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.
Tens of Thousands of Lone Elderly People to Receive New Year Presents
The Enjoyable Aging Charity Foundation initiative to collect New Year presents for lone elderly people was supported by dozens of companies and organisations, including Vnesheconombank and its partners.
The initiative is open to anyone. Participants can personally buy a present and deliver it to any collection point in more than 30 Russian regions, make a donation to the Foundation or play the role of Father Frost. Thousands of lone elderly people have recently sent letters requesting some present or other. Every day the Foundation’s volunteers and partners supporting the initiative deliver small but welcome presents to those who are alone today (detailed information about the initiative can be found the Enjoyable Aging Charity Foundation website).
The Enjoyable Aging Charity Foundation has collected as many as 29,300 presents to date. We are sure that Father Frost will please tens of thousands of elderly people more by New Year’s Eve. Participation in the project is absolutely voluntary and does not mean publicity. The Foundation’s partners supporting the initiative are, however, confident that a good example also deserves to be spoken about.
“The New Year is a time when it is particularly important to let lone elderly people know that we remember and love them; we have organised the collection of New Year presents for them for many years. This year the project became a nationwide initiative of a large number of caring people. We are pleased that dozens of large public organisations, businesses and thousands of people have joined us with the noble aim of giving New Year festivities to the elderly,” Liza Oleskina, Director of the Enjoyable Aging Charity Foundation, said.
Vnesheconombank volunteers provide assistance for more than 850 residents of three retirement homes in the village of Dubna, Tula Region, in the town of Vyshny Volochyok, Tver Region, and in the village of Ostashyovo, Moscow Region. The Tula Region-based nursing home has already received presents from Vnesheconombank employees, and Vyshny Volochyok will be visited by Father Frost this week.
“With a little effort, we can each do a really good deed and help those who actually need it. We held a meeting with our staff members to decide on support for volunteer projects, but participation in volunteer projects is completely voluntary. When a donation comes from a company’s budget, this does not give any energy. When a donation is personally made to someone in need, this is quite a different story. The New Year is coming quickly, and these wintertime festivities have already become warmer for a lot of people,” Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov said.
The Enjoyable Aging Charity Foundation initiative has already been supported by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives; Immortal Regiment; Vnesheconombank and its subsidiaries; Gymnasium; Far Eastern Federal University; Trendy Kids, Samara; Dental Fantasy; Child of the Universe; Volunteers of Russia; Lefkadia Valley; Invitro; I love running family; Kids Office; Coffeemania; Philanthropists of Siberia; Moscow Municipal Pedagogical University; National University of Science and Technology MISiS; Moscow Engineering Physics Institute; Moscow Bank of Sberbank; Gorky Park; Russian Post; Russian State Social University; RUSAL; Synergy School of Business; Synergy University; SIRIUS Centre for Education; Skolkovo Foundation; Skolkovo Ventures; Sparta; SPLAT; You Are Not Alone; Horoshkola; Young Army Cadets.
Regional Managers Present Projects for Vnesheconombank’s Portfolio: 112 Applications Received
Vnesheconombank held the second meeting of its regional managers on 18 and 19 December. The event brought together managers from 52 Russian regions of the Russian Federation after a multi-stage selection process, along with representatives of the business community and authorities.
Speaking about the performance of the first batch of selected managers, Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov said, “The new operating model has already produced results. Within one and a half months, the Bank received from regional managers as many as 112 applications, including 20 under preliminary examination and three projects in the active development stage already. It is important to understand that Vnesheconombank is looking for high-quality projects that would be consistent with the Bank’s new strategy. The VEB 3.0 Strategy is to build the country’s innovative economy, providing a national platform for the development of public industries. It is a new approach and new kinds of tools.”
“Vnesheconombank has adopted a fresh approach to searching for investment projects and choosing them for the Bank’s lending portfolio, building up a network of its representatives on a nationwide scale. We appointed 84 regional managers in 52 Russian regions. They will select projects with a value of 1 billion roubles or more and with a completion period of five years, which correspond to Vnesheconombank’s new strategic priorities, and projects for the project financing factory. Vnesheconombank’s new model for regional operations is aimed at creating a wide project funnel and looking for projects in the regions. For this purpose, we have regional managers, an online platform and our partners,” Vnesheconombank’s Deputy Chairman and Member of the Board Alexey Ivanchenko, who supervises the project, said.
In recognition of Vnesheconombank’s regional operations, General Director of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives Svetlana Chupsheva said, “We expect to see interesting projects from regional managers as early as next year. The agenda of the next meeting of our Supervisory Board will include remodelling our operations in the regions and changing them to a mechanism similar to Vnesheconombank’s model. It is very important that government officials should understand how to work as a team. And above all, government officials view businesspeople as partners. This project-based approach is beginning to take shape. We see this in practice.”
In his speech, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov noted, “Vnesheconombank has great significance to transport development, particularly at regional level.” Maxim Sokolov told the audience about strategic planning documents, described transport infrastructure development, and spoke of the goals of the new transport strategy until 2035. “In early 2018, together with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Finance, we will prioritise the projects on the principle that a greater effect should be achieved with less government spending,” he said.
Speaking about the problems in the implementation of investment projects, Chairman of the Financial Markets Committee of the State Duma Anatoly Aksakov said, “Businesses usually criticise credit institutions, referring to their projects that banks cannot finance. … Syndication and securitisation will enable us to have more resources to finance projects.”
Novgorod Region Governor Andrey Nikitin drew attention to the basic principles of regional investment policies. In his opinion, there are only four of them: resources, competencies, logistics and geographies, along with government support.
Speaking about risks associated with new business projects, Director of the Internet Initiatives Development Fund Kirill Varlamov said, “In the case of a start-up, you should always be prepared for a failure and mentally admit it. The paradigm of project management does not work very well here.”
Kirill Androsov, Managing Director of Altera Capital, spoke about the most difficult stage of a start-up business, from seed capital to Series A financing. Most start-ups fail to reach the end of this period. “The conversation with a project initiator begins with the product. They must answer a simple question: ‘What is the product that you are selling?’ If within five minutes I can’t understand what they are talking about or what they are selling, it’s like a red signal for me. If I can’t understand it, it is unlikely that it will be understood by a wide range of B2B or B2C customers. The second question is about the market. The market should be large, growing and global,” Kirill Androsov said.
During the event, Vnesheconombank signed agreements with the second and third batches of selected regional managers and gave them certificates. From that moment, regional managers became official representatives of Vnesheconombank.
Blockchain-Based Project for Real Property Registration to Start in January 2018
Vnesheconombank’s blockchain commune has hosted a meeting discussing the launch of the joint pilot project of Vnesheconombank and the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography of the Russian Federation to use blockchain solutions for the registration of real property. The meeting was attended by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov, Deputy Economic Development Minister and Head of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography Viktoria Abramchenko, Head of the Federal Taxation Service Mikhail Mishustin, representatives of agencies and non-profit organisations. The meeting discussed the project’s main objectives and the possible deadlines for its phased implementation.
Igor Shuvalov emphasised the need to ensure that the blockchain solution for the registration of real property would be fully functional before making amendments to legislation. “It is important that the new system should be convenient for people and reduce their expenses. A digital economy should be able to provide comprehensive services, jointly using private and public resources,” the First Deputy Prime Minister said.
“Vnesheconombank is carrying out six blockchain-based pilot projects, but the project for the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography is currently the largest and most important. The launch is scheduled for January 2018. The database of real property will be exported from the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography into the blockchain, and people will be able to use it. The access interface will enable users to see and understand the blockchain component of the database,” Vnesheconombank’s Chairman Sergey Gorkov said.
“A lot of countries have announced their intention to introduce blockchains into the real property registration systems, and we are beginning this process as early as January. We want to test the technology, assess its benefits for users of our services. Its obvious advantages are data continuity, transparency and transaction speed. In addition, we are investigating the possibilities of employing machine learning technology for automatic legal due diligence of transactions. In combination with blockchain technology, this can restructure all governmental information resources in the near future,” Victoria Abramchenko said.
“Blockchain technology is able to protect information from misuse and facilitates data control. It will allow people to remotely receive legally important services, businesses to reduce costs related to control measures, the government to apply more sophisticated technology and, in general, rebuild processes and manage information in a new way. Blockchain technology has the potential for bringing down infrastructure costs with improved reliability and security,” a spokesperson for Igor Shuvalov’s office said.
New Laws Given Their Third Reading and Approved by State Duma to Improve Vnesheconombank’s Development Institution Activities
A new law “On Bank for Development” and related laws (amendments to the Tax Code and customs regulation) have been given their third reading in the State Duma and approved. The restated law on the development bank clarifies Vnesheconombank’s goals of implementing investment projects for high-technology industrial production, infrastructure, digital economy development and innovation, providing support for Russian industrial exports and helping Russian industrial producers to expand into foreign markets.
“The draft law passed by the State Duma gives Vnesheconombank new functions and instruments for their performance. The document specifies, first of all, participation in syndicated lending, which is the key mechanism of the project financing factory. The factory’s goal is to encourage investment to industrial production, infrastructure, innovation and the digital economy,” Chairman of the Financial Markets Committee of the State Duma Anatoly Aksakov said.
The new law provides for new functions of Vnesheconombank and instruments for their performance, including:
- mezzanine financing and partner financing are used to attract long-term investment and provide Russian companies with wider access to financial resources in the domestic and foreign markets;
- Vnesheconombank has a leading role in supporting projects of the National Technology Initiative and digital economy projects;
- a separate objective of Vnesheconombank is to help Russian industrial producers to expand into foreign markets, which includes issuing Vnesheconombank with tax and customs guarantees to secure Russian companies’ obligations to pay taxes and customs duties;
- Vnesheconombank’s role is defined for projects implemented by the Russian Federation in the area of promoting international development and integration processes (Eurasian Economic Community, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, One Belt and One Road Initiative);
- Vnesheconombank performs a wider range of expert and analysis activities in order to identify factors in Russian economic growth and search for and select projects consistent with such factors, taking into account their impact on sustainable development and energy efficiency enhancement and private investment in these projects.
The draft of the federal law on amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation in relation to syndicated loan transactions is aimed at resolving legal uncertainties in respect of the regulation of syndicated loan agreements.
“Streamlining the legal regulation of syndicated loans will increase lending in the real economy and make loans more affordable while reducing credit risks taken by individual lenders. Russian businesses will no longer have to enter into such transactions under foreign law. This will also make Russian jurisdiction more attractive. The draft law additionally amends certain federal laws associated with authorising certain types of economic entities to be syndicate members,” Vnesheconombank’s Deputy Chairman and Member of the Board Alexey Ivanchenko said.
The State Duma passed the draft laws aimed at improving the activities of Vnesheconombank as a development institution unanimously.
The draft of the federal law “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Bank for Development’” was submitted by the Government of the Russian Federation on 14 July 2017, is aimed at improving the activities of Vnesheconombank as a national development institution, building its activities on Russia’s national strategic goals and long-term development priorities and providing regulatory support for the implementation of Vnesheconombank’s approved new Development Strategy until 2021.