialization out of universities and the need for building partnerships with industry.

Mr. Erlinger conducted his master-class the next day, on May 21. He talked to his audience about ways of assessing the competitive advantages of a project and the importance of thorough marketing analysis for each of the tech solutions.

During the first two days the experts worked closely with UNN innovators, aiding them in the development of commercialization roadmaps for their projects. The start-ups that participated in the discussions had had a bit of good schooling under the Innovation Corridor program and were now eager to work out successful marketing strategies and business models. These included UNNs leading project teams, such as Lasens (a hardware and software complex for cancer diagnostics); Radiotechnologies-NN (METEO project developing a local weather monitoring system); Radio Lab NN (software for modeling mobile communications networks); Tectum (a next gen hemostatic and wound-healing agent based on chitosan); FerroMagnet (new ferromagnetic materials with given properties); In Vitro (biotechnology to derive medicinal material from the tubers of rare orchids); CROX-NN (an adaptive module for safer mammography scanning); Stress Code (a stress control system for patients); and some others.

On Friday, May 22, Kendrick White, the UNN Vice Rector for Innovation and Director of the Technology Commercialization Center, introduced the KomTech-2015 audiences to TCCs Industry Advisory Board, an informal alliance of business and industry representatives being actively built these days to get expert advice on how university innovators could focus on the real needs of industry. Managers of a number of large companies, such as Bosch or Virgin Connect, gave UNN their recommendations regarding improvements in interaction between scientists and industry players.

The ongoing discussions took a broader dimension after lunch at what had been announced as a square table, a free flow of opinions about the role of a university in Russias new knowledge-based economy kept up by university leaders, regional government officials, and representatives of the financial and business communities. The participants also discussed the future of the Lobachevsky Innovation Park currently being built next to the UNN campus and slated for completion within a year.

Young innovators then pitched their early-stage tech ideas to the experts and potential investors during two-minute elevator pitch-like presentations. Following that, the KITE program crowned the innovation session; owners of more developed projects used the PitchNITE format, created last year at UNNs InnoFest Festival, to tell the experts about the competitive advantages of their solutions. Each twenty-minute presentation brought the developers new valuable knowledge that came from expert recommendations on marketing improvements.

Sharing his impression about the event in an exchange with the TCC press service, Paul Harper said that, to his mind, biomedicine (which is a strong research area at UNN) will be the most important area of innovation for entrepreneurship, and UNN may have a huge impact moving forward precisely because of developing capacities in the right research area. The hard part is having a good technology. Youve got good technology, so you have already taken care of the hard part, he emphasized.

Vlad Likholetov also underscored UNNs great potential for science, but reminded university innovators of the necessity to listen attentively to what industry representatives have to say. Developers must remember that its the industrial community that offers you information youre very unlikely to find easily on the street, the expert pointed out, adding that this must be one of the key objectives of events like KomTech.
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Locations: Nizhny Novgorod

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