Creation of 5 Silicon valleys in Russia: Silly fantasies or an exact calculation?

Creation of 5 Silicon valleys in Russia: Silly fantasies or an exact calculation?

14 January , 10:26
The first deputy chairman of the Central Bank Olga Skorobogatova said on the air of the Fintech Show that in Russia for technological development it is necessary to create 3-5 centers similar to the American Silicon Valley. And then the digital economy will work as it should. Well, or at least just - it will work.

Victoria Petrova

Well, Silicon Valley (it's more correct to call it Silicon Valley) is a really good example. The neighborhoods of San Francisco have rightfully become the world leader in the IT industry. California's GDP in 2019, by the way, was $ 3.137 trillion, and Silicon Valley provided 80% of investments. For comparison: the GDP of all of Russia in 2019 amounted to $ 1.7 trillion.

If at least 3 similar projects are implemented in Russia, then there will be no equal to us in the world, and oil and gas can be pumped only for the sake of self-sufficiency and entertainment. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Russia already has experience of working with "development institutions", of which there are 40 (14 of them are engaged in innovative development). And back in 2017, Tatyana Golikova , as head of the Accounts Chamber, noted that when budget funds are received, the effectiveness of these institutions begins to fall rapidly.

And the largest recipient of state money in our country turned out to be Skolkovo - the very "Russian Silicon Valley". From the moment of its appearance (the idea arose in 2009, and it came to practical implementation in 2013) until October 2020, it absorbed 168 billion budget rubles. For this money, a “development institution” appeared, of which any innovative company wants to become a resident. The result is logical, because residents are offered good tax benefits. In the first ten years, companies whose revenue does not reach 1 billion rubles are exempt from income tax, property tax and VAT, and insurance premiums for employees do not exceed 14%. It is difficult to refuse such a tempting offer.

But all this does not mean at all that unique startups are being born in Skolkovo, surprising the world with their developments. First of all, representatives of the largest companies rush to Skolkovo for the sake of "optimization" of taxes. So, in the foreseeable future there will be Sberbank and Yandex technology parks. Would such giants with multibillion-dollar profits (Sberbank earned 558.6 billion rubles in only 9 months of 2020) would refuse technological development? It's hard to believe in this. Well, what concrete successes Skolkovo residents have achieved, even the former president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Arkady Dvorkovich, could not answer, citing the fact that 15% -20% of companies make a profit. Whether it is possible to trust these figures is an open question, because Dvorkovich estimates the state's contribution much more modestly than the Accounts Chamber - “only” at 100 billion rubles.

In general, the scale of Silicon Valley in the United States and that of Skolkovo is incomparable. Skolkovo has provided about 37 thousand jobs, and according to expert estimates, 386 thousand IT specialists work in Silicon Valley. And if people go to Skolkovo for the sake of benefits, then people go to Silicon Valley, on the contrary, despite the high cost of living and high taxes from the state of California. And even in such uncomfortable conditions, 25 companies were born there, which at various times were included in the list of the largest companies in the Fortune 1000.

Attempts to create another "development institution" have nothing to do with the principles of the emergence and operation of Silicon Valley in the United States. It originated on the basis of one of the leading universities in the world - Stanford, which was surrounded by high-tech companies of the first half of the 20th century. The appearance of Stanford Industrial Park in 1933, where office space could be rented, only spurred development a little. Now Silicon Valley is not some kind of special territory, it is a collection of at least 16 cities, 4 universities and many private venture investors, which are practically absent in Russia as a class. Last year, private venture capital investors invested 3.7 billion rubles, and state ones, who cannot just risk their money, invested 3.1 billion rubles in projects close to them. In the US, venture capital investments last year reached a record $ 130 billion (almost RUB 9.4 trillion!).

That's the whole difference: Silicon Valley in the United States is a concentration of people with brains and ideas and people with money, while Silicon Valley in Russia is a concentration of people with connections who were able to take advantage of government funds allocated for benefits and infrastructure.

With this approach, it is possible to create at least three, at least five, at least thirty-five "silicon valleys", but this still will not affect the quality of education in Russian universities, it will not help to create comfortable living conditions for highly qualified specialists and make their choice in favor of Moscow , Dubna or the Novosibirsk Academgorodok instead of Palo Alto, they will not add to wealthy people and companies confidence in the safety of investments in startups. So far, it is much more profitable for them to invest in friendly relations with officials, which will allow them to turn a blind eye to environmental violations, and to make a profit from old industries or get hooked on government contracts, than to give money to a handful of enthusiasts with bright ideas.

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