The innovative transformation of Ukraine is an investment in the stability of Europe

The war continues, but it is time to think about the innovative transformation of Ukraine. After our victory, a new high-tech country with a strong economy and high living standards will emerge. This was subject of discussion at the XI Festival of Innovation Projects “Sikorsky Challenge 2022: Innovative Transformation of Ukraine”.

The XI Festival of Innovative Projects “Sikorsky Challenge 2022: Innovative Transformation of Ukraine” took place at the KPI Center for Innovative Entrepreneurship. Before the start of the festival, it was possible to visit the exhibition of contestants’ innovative projects.

From Kyiv to Andalusia 

There are investors, representatives of funds, banks, national and international companies, state authorities among the guests. Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk is present at the festival and represents Ukraine’s government.

Before giving her the floor, the moderator of the event, deputy head of the Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine Innovation Holding, Serhii Serhiyenko, warns everyone what to do if an alarm is announced. The war continues.

Iryna Vereshchuk also begins her welcome speech with this.

“We will definitely hold the Sikorsky Challenge when there are no more air alarms, — ​​she says. — We will live in a developed, innovative, peaceful Ukraine, which won, became strong, which has a future and which shapes it itself, together with colleagues, partners, allies…”. 

Colleagues, partners and allies are really the ones who will help Ukraine to transform innovatively to the level of advanced high-tech economies. Other speakers also spoke about this in their welcoming remarks: Serhii Taruta, first deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Economic Development (“Not politicians, but scientists should be No. 1 in our country”, he says), chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Education, Science and Innovation Yuliya Hryshyna, Deputy Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine Serhii Tykhonov.

The chairman of the Supervisory Board of the “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” All-Ukrainian Innovation Ecosystem Vic Korsun (USA) gave his instructions. “In order to accelerate the transformation of the country, — he says, — it is necessary to involve key national and international participants in the creation, implementation and financial support of technological innovations in the country. “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” All-Ukrainian Innovation Ecosystem can act as a powerful association of such institutions and participants. The future is built on the knowledge-based economy. Surround yourself with effective experts and positive, talented people. Especially those who want to support you and what you want to do.”

Such persons are now gathered all over the world. First Secretary, Head of the Economic Department of the Embassy of Ukraine in Spain Ihor Ivanchenko told in ZOOM how the Embassy promotes cooperation between KPI and Spanish technoparks, in particular the Andalusian Technopark, which houses the headquarters of the World Association of Technoparks.

Raquel Lucia Pérez Brito, Executive Director of the Technology Park in Tenerife, Professor of Law, also joins the conversation. “The Canary Islands, located near the African continent, — she says, — use the African logistics platform. We would like to make it an intercontinental platform that would connect Africa, Latin America and Europe. We have close ties with countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Our islands have a special economic regime, it creates unique opportunities for innovation, research, new technologies”… She invites Ukrainian innovators to cooperate and is convinced that this cooperation “benefits both economies”. The parties immediately agreed to start consultations.

Who and how will invest in stability

Presenting the Platform of Innovative Transformation of Ukraine on the basis of the “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” All-Ukrainian Innovation Ecosystem at the International Forum, rector of KPI, Scientific Director of SCU Michael Zgurovsky pointed out the words of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, when he addressed the participants of the donor conference in Warsaw in May of this year: “The post-war reconstruction of Ukraine should become the same historical example as the reconstruction of European countries after the Second World War. It will be an investment in the stability of Central and Eastern Europe.”

In July, in Lugano, Switzerland, representatives of more than 50 countries continued to discuss the strategy of Ukraine’s recovery. In October, an international conference of experts on recovery, reconstruction and modernization of Ukraine was held in Berlin under the auspices of the G-7 and the European Commission.

Polish colleagues actively responded to the events. They decided to retrain up to 2 million Ukrainians currently in Poland in important areas of the digital economy. Next, the Ukrainians will be employed so that they can gain experience and return to Ukraine with new knowledge and skills and take part in its innovative reconstruction. The Polish educational foundation “Perspectives”, one of the executors of the project, together with President Alexander Kwaśniewski, organize a special pre-start conference on December 1-2 in Lublin.

Back in September, Michael Zgurovsky presented the Platform for Innovative Transformation of Ukraine as a project of KPI and “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” at the conference of rectors and presidents of European universities of technology held in Vienna. He met there with the top management of the Perspectives Foundation and Alexander Kwaśniewski.

A meeting of rectors of French, German and Polish universities took place in Berlin within the framework of the International Organization of Experts. The “Sikorsky Challenge 2022: Innovative Transformation of Ukraine” Platform was presented there. Then, a declaration was adopted on the need to add a scientific and educational component to the resolutions of the Berlin Conference.   

What KPI offers and how it works

KPI proposes to build an innovative component of the platform of the post-war transformation of Ukraine on the basis of the “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” ecosystem, which is based on the innovative ecosystem of the university, which has already become a national and international network.

Before the war, the innovation ecosystem of KPI united 25 startup schools in 20 regions of Ukraine. Innovation clusters have emerged around start-up schools in 12 regions, uniting high-tech companies, banks, funds, and local authorities. The system also went beyond the borders of Ukraine. Three representative offices of “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” have been opened in the USA, two in Israel, two in Azerbaijan, two in China, and one in Poland.

During the university ecosystem activity, 110 high-tech companies became part of it. 20 of them are from the USA, 20 from Europe, the rest from Ukraine and other countries. Michael Zgurovsky clarifies that more than 150 high-tech products and technologies were launched with a significant social and economic effect.

More than 3,000 participants pass through the Sikorsky Challenge system every year. These are startup authors, inventors and other participants in the innovation process. By the way, this year for the first time the students of “Sikorsky Challenge Junior: KPI School of Creativity” took part in the festival. In this way, a large number of people learn the culture of innovative activity.

The “Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine” platform can become a basic platform for the launch of a large All-Ukrainian innovation program, the rector of KPI is convinced. The Office of the President of Ukraine should become the coordinator of such activities in Ukraine, he says, and the ministries of digital transformation, development of communities and territories, defense, reintegration of temporarily occupied territories, and others would take over the management of relevant projects.

International partners and foundations, foreign innovative companies, as well as universities, science parks, and in particular Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine, should also interact and coordinate actions. The main tasks are to strengthen the ties between business, science and the state, to accelerate the development of ideas and innovations. Project participants from Ukraine should be high-tech innovative companies, associations and investment funds. While universities and scientific institutions of Ukraine are the “factories of ideas”.   

How to “train masters” in “Sikorsky Challenge”?

Many people know about the “Sikorsky Challenge” system, which was introduced at KPI more than 15 years ago. However, many years passed before it became an innovative ecosystem not only of the university, but also of Ukraine, and went out into the international world.

“We unite all inventors of Ukraine and abroad, all those who want to present their projects, find their investor and together bring their high-tech products to the market, — Michael Zgurovsky emphasizes. — But first the inventor must learn to be an entrepreneur. Our startup school teaches it. Next, startups go to the festival.  After investors have selected the best startups and their projects, the incubation stage takes place, and in a year or two, project authors can manufacture a prototype or a small series, which is brought to large markets for serial production. “Sikorsky Challenge” Innovative Holding does it. This is the chain.”

(Among the achievements of KPI startups, Michael Zgurovsky named Spektator drones, which are currently protecting Ukraine at the front.  There is also a Mine Detector Quadcopter Project, whose designer, KPI student Ihor Klymenko became the winner of the previous festival, won two prestigious international competitions and received funding in the amount of 100 thousand dollars for its development. Also — nanosatellites, two of which have successfully operated in space (one of them has been orbiting the Earth for a record eight years, transmitting signals), the third satellite is already on its way to Cape Canaveral, from where it will be launched into space with an important mission of remote sensing of the Earth. Another one, Ukrainian-Polish nanosatellite, is about to commence its flight, and an entire series of nanosatellites is under development).

It is logical that innovation clusters begin to emerge around start-up schools, because a start-up school brings a culture of innovative activity to the region.

The apotheosis of project activity of startups is a festival. The main focus of its competitive part is defense and security, other related spheres are forming around it. Every year, their denominations become more complicated and expanded. This year, there are 5 sections in innovative projects competition: “Defense and security. Aviation and space”, “Infrastructure and industrial hi-tech”, “Information technologies, digital country, cyber security”, “Biomedical engineering and human health” and “Energy and environmental security”, we shall talk about them later.

“Innovation sites” should be all over Ukraine

It was clear from the speeches of the participants of the International Forum that movement in the right direction is already taking place. The Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Mery Akopyan, did not even have enough time to talk about all the projects that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is working on. The “Safe Country” project was remarkable, which “knows” to recognize faces, license plates, and carries out automatic monitoring along our border as well. For a country at war, this is really important. 

According to Deputy Minister Ivan Lukerya, the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories mapped out several projects. They included creation of a network of innovation laboratories on the basis of universities, several powerful business centers, and the modernization of school classrooms and laboratories. However, the work will continue after the victory. The speaker talked about the Center of Creative Ideas at the Lviv Polytechnic which is already created.

Huge reserves of the state are based on processing of grown or mined raw materials. Dmytro Kysylevsky, Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Economic Development, drew attention to this theme. Ukraine exports in unprocessed form 52% of produced raw materials (60% — grain crops, 57% — iron ore), while the processing of raw materials increases the added value by 10 or more times. The difference between these numbers must be channeled to the funds for the army, science, education, medicine, etc., Dmytro Kysylevsky says. Shift away from the resource-based model will make it possible to create almost 600,000 additional jobs in 10 years, and the budget will receive almost 3 trillion hryvnias of additional income.

The Deputy Head of the Office of the President Ihor Zhovkva, speaking online about the “Vision of Innovative Transformation of Ukraine in the War and Post-War Periods”, emphasized that leading experts are already working on a value-added economy model and invited investors to cooperate with Ukrainian startups and science.

“Israeli companies are ready to participate in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine,” assures David Aryeh (Founder & CEO Transfotech), who supports Sikorsky Challenge startups for more than a decade. Ruslan Tymofieiev (founder of CLUST, founder and managing partner of Adventures Lab) also promotes Ukrainian startups. Currently, he takes care of the project of creating innovative shelters for higher education institutions. The first project will be implemented in KPI.

Both speakers addressed the forum participants online. But Robert Fintak, President of the Polish Chamber of Unmanned Systems, Director General of Terra Hexen (system for detecting and neutralizing drones), upon learning about the festival and the forum, came to Kyiv personally. “16 hours by car, tired and happy,” he said about himself. He says that in the first days of the war, they asked their colleagues to send them drones for delivery to Ukraine. Then it was very important. And today, Mr. Fintak proposes KPI to create together a school for drone operators, because in peacetime they are also needed in any sphere. He is also open to cooperation regarding anti-drone radars manufactured by his company and used by the Polish army and other countries.

… There were many speakers at the International Forum. The topics are interesting and relevant. Moreover, for the first time in Ukraine, the future of the country after the war was discussed at such a large forum. And it was clear that this was only the beginning of the conversation. It is very good that the time has come to talk about it…