Aiming to overcome infrastructural limitations to its economic growth, Russia is now relying on an increased university-industry collaboration to integrate breakthrough technologies in building a new economy for the country -- and there are lessons India can learn.
The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) MISIS has been mandated to create centres of excellence that can act as a playground for government departments and private companies to test new ideas.
One such centre that has come up in recent times is the "Center of Blockchain Competencies". Set up just about six months ago in collaboration with NUST MISIS and Vnesheconombank (VEB), a government-run bank, it is a first-of-its kind centre to help government services to implement blockchain technology.
Although the use of blockchain technology has largely been limited to Cryptocurrencies worldwide, Vladimir Demin of Vnesheconombank, who oversees the implementation of this technology in the Russian economy and the country's public administration system, believes that blockchain creates value and its use will soon spread to other sectors of the economy.
Addressing a group of journalists from around the world, Demin, an expert in innovation and blockchain technologies with over 20 years of experience in information technology (IT), said that widespread use of blockchain technology is almost unstoppable for three reasons.
First, as this technology is based on distributed storage of data, it brings transparency to any transaction, keeping everyone involved in the system aware of all the details.
While transparency is critical for the new economy, the other two crucial benefits of blockchain are that it can increase the speed of transactions while reducing the cost as this technology introduces peer-to-peer transactions and removes the need of intermediaries.
"Such is the transformative power of blockchain technology that it will eventually expand to every sector of the economy," said Demin, who also serves as the Advisor to the Vnesheconombank Chairman.
But it is not easy to understand blockchain. And it is even more difficult to make someone implement this technology.
So the Center of Blockchain Competencies, which is commonly referred to as the "Blockchain-Commune" as it is designed to work like a community of like-minded people, educates the representatives of the government departments on the importance of the new technology and how to put their work on blockchain.
"We inform the state officials what is blockchain and how to implement it. This, in turn, brings us new projects," said Demin while stating that the centre had already completed five projects in six months and was currently engaged in 20 new projects.
The centre brought together leading world experts as well as Russian researchers for implementing pilot projects based on blockchain technologies in various areas of public administration -- from registration of real estate transactions to monitoring supply chains to subsidised medicines in the country - where there are chances of corruption.
Another such centre that the university recently set up is the "Center for Industrial Prototyping of High Complexity", a multi-purpose high-tech digital laboratory for the creation of functional industrial prototypes.
Creating prototypes is important for the industry to understand and test the viability of their concepts.
The centre is designed to develop a prototype of any complexity -- from micro-elements to satellite or bioorganisms -- to cater primarily to the aerospace industry, biological engineering, medicine, space exploration and defence technologies.
Such a centre has especially proved useful for those players in the industry who cannot afford to create prototypes in their own factory.
In addition, the university also provides its expertise and space to private companies so that they can carry out research required for bringing out innovative new solutions for the economy.
One such company that has benefited from NUST MISIS expertise is TEEMP which is now part of the Renova Group, a principal investment firm specialising in investments in multiple sectors.
TEEMP, which is in a partnership with India's Tata group to power their electric vehicles, claims to have developed a special energy storage solution that can work in both Arctic-like conditions and also in above 60 degrees Celsius conditions.
The university offers all-round support to such small enterprises, boosting the start-up ecosystem of the country in the process.
The university follows a policy of involving its students in the implementation of scientific and innovative projects, which are funded by both the state and industry partners of the university.
It also provides its students opportunity to implement their own scientific projects and launch start-ups based on the development and research of the university.
It is, therefore, not without any reason that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said that a university stands for the adventure of ideas and that "if the universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People."
The people of Russia realised this long ago and its universities continue to power innovations and also help the country implement breakthrough technologies for the economy of tomorrow. Time for India to do the same.