19 Sep '13
Kendrick D. White, an American entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Nizhny Novgorod-based Marchmont Capital Partners, LLC, has been recently appointed vice rector for innovation policy at N. I. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod (UNN).
We have heard of many international advisors to Russian academic administrations, or of prominent global scientists and entrepreneurs joining project teams in Russian universities. But Kendrick appears to be one of the few foreigners ever to get a seat at the very top of a leading Russian university’s administration structure since perhaps the demise of the Russian Empire in 1917.
“For me, this is a fantastic honor. There are only a handful of countries and cultures which are able to create truly new innovations. Russia is one of those countries, and Russian scientists are able to work at a top level comparable to anyone in the world,” he said.
Mr. White feels that the Nizhny Novgorod university is one of the most progressive national research universities in the Russian Federation, and intends to do his utmost to help UNN succeed over the next six to seven years in achieving a very high global ranking.
His main responsibility will be to develop a policy and a structure on how to improve the commercialization of the fundamental science which is being developed at UNN. Kendrick underscored that the fundamental science—a key focus at the university—is “absolutely critical and should not be disturbed.” What he wants to try is help the university understand how these new discoveries can be commercialized and into what markets. This is critical to derive dividends which come back to spin-off companies that are developed by the university.
He has no doubt that the UNN-originating discoveries can be applicable to all global markets. In order to help UNN commercialize its products, the new vice rector is going to recommend the creation of a proof-of-concept center which would be added to the existing Innovation Technology Center and the tech transfer department.
A proof-of-concept center in today’s 21st century university is an essential department, a fast track to documenting discoveries, applying for patents, and making a valuation of technologies. The only way to do that is to look not only at the technology itself but also at the commercial applications of that technology.
Is there a single government buyer, or are there many private buyers? Is the product B2B or B2C? What is the scope of the market both domestically and internationally? If it’s a medical instrument, how to develop a path to commercialize the instrument in the US market through the FDA?
“I’m particularly keen to create linkages between the Russian R&D labs and scientists and Russian industrial corporations. I feel that Russian industry urgently needs innovations to improve competitiveness,” he said. Russia, being a member of the WTO, will face an increase in competition, and UNN has the potential to play a key role in modernizing Russian industry.
Lobachevsky University has already done a great deal to establish international linkages through the EURECA-1 and now EURECA-2 programs which have established the US-Russia International Innovation Corridor. “I think the EURECA program is a good place to start,” Kendrick said, adding that his objective is to enhance and improve the strong partnerships in the U.S., in the EU, in Asia, and in the Middle East.
“The U.S. has a long history of deep cooperation between academia and industry, and the U.S. has a very strong financial structure. Being from that system, I understand how the system works; but having lived in Russia for 20 years, I feel I have the ability to understand how to adapt the Western mechanisms to the reality of working in Russia,” Mr. White said.
Over the next few months the vice rector will be developing specific recommendations on how to implement the systemic process of commercializing Russian innovation discoveries made at UNN.