I wrote about this ‘Russian Silicon Valley‘ project back in March when I just came from Russia. It got much more mature since then, with more officials appointed to manages, more meetings held and more criticism voiced. During last few days it became clear that Russians want to play it nearly literally, as shown by the most recent trip by Dmitry Medvedev to California, where he met the key actors of this innovation paradise (Steve Jobs who presented him the new iPhore, Cisco’s John Chambers, Twitter’s guys and many others, I assume). I guess, this idea of cloning the Silicon Valley on the Russian soil may still inspire many heads in the Russian administration.
Similar to many others, however, I remain skeptical about this particular take on the idea of innovation boosting in Russia. I believe that the cultural gap between the US and Russian societies is too wide (and only widening lately, if we look at less and less democratic conduct of the Russian government). I think that it may benefit from closer, and more similar socio-technological environments, like the technoparks of Germany, England or France. Or Holland, for that matter.
Earlier in April we tried to chip in with our own suggestion in this direction (that can be broadly defined as a ‘constructive criticism by offering an alternative action’). In short, we suggested to make a joint event here in Eindhoven, where the Russian and Dutch teams would share their experiences and future plans about ‘strategic innovation’. Why Eindhoven? Living here for many years, I know from inside that this city (and the region in general) has created quite a unique ecology of innovation, both technological and social.
We thought the annual Dutch Design Week held in the city in October, would be the best time (and space) for such an exercise (and as Summ()n we would also developed an interesting format for such a meeting, a combo of a ‘serious game’ and an experiential environment. I didn’t write about these plans (perhaps, wrongly), because they were ‘under development’. They still are, in fact, or rather they are under un-developmens, since neither Russian nor (to my surprise) Dutch expressed any particular interest (more precisely, both sides did expressed an interest, but nothing more than that). Yet another possible future that people fail to believe.
I uploaded a few slides we prepared back then; by now, they are more a historical document that a working plan. But who knows? may be they will be useful again in the future.
PS: I was pinked by some readers warning me that the posting sounds too pessimistic; that was not an intention. There is a difference between ‘skepticism’ and ‘pessimism’, and would obviously love to see the projects like Skolkovo moving forward very well (and even contribute to such moves, when possible). It is just the experience of many other similar initiatives that rings a tiny warning bell.