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Skoltech sees new agreement with MIT as success for Russian science as a whole

In early December, Skoltech and MIT signed their third phase cooperation agreement for five years, from 2019 to 2024

MOSCOW, December 17. /TASS/. The signing of a new agreement between the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) is a success not only for the Skolkovo innovation center, but for the Russian science as a whole, Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of the board of directors of the Skolkovo Foundation, told TASS on Tuesday.

In early December, Skoltech and MIT signed their third phase cooperation agreement for five years, from 2019 to 2024.

During the second phase of their cooperation, MIT and Skoltech specialists have already implemented more than 60 joint research projects. One of them led to a new approach to eliminating carbon emissions from cement production, a major global source of greenhouse gases. Another project laid the foundation for RecyBot, a low-cost robot under development to dismantle mobile phones to remove and separate their component parts, which in turn could be used to create new phones or otherwise be processed.

"Today, when Skoltech has grown stronger and become truly established, continuation of collaboration with MIT will be a two-way road. I have no doubt it will bring real benefits to all parties. Moreover, cooperation in such an important area as science needs to be developed regardless of the current political situation. The fact that a Russian institute of higher education with a history of less than a decade can cooperate on equal terms with the world’s leading scientific and educational centers, says much about the success of Skolkovo and the Russian science," Vekselberg said.

History of Skoltech-MIT cooperation

Skoltech was planned as a key component of the Skolkovo innovation ecosystem. The Skolkovo Foundation invited leading international universities to take part in the establishment of the new Russian institute. MIT showed a serious interest in cooperation.

In 2009, a meeting was held in Boston with the participation of representatives of Russian business, science and officials responsible for the development of innovations. At that meeting, MIT presented the expertise and resources it could offer to support the new scientific and technical institute in Russia.

"Negotiations on cooperation with MIT were quite difficult, money did not play a role for the Massachusetts Institute. After the meeting in the US we could not agree with MIT for two years. Only when Viktor Vekselberg entered the negotiations, held dozens of meetings, also personal ones, with the president and the rector of MIT, discussing all the difficult points of interaction, the creation of a new Russian institute in partnership with one of the world’s leading technology centers really started," Skoltech Vice President Aleksey Sitnikov told TASS.

The first agreement on cooperation between Skoltech and MIT for a period of three years was signed in October 2011. MIT became an institutional partner of Skoltech, helping to develop research, educational and innovative programs.

MIT Professor Edward Crowley became the first rector of Skoltech and Viktor Vekselbreg joined the MIT Board of Trustees. In 2018, Crowley was elected a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).

American partners assisted Skoltech in selection of the first group of teachers and training senior staff in all the main areas of the institute's activities.

Skoltech students got the opportunity to study at MIT as part of special programs. MIT designed dozens of academic courses and workshops for the Russian partner. As part of the collaboration between MIT and Skoltech, 15 international research conferences were organized.

"It would be fair to say that MIT played a crucial role in the development of Skoltech, supporting it at the very beginning," Alexander Fertman, Director of Science, Technology and Education of the Skolkovo Foundation, told TASS.

The second phase of collaboration between MIT and Skoltech, the so-called MIT Skoltech Program, was launched on March 1, 2016. It focused on collaborative projects carried out by academic teaching staff of MIT and Skoltech.

MIT and Skoltech today

Despite the sanctions against Russia and the exclusion of Vekselberg from the MIT board of trustees (due to the policy of sanctions), cooperation between MIT and Skoltech did not stop.

Currently, under the MISTI program (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) in Skoltech, research and internships for students and graduate students of MIT are underway.

"The new agreement gives us the opportunity to continue to attract strong professors and strong partners for Skoltech. Thanks to the fact that MIT recognized us, Skoltech continues to be one of the world's leading universities. Partners neglected politics for the sake of cooperation, it is very important for science," Fertman noted.

Since 2015, Skoltech has been the venue for the Stanford Russian-American Forum (SURF), which receives the best Russian and American students. Forum events are already taking place in the new building of the university.

About MIT and Skoltech

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leading educational research institute located in Cambridge, USA. It is constantly ranked among the top ten universities in the world. MIT is historically linked with Russia: the Russian school of engineering education, which emerged at Moscow State Technical University in 1830 (31 years before the foundation of MIT), served as a model of its creation.

Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a non-governmental scientific and educational institution. Created in 2011 with the participation of the MIT, the institute prepares new generations of researchers and entrepreneurs, develops scientific knowledge and promotes technological innovation in order to solve the most important problems Russia and the world face in the new millennium.