Visiting the boiling point of innovation in Russia

The story of our first trip to Moscow for a project with GenerationS, a pioneer of cross-industry innovation acceleration in Russia.

On my first morning in Moscow, the sky was cloudy and the streets were covered in people, vehicles, and melting snow. I was there to visit the Russian Venture Company (RVC) – a state-owned fund of funds and the main development institution in the growing Russian venture capital market. My mission? Corporate business modeling.

Ani Oganesyan, International Project Lead at GenerationS (more on that soon), met me outside. Following a warm welcome, she gave me a bit of a history lesson. The RVC, she explained, was created in 2006 as a fund of funds to boost cross-industry innovation in Russia and target new domestic and international markets.

We had corporates, we had funds but…
we had no startups!

During its first years, the institute was forced to exist within an incomplete innovation ecosystem. “We had corporates, we had funds but… we had no startups!” Ani explained. New ventures weren’t emerging in Russia at that time. And if they were, corporates and VCs couldn’t find them.

To fill in the gap and boost the innovation ecosystem all around Russia, RVC created an accelerator called GenerationS in 2013. It started with various industry focuses, but in 2018, it became a corporate accelerator with the goal of enhancing the collaboration between startups and corporates. That’s where Ani works together with Head of International Development Alexandra Filatova who joined us at a restaurant not far away from the offices.

GenerationS, they told me, has:

  • 60 corporate partners
  • ±15,000 current innovation accelerators (startups in the pipeline)
  • ±500 alumni startups – those that were accelerated by GenerationS (that is to say: produced by successful acceleration programs)

When our drinks arrived, Ani informed me that “last year, GenerationS was selected as the number 1 corporate accelerator in Europe.” I was about to comment, “Impressive!” when Alexandra added, “And 2 weeks ago, we were listed among the top 5 public accelerators in the world by UBI Global.” Realizing that ‘impressive’ wouldn’t do an achievement like that justice, I opted for “WOW!” instead.

After lunch, we settled into a meeting room at the GenerationS offices where I discovered more about the activities and programs that GenerationS constantly has in the works. Every program is different, I’m told, because every partner is different. Each has varying needs and targets. That statement resonated with me so much that I couldn’t help but smile.

“We try to cover all phases of the acceleration process, including implementation and follow-up, but sometimes not everything is needed,” Ani continued. “We worked on a scouting program for Airbus, and ran a few accelerators for major global corporates, including Unilever and Michelin. And now we’re in the middle of a full-cycle accelerator program for the State Transport Leasing Company (STLC), the aim of which is to produce an ad hoc PMO and venture fund.”

As a matter of fact, the STLC accelerator is why I happened to be in Moscow: GenerationS invited Board of Innovation to design a 1-day workshop on corporate innovation. The goal was to provide STLC staff with structured information about partnership models between corporates and startups.

The workshop agenda

  • An intro on innovation: What is it? Why is it needed? And how can you make it real?
  • A focus on innovation fundamentals, presenting the innovation archetypes, patterns, formats, and governance models that are summarized in our innovation matrix.
  • An overview of corporate/startup partnership models designed specifically by Board of Innovation for this workshop.
  • A focus on business model innovation and design, with our business model kit.

After aligning on the workshop’s agenda and expectations, Ani and Alexandra invited me for a tour of RVC’s working spaces and the project office for the National Technology Initiative. “You should see the Boiling Point upstairs,” they said.

Of course, I had to ask, “What’s a Boiling Point?”

A few minutes later I stood before an interactive map of the entire Russian Federation with a constellation of lights on it. Ani explained that we were looking at the Boiling Map and that the constellation represents the Boiling Points scattered throughout the vast Russian territory. “A boiling point is a location where innovators can go for free to find space, facilities, and other innovators to work with,” she elaborates.

Continuing our Boiling Point tour, we wound our way between groups of young innovators at work. I learned that all the activities taking place in every Boiling Point are mapped so that people can freely travel from one point to another.

The tour concluded on a spacious terrace with an outstanding view over Moscow – I could see some of the 7 Sisters, as well as the majestic Russian Government building, and the Moskva River with its numerous bights dictating the urban fabric.

The sky was still cloudy and the air was cold. Nevertheless, innovation was boiling inside. I could feel the heat, even from the terrace. It was a great pleasure to contribute to it, even if just for one day.

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Thanks for reading!

I’m Giuseppe Alizzi, Innovation Consultant @Board of Innovation. Spreading innovation culture is in our DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to our mission by sharing this article.

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