The third core element of Skoltech will be an integral structure to foster and link research and education with innovation and entrepreneurship. The overarching goal is to instill a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the education and scientific activities of Skoltech. Like the Research Centre model, the CEI will be developed through a collaboration between MIT, Skoltech and possibly other institutions. MIT will assist Skoltech in establishing this new model through the creation of a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at SkolkovoTech (CEI@Skoltech). The CEI will be based on fundamental principles for success in academic innovation and derived from experience at MIT and elsewhere and will integrate the three pillars for entrepreneurship and innovation (E&I): Education, Research, and Commercialization. Thus, one can view the structure of CEI in a manner analogous to the Research Centres (see Figure 4) in which there are activities at Skoltech, MIT and other institutions with collaboration in research and education amongst the partners.
The vision for CEI@Skoltech and its integration into the university is summarized in Figure 6. It will provide not only the internal infrastructure for education in innovation and entrepreneurship, and for the funding of innovation grants and E&I research, but also the interface for external relationships with industry and international institutions in support of external research contracts, technology transfer to both new and existing companies including: the Technopark, investors and entrepreneurs. CEI@Skoltech will oversee course offerings to students in all of the Programs, provide knowledge assistance to all of the Skoltech Research Centres and maintain a liaison with all the Skoltech Research Centres to identify IP, support technology transfer and facilitate where appropriate external industrial interaction. These activities of CEI@Skoltech, the CEI@MIT, and interaction with other institutions are described in more detail below.
The Education Pillar is based on the principle that “the informed eye can see the opportunity.” Educational activities along with an integrated curriculum in innovation and entrepreneurship provide a means to assure that all students and post docs understand the potential and processes for commercialization of science and technology. These activities build: strength in disciplinary scientific and engineering knowledge which provide the platform for a knowledge economy; familiarity and comfort with cross-disciplinary initiatives; worldly knowledge to understand the societal context of science and technology; systems thinking to address complex and dynamic problems; and innovation and entrepreneurship education to connect science, technology and business. Formal subjects in innovation and entrepreneurship will be available as both required material as well as additional elective subjects for greater depth and disciplinary focus. In addition activities such as student/staff clubs, business and plan and new venture competitions, and mentoring by entrepreneurs bring opportunity to create a culture of innovation in the university.
The Research Pillar has several components. First, strong basic research in science and engineering is essential, as it provides the ideas and observations from which innovation emerges; basic research is the engine for innovation and the Research Centres provide this engine. These RCs will each have an on the ground activity at Skoltech as well as at international institutions (like MIT) and other Russian institutions. Second, there must be an opportunity for strategic cross-disciplinary research as is proposed and enabled by the educational programs associated with the five science and technology theme areas. Third, this basic research must be translated to address specific market opportunities such that, if successful, it may have commercial impact; we envision the use of Innovation Grants supporting translational research as practiced by the MIT Deshpande Centre as an essential model to develop and capture value from basic research. Finally, the research pillar must also include research on the management and practice of innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in the Russian context. This is essential to assure continuous improvement and understanding of the unique regional business and social dynamics of entrepreneurship.
The Commercialization Pillar provides the administrative framework and processes to capture and create value arising from research. There must be an organization with processes, policies and procedures to: write and execute contracts for sponsored research with outside parties; identify, create and protect intellectual property; implement best practices in technology transfer to both new and existing companies that are fair and transparent in defining the legal agreements that link funding, research and commercialization; provide transparency and guidelines for preventing conflict of interests; provide mentoring across the entire value chain from idea to commercialization; and promote and nurture connections and build networks both within and external to the university.
Since we envision that research contract administration and intellectual property licensing will report within the same organization, care must be taken to balance the interests of research sponsors and spin-outs with the correlate interest of inventors and Skoltech in designing a process that is transparent, auditable, and consistent with university licensing best practices. The use of a template research contract and a template intellectual property license will provide a common origin for negotiations and consistency in terms and conditions, yet preserve the ability to customize agreements.