This is the third time Yves Rossier, the head of the Swiss diplomatic mission, pays a visit to the Innovation Center. Answering a question from Sk.ru concerning such an intensity of visits, the ambassador answered simply: "This is the intensity of what is happening in Skolkovo."
Visits to the Innovation Center of European ambassadors on these days indirectly prove this: the day before, Pierre Levy, the head of the French diplomatic mission, visited Skolkovo. All this is happening in the midst of a growing global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which, however, does not eliminate the need to think about cooperation in the near and distant future.
Swiss Ambassador Yves Rossier: Skolkovo cannot do without establishing cooperation between innovative companies. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
When receiving the Swiss diplomats, Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, informed them of the changes associated with switching the Startup Village into digital format. The most large-scale conference for businesses in the field of technology will be held on May 21 and 22 as the Startup Village Livestream’20. Mr. Dvorkovich said that Skolkovo expects representatives from the Swiss business and academia to take an active part in the event.
Ekaterina Inozemtseva, General Director of the Skolkovo Forum, spoke about how this fully virtual conference will be held, having noted that events of this scale were unprecedented not only for Skolkovo, but also for Russia as a whole.
Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, discussed with the Swiss Ambassador the cooperation in the framework of the Startup Village Livestream’20 and the Open Innovations Forum. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
Mr. Rossier said that the diplomatic mission of Switzerland will try to motivate Swiss businessmen and scientists to become part of the Startup Village Livestream’20, although he frankly remarked: "Everyone in Bern is thinking about the crisis today."
At the meeting with the Foundation Chairman, considerable attention was paid to the participation of Switzerland in another major Skolkovo event — the Open Innovations forum, which is scheduled for October this year. The diplomats also showed interest in the possibility of holding the Day of Switzerland at the Innovation Center. Arkady Dvorkovich made it clear that the Foundation was ready to take a flexible approach so that the Swiss partners could have the opportunity to most vividly present their innovative capabilities.
Lorenz Widmer: Switzerland is unique for the fact that the cantons compete among themselves to provide the best conditions for innovative startups. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
Lorenz Widmer, head of the Swiss Business Hub Russia, who participated in the meeting, drew attention to such a feature of the Swiss model as the active role of cantons in international economic activity. Annually, the Swiss Business Hub arranges business missions for Russian companies, during which it presents them to various cantons and the latter compete among themselves for who can provide innovative startups with the most attractive conditions.
Arkady Dvorkovich assured that this form of cooperation is acceptable for Skolkovo, especially since the Foundation independently takes out its participants into business missions to other countries.
The discussion continued at the Skolkovo Technopark, where Victor Vekselberg, Chairman of the Board of Skolkovo Foundation, received the diplomats from Switzerland.
Along the way — Yves Rossier preferred to walk 15 minutes from the administrative office to Technopark — the Swiss ambassador told Sk.ru that he generally liked to walk around Moscow: "There is still a feeling of normal life, he said and then added: The day before, after lunch, I took a walk in the center of Moscow. And in 1 hour 10 minutes I met only two people wearing masks."
Whatever you say, but the Swiss precision (another would say "an hour", but the Swiss says: "1 hour 10 minutes") is not someone's fiction.
The conversation with Victor Vekselberg also inevitably started with a discussion of how the two governments are trying to help businesses during the crisis and what Skolkovo and the Swiss embassy could do in this context. Yves Rossier believes that the bilateral cooperation is developing successfully. "The pandemic is our only problem now," he said.
Victor Vekselberg believes that Skoltech can play a special role in enhancing the cooperation and has expressed his readiness to personally facilitate contacts between professors from the Skolkovo university and their Swiss colleagues. He asked the ambassador to share his vision of how to arrange such cooperation.
Victor Vekselberg, Chairman of the Board of Skolkovo Foundation, is ready to personally contribute to establishing contacts between professors from Skoltech and Swiss universities. Photo courtesy: Sk.ru.
According to the head of the diplomatic mission, the Swiss specifics is such that it is unproductive to look for rapprochement between universities themselves, but it is better to find specific scientists, who will solve specific problems and who would be most interested in such a collaboration. This is what the parties agreed to do.
"We cannot go without Skolkovo"
During his visit to the Innovation Center, Swiss ambassador Yves Rossier gave a brief interview to Sk.ru.
"Skolkovo is the largest cluster of its kind, at least in the Moscow region,” says Mr. Rossier. - On the other hand, the Swiss economy is the exact opposite of the Russian one. It is based on numerous small and medium enterprises. As for our large companies, such as Nestle, they can have headquarters in Switzerland, but they make their business all over the world. Thus, we are naturally focused on innovation.
Our embassies, in turn, aim at supporting our SMEs, since large businesses are quite capable of taking care of themselves. As a diplomatic mission, we are interested in ensuring partnership opportunities for Swiss small and medium enterprises, making investments, and establishing joint ventures. In all these undertakings, we cannot go without Skolkovo.
Today, the world is in a deep crisis. The ruble's depreciation is reflected in the work of major Swiss businesses in Russia, but in general I have no concerns about the fate of such companies. As for SMEs, companies in this sector are concerned about their survival and in this sense they are least of all thinking about expanding their activities in overseas markets. We can only pray that this [crisis period] be as short as possible.
The Swiss Government has developed support measures for small businesses, but we are aware that its situation is extremely difficult: companies were not able to pay rent, pay salaries, or make purchases. We all have to learn on the go. This is a new type of crisis; measures taken by the Swiss authorities are as unprecedented as is now happening in other countries; the consequences of all this for human health and for the economy are less than clear. We are in an uncharted territory and can only hope to leave it as soon as possible."