'Slogans alone can't keep young people': how Tatarstan authorities going to increase number of successful IT startups

Lessons about cyberbullying, administrative support for IT projects, trainings from business angels, and contests in TikTok — Tatarstan Zoomers will be more actively involved in IT sphere

Key tutors of the IT industry of Tatarstan continued the discussion of difficult issues and problems in the industry, which began at the board meeting of the Ministry of Finance at the end of last year. The highlight of the programme was the speech of the director of the Road Safety State Institution and the head of the Association for the Promotion of Digital Development of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rifkat Minnikhanov, who again criticised the situation with IT in the region, in particular with the failure in terms of financing startups and venture activities, which, in fact, does not exist in Tatarstan. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Tatarstan schoolchildren will be told about cyberbullying at 'lessons of digitalisation'

The head of the Ministry of Digitalisation of Tatarstan, Ayrat Khayrullin, said that the president of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, has already instructed to develop a draft government decree on the Year of Digitalisation, which will include more than a hundred industry projects and events. Among them, there are the Birthday of the Runet, profile shift for IT education of children in the Crimea, Programmer's Day, International Educational Forum Selet in Bilyarsk, which will also be dedicated to IT technologies. Today, according to him, almost 40,000 people work in the IT industry of Tatarstan, but this is still not enough. At the instruction of the president of Tatarstan, in 2022, a “digitalisation lesson” will be introduced, which will become monthly in all schools of the republic. Now the necessary “manuals” are being prepared for it, and for all grades — from the first to the eleventh.

“The digitalisation lesson will be held on various topical topics related to IT: from where to go to study to cyberbullying, for example (harassment of people, mainly children, in social networks — editor's note). But it is important for us to train teachers for this, as long as we can cover 200-300 schools with lessons at the same time," said the head of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Tatarstan.

Besides, in order to increase the prestige of IT professions and their popularity, a photo and video contest will be held in 2022 on the most popular sites among the generation of Zoomers — Instagram and TikTok. Programmers of Tatarstan will be invited to post their selfies, “so that we know all our programmers in person”, the results will be summed up in December.

“We will also hold this year the presidential contest “High Five”, in which we want to teach 100 thousand schoolchildren to program, make teams, be able to present IT projects. So that by the end of 2022 we could already download some IT applications developed by them," said Ayrat Khayrullin.

Finally, Tatarstan is going to hold a forum of game developers, especially since, according to the minister, there are companies in Kazan that are already developing games for main game consoles — Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation. There will also be a competition among schoolchildren on the development of “nanosatellites” weighing no more than 1 kg, which are being launched into orbit for 3-6 months today. To do this, the Tatarstan authorities will try to negotiate with Roscosmos and directly with Russian cosmonauts themselves.

Photo: realnoevremya.ru
Ayrat Hayrullin: “We will also hold this year the presidential contest “High Five”, in which we want to teach 100 thousand schoolchildren to program, make teams, be able to present IT projects”

Personnel shortage of IT specialists is up to 1 million people today, according to various estimates

One of the key institutions of the Year of Digitalisation, which, according to the plans of the authorities of the Republic of Tatarstan, should bring Tatarstan itself into a full-fledged IT orbit, will, of course, be Innopolis — 23 events are planned there. But Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan Roman Shaykhutdinov considers personnel training to be the main thing, especially since Innopolis has become a federal platform for the implementation of several projects, primarily as a support centre for higher education and vocational training for IT teachers.

Secondly, Innopolis has pledged to ensure maximum access of Tatarstan schoolchildren to digital content — now not all families can afford to pay for it remotely, which is unacceptable, the deputy prime minister said. Thirdly, Innopolis, as a platform for the olympiad movement, will have to ensure the “effective performance” of Tatarstan schoolchildren at digital olympiads.

“Today, according to various estimates, the personnel shortage of IT specialists is up to 1 million people," said Shaykhutdinov, rejoicing at the same time at statistics according to which 67% of school parents in Tatarstan want to link their children's future with IT industry.

Photo: realnoevremya.ru
Roman Shaykhudinov: “Personnel shortage of IT specialists is up to 1 million people today, according to various estimates”

“Startups terminate their activities at early stages”

Nevertheless, the problem of personnel shortage is also evident in Tatarstan, although, according to Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Tatarstan Ilsur Khadiullin, the republic annually graduates more than 4,000 demanded specialists in the system of vocational schools and universities — “and even then there are not enough of them”. He suggested creating educational IT institutions on the basis of existing ones, especially since all schools are already provided with the Internet.

In 2022, the Digital Educational Environment project will continue to be implemented to provide Tatarstan schools with modern computer equipment. Since 2019, this national project has equipped 136 institutions (77 schools and 59 vocational schools and colleges), 46 more schools and six vocational schools will replenish their bases with modern equipment in 2022. Almost 68% of teachers will upgrade their “computer fleet” by getting new laptops, for which 1 billion rubles will be allocated. In 2022, the modernisation of the Electronic Education portal, created back in 2009, will be completed, and the entire educational system of the Republic of Tatarstan will switch to it completely.

“Slogans alone can not keep young people, it is necessary to create conditions for them," the director of Road Safety, head of the Association for the Promotion of Digital Development of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rifkat Minnikhanov, said skeptically. “According to world statistics, about 80% of all students want to engage in entrepreneurship. While in Russia — only 3%…

For IT industry, this means supporting startups at an early stage. Therefore, a “technological development strategy” is needed at the regional level, which, by the way, will be implemented in the Republic of Tatarstan in the Year of Digitalisation. But especially we need finances, which only a few industry players have in sufficient volume. For example, the Kazan Federal University (KFU) received a federal grant for 1 billion rubles for digital transformation in 2021, Innopolis will receive about 100 million rubles.

“Unfortunately, investments in venture funds in Russia are decreasing every year. Startups eventually stop their activities at early stages," Rifkat Minnikhanov noted.

Photo: digital.tatarstan.ru
Rifkat Minnikhanov: “According to world statistics, about 80% of all students want to engage in entrepreneurship. While in Russia — only 3%…"

“We have only 37 start-ups per 1 million people in Russia!”

To reverse the trend, Tatarstan needs to “win the right” to create advanced engineering schools in the region. KAMAZ is preparing an application for this, it has its own Engineering Centre, and the Kazan National Research Technical University — for aircraft construction. Nevertheless, according to Minnikhanov, only the Tatarstan Investment and Venture Fund, Innopolis and Idea technopark can today provide the necessary building of relations with universities to “lead startups” from their creation to realisation on the market.

Today, to attract students to start-ups, there are many proposals of a very different nature at the federal level — up to the introduction of draft deferment . The very fact that such ideas are “manipulated” among federal officials, according to Rifkat Minnikhanov, indicates concern about the situation on the part of the country's leadership, which also understands that it is necessary to somehow involve students in investment processes. For this purpose, the feds will send about 300 million rubles to Tatarstan to conduct trainings by business angels (the latter will be recruited primarily in the IVF and Idea) for students and postgraduates of universities of the Republic of Tatarstan.

“Unfortunately, I'm not talking in terms of criticism, the Ministry of Youth Affairs holds a youth forum, there are different projects, winners are determined. But in the end, these projects do not reach the Investment and Venture Fund or Idea technopark. We need to take every last name [of startup authors] under control and lead them to the end! We have only 37 startups per 1 million people in Russia! While in the West — about 2 thousand. We have a lot of work to do," the speaker said.

The main problem is that in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan there is no single policy to support startups, Rifkat Minnikhanov believes. Although there have been successful scientific schools for the development of, for example, drugs for decades, where students can acquire patents, become entrepreneurs and implement their projects, “but there are few of them”. The task for 2022 is to attract more students, postgraduates and professors to them, who, in principle, “are not prohibited from doing business”.

For example, Roman Shaykhutdinov said that since its creation Innopolis University has produced only 40 startups, and even then “of different viability rates”. He also confirmed that the construction of a “robotic hotel with 30 rooms” is continuing in Innopolis, where there will be “the maximum number of automated and robotic processes”. Its cost is estimated at half a billion rubles, a third of which will go to the “intellectual stuffing”. The hotel itself is planned to be commissioned either by the end of 2022, or even by Republic Day. But in order for it to work, regulations are also needed.

“We are preparing a decree of the Government of the Republic of Tatarstan on the experimental legal regime of work already this February," Shaykhutdinov promised.

Sergey Afanasyev
Tatarstan