Published: 23 November, 2011
The Russian government is increasingly interested in making the country a hub of mobile technology development in future, creating a 'Russian Silicon Valley' near Moscow, where Nokia has just opened a handset R&D facility.
The Skolkovo center for innovation and entrepreneurship is the cornerstone of a major drive by President Dmitry Medvedev to turn his country into a major hi-tech heartland, rather than the backwater it has tended to be, especially in the mobile market. Other actions have included funding for wireless infrastructure joint ventures between Russian state-owned manufacturers and foreign partners such as Nokia Siemens and Huawei.
According to Tapani Ryhanen, director of Nokia's European research operations, the Finnish firm's new center will tap into a high growth mobile market as well as other hi-tech companies based in the facility, such as Cisco and Nokia's infrastructure JV partner Siemens. Ryhanen would not reveal how much Nokia is investing in Skolkovo. "Time will show. We are in an early phase and gradually building up our presence there," he told Dow Jones.
About 10 researchers and engineers will be hired this year for the new unit and this number will be sharply increased when Nokia has its own purpose-built laboratory, once the Skolkovo hub is completed in 2013 or early 2014. "Looking at Russian universities and Russian scientists in mathematics and physics, the level is really outstanding, so Russia is a good place to hire researchers," Ryhanen said. The main areas of R&D will be high performance mobile computing, mobile health and nanotechnology.
One concern which holds large vendors back from developing in Russia is its poor record on intellectual property protection, but the country is expected to toughen up its rules, and move into line with international standards, when it becomes a full member of the World Trade Organization next summer.
One of the most active majors in investing in Russian R&D is Intel, whose former CEO Craig Barrett co-chairs the Skolkovo Foundation Council. He says there is a proposal to create a core IPR protection on the Skolkovo site as a blueprint for national laws.