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Skolkovo Startup Village off to flying start with Philips, AEON Corp. deals

The fifth annual Startup Village, a giant open-air event for hi-tech entrepreneurs and investors, opened Tuesday at the Skolkovo innovation city with the signing of two key agreements.

Philips' Henk de Jong brandishes the symbolic key given to him by Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg (left). Photo: Sk.ru.

The Dutch tech behemoth Royal Philips signed off on the official opening of its first innovation centre in Russia at the brand new Skolkovo Technopark, while AEON investment group signed an agreement to open four lab complexes at Skolkovo, making it an official partner of the Skolkovo Foundation.

“We’re very happy to open our first innovation centre in Russia here in Skolkovo,” said Henk de Jong, chief of international markets at Royal Philips. “Skolkovo is the heart of the innovations ecosystem in Russia.”

The new innovation centre will focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer and data science, and will be part of a global network that also includes centres in Germany, the U.S., India and China, as well as in the Netherlands.

“We are absolutely sure that a lot of fantastic innovation will come out of Russia,” said de Jong.

Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg presented him with a giant symbolic key to the Skolkovo Technopark – the biggest in Europe – where the centre will be located.

“One of the focus areas will be healthcare – the use of digital technology in medicine – in which Philips is a world leader, and we’re very pleased that this centre will operate inside our innovations city,” said Vekselberg.

The agreement with AEON, a privately owned investment group that has operations in Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, was signed on behalf of the corporation’s IT and technology department by AEON head Roman Trotsenko.

Vekselberg and AEON head Roman Trotsenko exchange contracts as Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich looks on. Photo: Sk.ru.

“Skolkovo is a unique project,” said Trotsenko. “There was so much skepticism around it, but it’s a project that has really brought together very different people,” from entrepreneurs and representatives of huge corporations to young innovators from the regions and government officials, he said.

“It’s an example of a project with a human face,” he added.

Vekselberg thanked Trotsenko for joining the foundation’s partners.

“Big business is very rational, and when it recognises the potential that is flourishing here, that’s in itself an assessment of the quality here,” he said. “We won’t let you down.”

The official opening of the Startup Village, which at least 15,000 entrepreneurs and investors are expected to attend, was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who welcomed the crowds to the event on Tuesday. 

"Skolkovo is the heart of the innovations ecosystem in Russia" - Henk de Jong, chief of international markets at Royal Philips.

“Ideas and money don’t always coincide yet; that’s a problem, so we’ve come here to combine them, and if that happens in just 100 cases, it will be a success, said Dvorkovich.

“The different products that you’re creating with your talent and hard work and ideas have every chance of becoming a reality, that’s what all this is here for,” he said, gesturing around him to the Skolkovo innovation city.

In the last year, the Skolkovo Technopark has opened its doors to house startup labs and offices, construction on the new campus for the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) has almost been completed, and thousands of people of all ages are already making money from their startups, said Dvorkovich.

“That which we have been talking about for so long has today become a part of government policy,” said Vekselberg, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s keynote speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week was devoted to the importance and challenges of the digital economy.

Skolkovo has a key role to play in the dynamic development of Russia's economy, which is both an honour and a great responsibility, said Vekselberg.

Pekka Viljakainen, a Finnish advisor to Vekselberg and the brains behind the Startup Village, urged the entrepreneurs present to make the most of the event and meet as many people as possible.

“The whole purpose [of the event] is to get connected to people. Schools can educate, but that’s one thing they can’t teach. It’s not about money; it’s about the connections between people. That will generate business, that will generate success,” he said.