TASS: Skoltech’s NTI Center of Excellence set to break even in five years

MOSCOW, July 12. / TASS /. The National Technology Initiative (NTI) Center of Excellence (CoE) in Wireless Technologies (WT) and the Internet of Things (IoT), which was established recently by the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), could reach the breakeven point in five years, the CoE Director and Skoltech Associate Professor Dmitry Lakontsev announced on Thursday.

The first NTI Centers of Excellence were created within the frameworks of universities and research institutions in 2017 through a competitive bidding process. A total of 14 CoE have been established in Russia since then: an Artificial Intelligence CoE at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), a Quantum Technologies CoE at Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), and a New and Portable Energy Sources Technology at the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics (IPCP RAS). Their main objective is to build a network of engineering and educational consortiums dedicated to creating innovative solutions in high-priority technological areas.

“The project is a five-year initiative that should result in the CoE reaching the breakeven point. With each passing year, the CoE will be getting less public funding and will have to comply with the rigorous KPI requirement to attract as much external investment as possible. Development and educational projects, including professional education for industry employees, will be the primary source of financing,” said Lakontsev.

NTI is a long-term wide-ranging program that should help Russia to gain a firm foothold in the global high-tech markets destined to shape the global economy over the next 15-20 years. It is expected that public support for the CoE will total 7.8 billion rubles in 2017-2020, with the funds to be used primarily for CoE creation and development.

Consortium members

According to Lakontsev, the first priority target for the Skoltech NTI CoE, which was established in 2018, is to create a consortium of 10 universities, including several Moscow universities, two St. Petersburg universities, the Michurinsk State Agrarian University, and two Tomsk universities.

“The universities should join efforts in developing  new WT and IoT technologies and solutions, which is hardly feasible within a single university. Each of our ten universities has unique competences, for example, Data Science, Data Processing and Computational Mathematics at Skoltech, WT research at Tomsk universities, Artificial Intelligence at MIPT, and Haptics at the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology (MIET),” Lakontsev explained.

He added that the consortium brings together a variety of businesses and organizations looking for novel technologies and solutions, for example, Gazpromneft, Sberbank, Rosatom, large agrarian groups, startups used as trial facilities for new technologies and solutions, and regulatory bodies monitoring compliance with the National Standards.

“Basically, the ideal operating chain works like this: the CoE academics develop a technology, the product developers obtain the product license and actually make the product which is then integrated with other solutions. Finally integrators assemble a ready-to-use package and deliver it to our major customers,” said Lakontsev.

NTI CoE objectives

“One of the NTI CoE’s primary objectives is to develop a cross-cutting WT or IoT technology that can be used for a multitude of purposes in diverse markets, such as the power sector, industries, healthcare, agriculture, etc. Although the markets are different and each has its own specifics, the technologies are basically the same and for this reason they are called cross-cutting technologies,” explained Lakontsev.

According to Lakontsev, along with the generation of new technology solutions, the universities must build a knowledge base that companies and industries will benefit from.

“We will prepare and publish a wealth of material for the industries and businesses, including reviews, digests, and reports offering a global technology outlook and explaining various technology trends and changes in the patenting landscape,” noted Professor Lakontsev.

The next priority objective, he said, is to train human resources for customer companies. The consortium plans to compile an integrated database comprising the training courses of the member universities and in the long run develop network programs for university students. Work is already underway to develop professional training courses for employees.

“Last but not least, we will ensure broad publicity of our work by giving open lectures and seminars, publishing popular-science articles and expanding our outreach to schools to help students build their educational paths from upper school to PhD level by attending the training and guidance courses tailored by Skoltech professors,” explained Lakontsev.

 *Article originally published in Russian by the TASS news agency. Reprinted by Skoltech with permission.


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