MIT, Russia Team Up to Open Graduate School

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

During the Cold War, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists produced ideas and inventions, such as distant early-warning radar and satellite-tracking systems, to help the United States prevail over the Soviet Union. Today, MIT is working with the Russians, not against them.

Just 12 miles from the Kremlin, rising from a field once used for agricultural experiments, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology will have a curriculum designed by MIT and financial backing from Russia’s government.

The school — nicknamed Skoltech — will offer graduate degrees only and teach in English, serving as the centerpiece of a $2.7 billion innovation hub. Russian officials say they aim to create tech start-ups and lure corporate research laboratories with tax breaks and relaxed visas and customs regulations. IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., and Siemens AG have already agreed to locate there.

"Russia has beautiful ideas but very poor commercialization," said Viktor Vekselberg, the billionaire president of the Skolkovo Foundation, which is developing Skoltech.

Vekselberg earned a PhD in mathematics at the USSR Academy of Sciences before amassing a fortune in the oil and energy sectors that the Bloomberg Billionaires Index valued at $14.6 billion on April 15. ‘‘We are very concerned that Russia today is not able to create a serious pipeline of innovative projects,’’ he said.

The foundation says it has recruited 52 venture capital firms to the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, founded in 2010.

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