The Digital Business Space by the Moscow Agency of Innovations has recently hosted a discussion dedicated to SMB strategies for harnessing the smart city opportunity.
The meeting, held as part of the Startup Cafe series, brought together technology experts, investors, startup founders, and representatives of the local government.
Smart city technologies are increasingly penetrating our lives. Some of us can operate home equipment with a smartphone, while others manage automated processes in whole cities with similar ease.
Many disruptive technologies emerge from startups, and that is why their experience is so coveted by large companies that are eager to onboard ready-to-go solutions rather than invest significant amount of time and money in developing things from scratch.
It is startups, small and medium-sized technology and engineering companies, who are ready not only to come up with new ideas and products, but also test and continuously improve them within short timeframes. Not surprisingly, the Startup Cafe discussion was focused on how to get a smart city project off the ground: from developing an initial idea to running a live environment test on a city scale.
The focal point of the meeting was the presentation of an open database designed by the Moscow Agency of Innovations in collaboration with its research partner Deloitte CIS.
The database is accessible via an interactive map of domestic smart city solutions available in Moscow. They are grouped into several categories: security, city infrastructure, smart home, construction, transportation and mobility, healthcare, education, tourism and recreation, retail and services.
Hosted on the Agency’s website under the Analytics section, the database is updated in real time and is easily searchable and browsable. Any company that meets the eligibility criteria can put information on its products and services on the map.
“We plan for the map to become a large interactive platform that will enable any organization in Russia find an innovative product according to its needs and expectations. For the market players, it will be a tool to promote their solutions at no cost,” said Alexei Parabuchev, CEO at the Moscow Agency of Innovations.
This project is expected to boost recognition for small technology companies. It will help them minimize administrative barriers and, most importantly, shorten the distance between them and their customers (corporations and city governments).
“The digitization of the whole country is a giant infrastructure project with enough space for small and medium-sized businesses: large players create a framework, which can accommodate other, smaller entrants. Moscow is a unique self-developing region, a lab and an example for other cities eager to become smart ones. In this regard, Moscow has a duty to share its practices with other cities,” noted Alyona Vatbolskaya, a spokesperson with Rostelecom, Russia’s national telecommunications operator.
According to her, large companies often set up innovation clusters dedicated to the development of smart technologies, while startups can participate in technology competitions to win funding for their projects.
Another opportunity for startups to gain attention is to join Smart City Lab, an organization tasked with the supervision of large technology projects in Moscow. Set up in 2016 as the innovations arm of the Moscow Department of Information Technology, Smart City Lab is responsible for Moscow’s technology collaboration with city administrations and businesses. Its analysts study the world’s best practices and work with technologies that can help Moscow become a more sustainable city.
“Nearly 95% of all contracts for the procurement of innovations we announce are for small and medium-sized enterprises. We work with startups, with young companies, with new and interesting technologies. Our goal is to find them and test them on the city’s premises,” emphasized Ivan Parkhomenko, projects leader at Smart City Lab.
In this regard, of particular importance is the protection of intellectual property. Although startups often exaggerate the risk of having their ideas stolen by large companies, the former can certainly benefit from joining credible acceleration programs, such as the ones offered by the Skolkovo Foundation and the Moscow Agency of Innovations.