Bee elixir, tracker, and aerobot: what will be shown to BRICS startup summit guests in Kazan

Students from Russia, Syria, China, Brazil, and other states are going to present their business projects in Kazan in 2024

Bee elixir, tracker, and aerobot: what will be shown to BRICS startup summit guests in Kazan
Photo: Platonov (archive)

In 2024, the capital of Tatarstan hosts the 16th BRICS Summit on its land. Already today, the city, like the whole republic, is actively preparing for this event. Guests from Brazil, China, India and other countries will be invited to a number of events aimed at political and economic cooperation. The focus will be on technology and innovation, which, as Realnoe Vremya found out, will be considered in the format of student startups. Read more about what Tatarstan innovative entrepreneurs plan to show other countries and why their entry into the BRICS market is so important in our material.

In parallel with the main forum

The Russian Startup Week was held in Kazan from November 27 to December 1, designed to bring together startups from all over the country, as well as representatives of medium and large businesses, into the IT community. At its opening, President of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences Rifkat Minnikhanov said that the upcoming BRICS summit should definitely be on the agenda of the event, as technological development will be one of the directions of this event.

“BRICS is coming to the fore today. The Innopolis initiative, which was proposed in the autumn as part of attracting students from the BRICS countries to support university technology entrepreneurship, has been supported. Such a serious event is a separate topic. We are going to promote it. Even the Russian Startup Week in some part should be associated with it (the BRICS summit — ed.)," he said. Platonov (archive)

Artem Usov, the head of the startup studio at Innopolis University, told Realnoe Vremya in more detail about this initiative.

“The startup studio of our IT university and the innovative technopark Idea initiated the holding of the startup summit of BRICS universities in 2024. So far, we plan to organise this event as a separate one, running in parallel with the main BRICS forum," he said.

“However, there is a high probability that our project will be included in the overall programme of the summit — we have already sent a corresponding letter of recommendation to the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia. The initiative to organise the student startup summit of BRICS universities was also supported by the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan and personally by its President Rifkat Minnikhanov," Usov explained.

According to the expert, it is important to support new technological university startups today. As the head of the startup studio stressed, it is “them who should become the drivers of the new economy” in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. “And the projects that have already received the Student Startup grant, which have found industrial partners and first customers, have good potential for scaling in the BRICS countries and deserve to be presented to the participants of the forum — employees of industry and the public sector of the BRICS countries, that is, potential customers and clients," he said. Platonov (archive)

On December 4, the office opening of Innopolis University took place in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Deputy Prime Minister of Tatarstan Roman Shaikhutdinov told about this in his social networks. According to him, the site was opened to develop technologies, robotics, and a joint Russian-Chinese centre for the commercialisation of intellectual property results.

“The office opening in China is an important step in the development of innovative and educational projects of Innopolis University and the Republic of Tatarstan and scaling them in the markets of friendly countries. We strive for global academic and innovative mobility, and cooperation with Chinese colleagues opens up new opportunities for the exchange of knowledge, experience and technology, which is especially important on the eve of the BRICS+ summit, which will be held in Kazan next year," Shaikhutdinov said.

Bee elixir, tracker, and UAV: what the guests of the BRICS summit will see

Artem Usov, the head of the startup studio at Innopolis University, told Realnoe Vremya that the purpose of holding such events as the startup summit is the development of international technology business and interaction between universities of the BRICS countries.

“As part of the youth agenda of the BRICS summit in the autumn of 2024, we have planned a pitching of the twenty best student startups. The first selection of university projects took place during the forum on digital independence in business and education Digital Innopolis Days 2023. The winners of the pitch were seven startups from Russia, Syria, and Egypt," he said.

Innopolis University presented the list of those startups that have been selected. It includes:

  • bee yield elixir — the development of an environmentally friendly organic fertiliser based on bee slumgum;
  • NUHA AI — video сonvertion into realistic 3D scenes in a chosen artistic style;
  • ERKO tracker is a system (device and application) that tracks the position and condition of goods;
  • TevaLearn — an educational platform for people with disabilities;
  • Croissan Studio — implementation of generative ideas in businesses;
  • Aerobot — an unmanned aerial vehicle based on Russian-made components;
  • Virtual Surgical Operating Room + AR assistant complex. Platonov (archive)

As Artyom Usov assured, the next selections of student startups are planned to be held in Moscow, Tyumen and Vladivostok in 2024. The partner sites will be the leading universities of the regions. In general, Innopolis University plans to involve studios of leading Tatarstan universities, for example, the Kazan University Startup Studio of the KFU, in the organisation and implementation of the startup summit of BRICS universities. Let us remind that the latter, in partnership with KAMAZ, generates subsidiaries in which students and researchers participate. Currently, the studio already has seven subsidiaries.

As for those who have already found their niche in the BRICS market, then, as the expert noted, so far only one project from the republic is among them.

“So far, I know one startup that receives investments from the BRICS countries or sells its services and products to them, this is the KazanExpress marketplace of Kevin Khanda, a graduate of Innopolis University. Just recently, the company that grew out of a student startup was successfully sold to a large retailer, so we expect the same success stories from our other students and graduates," Usov said. Platonov (archive)

Since last year, Russia has been experiencing a boom in student startups

In 2022, the Student Startup programme was launched in Russia, for the first and second stages of which applications were submitted from 78 regions of Russia. At that time, 1 billion rubles were allocated to support thousands of projects. Tatarstan entered the top 10 most active regions, losing the first place only to Moscow: republican startups attracted 113 million rubles.

In January 2023, the third stage of the programme took place, and its total budget increased by half a billion: 1.5 thousand winners received a grant of 1 million rubles for the development of their business. In total, this year the competition received over 6,000 applications, and the list of winners included representatives of 368 universities from 71 regions of the country.

One of the main features of this year is also that the competition has become international. Among the students of Russian universities whose projects turned out to be the strongest, there are citizens of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and even Syria. Nazmetdinov (archive)

Let us remind that back in January, the president of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, Rifkat Minnikhanov, told Realnoe Vremay that the Student Startup programme is designed to bring 30,000 technology entrepreneurs to the economy from universities by 2030. He also noted that the republic has established acceleration programmes to support project teams and student initiatives at eight universities: Kazan Federal University, Kazan Power Engineering University, Kazan Medical University, Innopolis University, Kazan Innovative University, Kazan State Institute of Culture, Almetyevsk State Oil Institute, and TISBI. So, according to data only at the beginning of this year, 608 startup projects were prepared in universities, and about 3 thousand students and postgraduates were trained, Minnikhanov said.

“Startups that do not take advantage of this forum in Kazan will not be receptive”

As experts told Realnoe Vremya, the BRICS summit will be a good opportunity for Tatarstan businesses to expand their borders, but this still applies to more serious startups. But for students, they can become a kind of simulator for practicing entrepreneurial skills in the international market.

“As for student startups, it's still something that rarely grows into a big business. Rather, creating startups for students is such a simulator to try oneself in entrepreneurial activity. Certainly, if the BRICS platform is used as a kind of simulator to interact with some international partners, to shatter about the reality of some requests from participants from other countries, it will be very useful," said Bulat Ganiev, the founder of Technocratia IT studio.

According to him, more mature startups should respond to this opportunity of their partner expansion: “Startups that do not take advantage of this forum in Kazan will not be receptive. Tatarstan's leadership is very business-oriented, and it understands this well," he said.

According to Ganiev, despite that political goals may prevail, the summit in Kazan remains a great opportunity for the business of the republic and it needs to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It's hard for me to say for the whole BRICS, because it's different. At least there is China, which is just all about itself. In general, Tatarstan is one of the leading regions of Russia in terms of digital solutions and economic development. Obviously, we have a very high level of digital maturity and a lot of businesses that are very interesting and developed on a global scale. It is definitely possible to find something else interesting, to complement the economy in some way, to be valuable for the BRICS economy. I think there are very good chances to find partners and somehow adapt their solutions," Ganiev said.

According to him, Tatarstan aims to find something new in other BRICS countries:

“I can't speak for the organisers, but it seems to me that there is a more political goal — building a cultural bridge through a special protocol of integration with the world, that we are still an Islamic republic. Through this, Tatarstan pursues the task of building new economic partnerships. This should be used. It's great that such summit will be held in Kazan! Certainly, businessmen, officials, and enthusiasts should react to such a chance. This is such a passionate duty," the expert said.

“The BRICS market is a new opportunity”

“The BRICS market is about new opportunities, new markets and expanding the geography of technological knowledge. It is also an exchange of experience between both the guys and the investment and expert community," Dias Safin, CEO of the technopark Idea, told Realnoe Vremya.

“The events such as Digital Innopolis Days (DID), held in Innopolis, where for the first time a startup summit of student startups was invented and organised together with us in the interests of the BRICS countries. By the way, several projects supported by Idea technopark were presented here. They were well received by experts and participants of this event, for example, the project “Elixir of Health” (fertilizer based on bee slumgum). These are professional experts from the student startup studio, the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia, representatives of the real sector of the economy," he said.

According to Safin, startups from Tatarstan are necessary for the BRICS market. At the same time, the republic can also find something new for itself in other participating states of the event.

“It definitely can. For our projects, these are new potential sales markets, new partnerships and collaborations, exchange of opinions and technologies, and experience. Idea technopark is ready to become a platform where students from different countries and universities can implement their projects, developments and create new project teams, despite the borders and language barrier, the expert stressed.”

Maxim Kokunin

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