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Russia's first hardware-only technopark opens in Kazan

0 17 February 2014

Navigator Campus, Russia’s first hardware technopark, officially opened its doors on Saturday. The project hopes to bring Russia’s best robotics, 3D-printing, wearable electronics and home automation startups to Kazan, a big Russian city 700km east of Moscow. 

The project is privately funded and has raised $4 million so far. The first $1 million was invested by the park’s founders - former Kazan IT-park bosses Ramil Ibragimov and Vasil Zakiev. It counts Runa Capital, Almaz Capital Partners, Phystech Ventures, QWave and Grishin Robotics among its venture partners.

The park currently offers workspace for 120 individuals. At present, 93 of these are taken by Navigator’s 14 resident projects. These startups, which come from all over Russia, pay $350 per month for their place on the campus. While there they also have the opportunity to raise funding from GRAVIZapp’s, a hardware-oriented angel fund. Two projects have already done so: Krisaf, which is developing a robotized exercise machine for children with cerebral palsy, raised $250,000, and ENNOVA, a 3D-printer manufacturer, raised $100,000. 

This, however, is only the start. Navigator’s founders want to increase the park’s capacity to 800 workplaces, which would allow it to host up to 200 startups. Beyond that, they also hope to create similar parks in nearby Ufa and Perm, large cities east of Kazan. The total investment required to achieve this goal is estimated at $30 million.

Ramil Ibragimov’s ambitions do not end there though. He explains that

“Within the next 5-10 years we have set ourselves the ambitious goal of creating similar technoparks in all Russian cities with a population of more than 1 million (there are 15) in order to promote a strong hardware community that draws on Russian engineering’s rich history. The IT revolution has been going on for 50 years - the next 50 years will belong to smart electronics, 3D printing and robotics.”

The opening was attended by Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov, along with leading figures from the Russian venture industry. Nikiforov explained that 

“Not everyone has completely grasped what an important step this is towards the creation of innovation ecosystems in Tatarstan and, indeed, Russia. Here we have investors creating startup infrastructure as a private business. We will be watching this trend very closely”.

Sergey Beloussov, Senior Partner at Runa Capital and CEO of Acronis, was also at the opening. He said that

“Engineering teams taking up residence at Navigator have a good chance of turning their idea into a successful business. They will have access to experts from science and business and mentors from venture funds and leading hardware companies. I’m sure that we will soon see an increase in the number of promising hardware projects raising venture funding.”

Dmitry Grishin, co-founder and General Director of Mail.ru Group, Russia’s second biggest internet company and founder of Grishin Robotics added that

“As a graduate of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, I know that Russia has one of the best engineering education systems in the world and that students at our technical universities have enormous potential. As an investor in robo-technology I want to see more young people creating startups in this sphere. The experience of other countries shows that hardware incubators like Navigator Campus play a positive role and make it much easier for individuals to create a project ‘from nothing’.”

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