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PARIS, October 3 (Itar-Tass) —— The Skolkovo project is “one of the important items” on the Russia-France agenda, the innovation fund’s President Viktor Vekselberg said on Monday, October 3.
“The Skolkovo innovation centre cooperates with many government-owned and foreign companies, but France occupies a special place among them. On the whole, relations between the French and Russian economies are on the rise. A large number of different joint projects are underway. Skolkovo is one of the important items on the agenda of relations between France and Russia,” Vekselberg said.
He recalled that Skolkovo “was one of the key” topics at the recent Russia-France Council that had focused on economic issues.
“Three months ago the fund signed the memorandum of understanding with two large companies – EADS and Alstom. On the sidelines of today’s meeting talks were conducted with new important potential French partners,” Vekselberg said.
The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov and Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov. Earlier in the day, they were received by the Elysee General Secretary Xavier Musca, who assured them of "full support" for the project.
“This is an historical day in relations between France and Russia,” Zhukov said. he pointed out that the Skolkovo project had evoked increased interest among France political, business and academic circles. The presentation of the centre in Paris took place with the active assistance of the Movement of the French Enterprises (MEDEF).
“We were pleasantly surprised by that. Such leading European concerns as EADS and Alstom joined the project readily,” he said.
At the same time, Zhukov noted that the doors remained open to small and medium-sized French enterprises as well. “We will create the most favourable conditions for Skolkovo investors, including tax benefits and no bureaucratic barriers,” he promised.
Similar assistance will be extended to young scientists. The government has already provided 700 million U.S. dollars for grants to them. “Since we are talking about scientific start-ups, this is a rather large sum,” he told Itar-Tass.
Vekselberg emphasised innovative aspects of cooperation with EADS. “Relying on the previous experience, EADS will provide consultative assistance to the future Skolkovo International Technological University in developing new educational programmes, as well as technical support,” he said.
“The format of cooperation is very big, and it is possible that new agreements will be reached. Cooperation between Russia and France has excellent prospects,” he said.
“These companies are interested to work on the Russian market and to create research centres within the framework of the Skolkovo project,” Vekselberg said.
Currently, two participants in the Skolkovo innovation fund are working on projects with their French colleagues in the field of predictive modelling as well as new technologies and nanomaterials for lithium-ion batteries.
Projects to be undertaken by the companies working at the Skolkovo innovation centre will have to meet stringent requirements, Vekselberg said.
He named two of them: “projects that will be implemented through co-financing” and mandatory participation of “both Russian universities and academia, and foreign partners and foreign specialists, including individuals, who would be a factor of support to some extent.”
Speaking of foreign venture companies that have an interest in Skolkovo, Vekselberg, said the process of familiarisation was underway and “more systemic” relations were being formed with companies that have experience of working in Russia.
“It is very important for us to emphasise the level of trust, comfort and understanding. Russia is an interesting market, it's an environment where venture capital can exist. This is fundamentally important for us,” he said.
Vekselberg also stressed that projects would have to meet “a rather high level of requirements”.
The Skolkovo Endowment Fund created in May 2010 is the management company for the future innovation centre.