“A Million Dollar Idea” : VEB and NTV Evaluated Startups from Kaliningrad
Twenty technology companies of the North-West Federal District presented their designs and ideas to the panel of experts of the “Million Dollar Idea” TV show whose new season to be aired this fall. In the focus of most projects are transport and automotive industry including, for example, private car rental service, “smart” bus stops using green renewable energy, a camper vehicle, etc.
“The Kaliningrad region is one of the most efficient ecosystems in terms of development of prospective information technologies. Predilection for new technologies in the region is, in particular, conducive to the development of innovations. A great number of startups have begun implementing their pilot projects in Kaliningrad. Several companies have found market for their products abroad,” say Alexey Ivanchenko, Deputy Chairman of Vnesheconombank and Member of the Management Board.
“The region proved to be quite attractive offering good opportunities for project development and generation of business ideas. There are some promising businesses with good export potential, such the Observer company that has designed a wheelchair with off-road capability. Benelux is likely to become a promising market for this startup where camping tourism is highly developed; Netherlands is known for its sand dunes impassable for ordinary wheelchairs. We are ready to present this project to our colleagues from the Russian Export Center and provide support for its accession to international markets,” says Oleg Teplov, CEO of the VEB Innovations.
One more promising startup demonstrated at the casting audition is a project developed by “Prefab Roads” startup. Its members designed original pavement surface course consisting of prefabricated segments that can be laid on soft soils without any base course. The latter is not needed because the surface course is designed so as to disperse the load on soil: particularly, if the load acting upon the pavement equals 10 tons, soil underneath will be subject to a load of merely 25 grams. According to the project designers, Russia has 610,000 km of public roads of which less than 5% are built on the base course of reinforced concrete materials, while Russia’s current requirement for paved roads is 1.5 million kilometers. In the estimates of the innovative “Prefab Roads” designers, the annual market volume for such roads may be ca. 25 billion rubles. The Innovation Promotion Foundation financed the development of this innovative solution, and the construction of a pilot section of such a road is already underway in Kaliningrad.
This fall, the first “smart” bus stop will be opened in Kaliningrad — this news was brought by representatives of the “AlexTech” company during their presentation at the casting audition. So far, it is rated as a social design, its potential customer being the city administration. Oleg Teplov, CEO of the VEB Innovations, invited the company to demonstrate the design prototype at its working stage. It may be interesting for Viman Capital — a joint Russian-Indian direct investment fund in the sphere of innovation and technology, which was recently set up by the VEB and the SREI — leading Indian Infrastructure Finance Limited.
The “MOAR Stack” company is involved in developing a protocol for connecting the IoT devices. According to the designers, the existing networks do not have sufficient capacity for the development of the IoT market. The solution lies in a set of network protocols using machine learning for routing the so-called “smart” devices. This product can be used in the “smart” cities’ infrastructure as well as for solving the IoT industrial problems. The Kaliningrad Region has started a “Digital Control” facility to regulate housing construction and public utilities infrastructure. It currently serves the needs of five households, each operating 8-10 IoT devices. By the end of the year, 600 more houses are scheduled to connect to the network.
One more interesting project for the automotive industry was presented by the “GeoCamper” company. They build fiberglass living modules for private vehicles converting them into a full-fledged “camper.” The module is equipped with an autonomous diesel heater system, which is independent from the engine, crowned with solar battery fitted on the roof. This is an export-oriented enterprise aimed at the European market.
“The peculiarity of Kaliningrad regional business is that a great number of projects are export-oriented. In addition, strength of the regional IT-businesses is in their ability to create products competitive both at Russian and foreign markets. Our regional economy is not made up of big vertically integrated companies or monopolies. We have many classical small and medium-sized businesses,” says Alexander Yudin, head of Department for Work with the Chamber Members and Business Support of the Kaliningrad of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In conjunction with the Russian President’s state visit to China, Vnesheconombank and China Development Bank (CDB) executed a framework agreement in Beijing. The document was signed by Vnesheconombank Chairman Igor Shuvalov and CDB Chairman Hu Huaibang. The Agreement is designed to provide a mechanism for coordinating integration processes across the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China’s The Belt and Road Initiative.
“The meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Chairman Xi Jinping in 2015 concluded with the adoption of a joint declaration on cooperation in coordinating development of the Eurasian Economic Union and The Belt and Road Initiative. Within this coordination, we have a number of major projects, in particular, those on the Northern Sea Route, and China-Europe high-speed link. Currently, there are about seventy projects we could co-finance, which would greatly contribute to coordinating integration processes,” said Igor Shuvalov.
In the context of alignment, the Agreement allows for CDB extending loans to VEB as part of the programme for the maximum amount of CNY65bn (equivalent to over RUB600bn) to finance the projects approved by the parties. Furthermore, the document identifies major areas, mechanisms, and forms of cooperation on expert support for integration project alignment, and provides for advisory interaction with the relevant national and intergovernmental organisations and institutions.
“In terms of the loan proceeds, this agreement is unique for the Russian-Chinese interbank relations. Cooperation between VEB and CDB will significantly contribute to integration processes in Eurasia,” said Igor Shuvalov.