The makers of driverless farm tractors, powerchair drive systems and functional prosthetics have won Vnesheconombank’s Million-Rouble Idea, a game show aired on NTV for two weeks. The prizes were presented by Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. The winning project, AgroBot, received 25 million roubles for further business development; the runner-up prize of 20 million roubles went to Una Wheel; the third-place prize of 15 million roubles was given to Motorika.
The final episode was traditionally judged by government officials, representatives of development institutions, business leaders and celebrities. Apart from Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, the projects submitted for the show were evaluated by Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov, General Director of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives Svetlana Chupsheva, Managing Director of Altera Capital Kirill Androsov and actor Ivan Okhlobystin.
More than 500 applications were submitted for participation in the contest; 35 high-technology start-ups were longlisted for the prizes. The winners of seven episodes went through to the final of the show, and the other teams were eliminated. The best three contestants in the Million-Rouble Idea final shared a total of 60 million roubles in prize money.
According to the winning team, their project AgroBot is not limited to their plans to mass-produce robotic tractors. They have a dream of building an ecosystem designed to manage a fleet of vehicles and handle big data, ultimately becoming a smart agricultural producer using systems with minimal human interference.
According to Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov, the first start-up game show was so successful that dozens of other Russian innovators were enabled to fulfil their “million-rouble ideas”.
“It seemed unrealistic until quite recently to have such a show aired nationwide. Together with NTV, we did the unthinkable: the destinies of the innovation start-ups captured the attention of viewers. To build a digital economy, it is necessary to revolutionise the public perception. I hope that the project will continue in the second and third seasons,” Sergey Gorkov said.
According to one of the judges, Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin, the television project gives young businesspersons and inventors a unique chance to win through. “Million-Rouble Idea is a generous programme. It is necessary to help everyone involved in science without seeking to benefit from it. Thank God someone is interested in new technologies, and it is possible to find financing. Now the guys can fulfil their potential and carry out their creative plans—this is wonderful,” Ivan Okhlobystin said.
“Throughout the season, it was really exciting to talk to renowned business leaders from among the judges—those who deal in big money—and to those whose entrepreneurial talents are about to change the world. The ideas discussed in the final really belong in the future, and the future is coming before our very eyes!” game show host Sergey Malozyomov said.
Leonid Kazinets, Chairman of the Management Board of Barkli, also spoke about the project’s educational function. “Having your own business is no picnic. First, the Million-Rouble Idea project supports start-ups; second, it makes people want to build up their businesses, invent and promote ideas, look for investors and partners,” Leonid Kazinets said.
Big business also showed great interest in the start-up projects. Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board of SIBUR, is confident that the majors can use these innovations.
“Each project had its own creative features. Sometimes it is interesting to look at new ideas through the eyes of a man involved in big business and working at large companies. At first some of the new solutions seem impractical, but when you begin to analyse them and talk to the teams, you understand that many things they do or see from their own perspective can be used more widely,” Dmitry Konov said.
The Million-Rouble Idea runner-up, Una Wheel, designs powerchair drive systems. They will allow people with disabilities to lead an active life. Significantly, they will be several times cheaper than their existing equivalents. The project team expects to expand the range of its products in the future, including creating devices that will help to carry more weight.
The third-place prize winner, Motorika, designs and creates prostheses for children and adults. Superhero-style functional prosthetics help children with disabilities to participate in all activities at school and in life. Sophisticated bionic prosthetics are intended to assist adults at work.
In addition to prize money for business development, the winning start-ups will be provided with the opportunity to pitch to Russian and foreign investors at the Roscongress Foundation’s forums and the field sessions of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The innovators also received substantial financial support from viewers, who could pay by bank card, by SMS or by digital wallet. More than 1,550 sponsors used the Boomstarter crowdfunding platform to pay over 2.8 million roubles. Financial assistance for some of the projects was 400–600% more than initially asked for.
The Roscongress Foundation will enable the winning start-ups to pitch to Russian and foreign investors at the country’s key economic forums, including the field sessions of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia and abroad. The seven finalists of the show will all be able to take part in Roscongress events under the agreement signed by Vnesheconombank and the Roscongress Foundation during the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi.
The media sponsors of the project were Rambler News Service, Russia’s leading high-technology and innovation media outlet Hightech and the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
The Million-Rouble Idea website contains all eight episodes.
State Corporation “Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank)” is a national development bank and one of Russia’s largest financial institutions. Established in 1924, the Bank has operated under the special Federal Law “On Bank for Development” since 2007. In accordance with the Development Strategy until 2021, Vnesheconombank will focus its activities on financing for high-technology industrial projects, infrastructure development, support for non-resource exports, support for innovations and projects of the National Technology Initiative.
NTV is Russia’s largest private television channel with a nationwide broadcasting network. Founded in 1993, the television network operates six NTV-branded channels: NTV, a major nationwide television channel; three subscription-based thematic channels (NTV Serial, NTV Stil and NTV Pravo); international programming (NTV-Mir and NTV-America). NTV broadcasts in all Russian regions, has an audience share of 98.6% and traditionally ranks among Russia’s top three television networks.
The Roscongress Foundation is the largest organiser of conventions and exhibitions.
The Roscongress Foundation was founded in 2007 with the aim of facilitating the development of Russia’s economic potential and strengthening the country’s image by organising conventions, exhibitions and public events. The Foundation develops substantive content for such events, providing companies and organisations with advice, information and expert guidance, and offering comprehensive evaluation, analysis, and coverage of the Russian and global economic agendas. It offers administrative services and promotional support for business projects and helps to attract investment, including in the form of public-private partnerships.
Today, its annual programme includes events held from Montevideo to Vladivostok, offering an opportunity to bring together global business leaders, experts, the media and government officials in one place, creating favourable conditions for dialogue and the promotion of new ideas and projects, and assisting in the creation of social enterprise and charity projects.