'We were offered to hold the forum online, but we refused. It is important that the speakers come to Kazan'

The head of the Investment Development Agency, Talia Minullina, explained why the TCI World Conference for 500 people will be held in the Kazan Palace by Tasigo hotel, not in Kazan Expo

“Tatarstan has an undeniable advantage in cluster development, not only in the traditional sphere of industrial cooperation. Kazan is ready to share its experience in attracting major international events and would like to hear the opinions of foreign colleagues from Singapore, China, and Colombia. An outside perspective is always useful," the organisers explained the purpose of the International Cluster Forum 'Global Conference TCI 2021', which opens on September 15. For the first time, Kazan is becoming a place of great discussion among authoritative foreign and Russian experts in the field of circular economy, ecology and smart solutions for building “smart” cities. Last year, the event was refused to be held online, as it is important that the speakers come in person, the head of the agency, Talia Minullina, answered the question of why, due to COVID restrictions, the conference was decided to be postponed a year later.

Grandees of the world economy are visiting to Kazan

Kazan has been waiting for a meeting with major world experts — participants of the International Cluster Forum 'Global Conference TCI 2021'. The 24th TCI Global World Conference, which had to be postponed for a year due to COVID restrictions, is opening this week in Kazan. In terms of its coverage and popularity, it can be compared even with the famous Expo World Trade Fair, but only in the field of business in the broad sense of the word. At a press conference dedicated to this event, the head of the agency, Talia Minullina, said that more than 500 foreign guests from 25 countries of the world are coming to the event. Among them, there are ministers of the Eurasian Economic Commission, leadership of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, KPMG, Coca-Cola, DIDI, Mega Shopping Centre, Tatneft PJSC, Gazprombank, Skolkovo Foundation, International Fund of Technological Development, Strategy Partners Group, as well as representatives of the government of the Russian Federation. Emiliano Duch, the president of TCI Network and first deputy of the World Bank, Christian Ketels, the executive director of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Harvard Business School, as well as Vicente Guallart, former chief architect of Barcelona (2011— 2015), now head of the laboratory for experimental urban design Shukhov Lab of the HSE (Spain), are expected to come. Besides, there will be authoritative speakers from China, Singapore, and Colombia.

The main topic of the 24th TCI Global World Conference is designated as “Creating a Sustainable Future in Partnership”. There are three areas on the agenda of the discussion: “green” economy (decarbonisation), “smart” solutions for building a smart city, and circular economy. In addition to them, the issues of the development of industrial clusters in the urban space, tourist clusters, and the creative industry will be considered.

Tatarstan will show “green” achievements

It should be noted that the TCI Global World Conference is being held in Russia for the first time. According to Talia Minullina, so far these problems have been discussed only on European discussion platforms — in Canada, France, the United States. This means that the Russian experience here has simply not been touched upon or evaluated a priori and, and it seems to remain unknown. In this sense, Tatarstan projects in these areas will be subjected to a kind of international expertise. Tatarstan intends to present its achievements at the conference mainly in three main areas and to hear the opinions of foreign experts from the point of view of accumulated world solutions. For example, the head of Tatneftekhiminvest Holding and the president of the petrochemical cluster Innokam, Rafinat Yarullin, who acts as a co-organiser, added that the experience of using waste incineration technologies would be studied.

“There are 1,062 factories operating in Japan, and we wanted to exchange experience in this area," he said. Besides, the technology of using hydrogen as the main fuel of the future, the construction of cooperative ties within clusters is on the agenda.”

To the question about what this conference will bring to Kazan, the head of the agency answered very succinctly: “An outside fresh perspective on the development of the regions.”

Ahead of journalists' questions about expenses, she said that the forum is held without fiscal support, although the speakers' speeches are chargeable. In other words, the forum is apparently paid for by private sponsors.

“We are interested in new solutions, new approaches and opinions that will be exchanged at the forum," said Rafinat Yarullin.

It is for this reason that the Tatarstan organisers refused to hold the conference remotely last year. According to Talia Minullina, Tatarstan won the bid to host the international forum back in 2020, but due to restrictions, it was forced to postpone it to this year. Photo: invest.tatarstan.ru

“We were offered to hold the forum online, but we refused. It is important for us that the speakers come to Kazan," the head of the agency stressed.

Why in Kazan Palace by Tasigo, and not in Kazan Expo

However, the conference still has no opportunity to receive all guests due to the pandemic. To ensure the necessary security measures, the number of participants in the conference events is limited to 350-500 people (including online participants). Therefore, it was decided to hold the forum in a hybrid format with the involvement of experts via video conferencing. The restrictions of Rospotrebnadzor will also apply to the seating of guests at the plenary conference: no more than 150 people are allowed.

Theoretically, the spacious halls of Kazan Expo were most suitable for receiving a large number of guests. But instead of it, the chamber halls of Kazan Palace by Tasigo hotel were chosen. Answering this question, Talia Minullina said that the choice is due to that there was still an unfinished hotel near Kazan Expo, so there was nowhere to place guests near the exhibition centre. Leysan Abzalilova, the deputy director general of Tatneftekhiminvest-Holding JSC, vice-president of Innokam Association, added that European experts chose a place in the centre of Kazan so that guests could go on excursions around the city.

Returning to the main topic, the organisers noted that on a global scale, clusters are effective tools for ensuring technological breakthroughs and creating a post-industrial economy. According to the agency, today there are 14 territorial-industrial clusters operating in Tatarstan. True, they are not formalised by the constituent documents, but in fact they are. The strongest clusters are in petrochemistry, IT technologies, and industry.

“Cluster policy is quite seriously developed in the republic. This includes the Kama Innovative Territorial Production Cluster (INNOKAM), clusters of petrochemistry, mechanical engineering, medicine, education, IT, and so on. Thus, Tatarstan will have an opportunity to demonstrate its achievements in this direction," the head of the agency said with pride.

“There is not a single enterprise that would not be involved," Abzalilova added.

However, a few years ago, clusters lost federal state support to maintain an innovative environment.

“It is possible that the holding of this conference will push for the resumption of these programmes," concluded Talia Minullina. We should add that the conference includes not only expert sessions with round table discussions, but also cluster tours with on-site visits.

Luiza Ignatyeva
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