The cluster approach in the economy is an effective mechanism for developing a network of competitive suppliers and service enterprises. Clusters play an important role in the economies of leading countries and regions of the world: they stimulate increased labor productivity, the formation of new companies and the creation of new jobs, and contribute to the growth of the innovative potential of the territories. Marina Zinina, director of the Center for Cluster Development of the Technopark of St. Petersburg, spoke about the features of the development of breakthrough technologies within the cluster.
Marina, what is the essence of the cluster approach? How does it affect the development of innovation? How is an innovative ecosystem formed within a cluster?
The peculiarity of the cluster approach in the economy lies in the complexity and systematic formulation of the tasks of developing the region’s growth points, which are clusters, and enhancing the synergistic effects of using various support tools for the development of cluster members.
Now the cluster approach is coming to the fore in a number of territorial development models used by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, as well as inherent in the strategies for socio-economic development of a number of constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal entities. And the formation and development of innovative territorial clusters is related to the priorities of socio-economic development of Russia.
The cluster approach allows us to achieve important goals: reducing the time frame for achieving results, increasing the efficiency of resource use, ensuring transparency, validity and timeliness of decisions, as well as increasing the effectiveness of cooperation between the state and the private sector.
The accelerated development of clusters is facilitated by the constant exchange of best practices for building effective interaction between their participants, including in the field of attracting investments, developing innovative infrastructure and commercialization mechanisms, promoting export products, and organizing advanced research and development.
Due to the fact that innovation requires a certain environment, the formation of an innovative ecosystem within a cluster is a long process that uses the research, educational, technological and production potential of the cluster.
Do clusters have advantages over individual companies of the same level in terms of creating breakthrough technologies?
Breakthrough technologies can be created by individual companies as well as industry associations or a cluster. But, given that breakthrough technologies are advanced, innovative technologies, they will always be costly, both in time and in resources. &Nbsp; Therefore, in this case, the cluster has advantages over an individual market player, because solving problems together is faster and cheaper.
An example of creating breakthrough technologies in a cluster is the creation of a regional engineering center for the microreactor synthesis of active pharmaceutical substances. The cluster conducted a study on possible breakthrough technologies in 2015 and determined the most promising ones. Thanks to the CCR, funds were raised for the development of a feasibility study for a project to create an engineering center for the microreactor synthesis of APS. And in 2016, the project began.
The creation of an innovative and scientific infrastructure in the field of breakthrough technologies is a big step in ensuring the possibility of pharmaceutical manufacturers localized on the territory of St. Petersburg to target export markets. This is the main and significant contribution of the city to the overall development of the pharmaceutical industry in Russia.
Already, the first results of research cooperation allow cluster companies to implement complex cross-border projects, which is a huge incentive for pharmaceutical companies to be based in St. Petersburg and achieve the targets set by the May decrees of the President, national projects in the field of healthcare, demography and export.
The development and use of microreactors is directly related to the development of technology for continuous flow reactions. This is a new direction in the technology of chemical and biological synthesis. Already, microreactor technologies can safely be called “future technologies.” Drawing parallels with computer technology, we can safely predict that in the very near future the picture in laboratories – both chemical and pharmaceutical, and biological – will change radically in the direction of a significant improvement in the productivity and efficiency of synthesis processes with significant miniaturization of devices and apparatuses.
RIC AFS is the only center in Russia for the development and implementation of technologies for the microreactor synthesis of AFS and organic substances. The concept of the RIC AFS provides a logical production chain for the development of flow microreactor synthesis technology from laboratory to semi-industrial / industrial scale.
Based on completed in 2017-2018. work on a laboratory scale and developed samples requires a mandatory stage – the development of the synthesis stages in the regimes as close as possible to production. This ensures the scaling and implementation of technologies at the production sites of RIC AFS customers.
Collaboration is more effective than the activities of individual companies, and on the example of RIC AFS we see the advantages of a cluster approach in the field of creating new technologies. It is also important that clusters provide an opportunity to realize the potential of small and medium-sized companies, which in conditions of group functioning have a greater chance of successful development.
What makes the investment attractiveness of clusters from the point of view of investment in innovation?
Investing in innovation is always fraught with certain risks. Therefore, investors must be sure that they invest in successful and competitive ones. Everyone wants to invest in professionals and be sure of the result.
The cluster of medical, pharmaceutical industry and radiation technologies is one of the innovative clusters of St. Petersburg, which in 2012 was included in the Federal List of Innovative Clusters of Russia.
The cluster is the most dynamically developing and promising in St. Petersburg. It consists of companies, many of which occupy leading positions in the Russian and foreign markets, and have high potential for innovative development. The largest pharmaceutical companies in the Cluster are: Biocad CJSC, NTFF POLISAN LLC, Geropharm LLC, Vertex JSC.
One of the indicators and achievements of the cluster is the construction of pharmaceutical industries: in 2013 – Biocad, Geropharm-Bio and Groteks, in 2015 – Vertex, in 2017 – Pharmasyntez-Nord, and in 2018 – “ Geropharm ”and“ Polysan ”.
Cluster enterprises are at a high level of technological development and take into account key trends in industry development. Newly created production facilities meet modern requirements of good manufacturing practice and organization of production. The cluster is maximally focused on the development of its own products and technologies aimed at replacing imported analogues, especially expensive ones.
The cluster, in cooperation with regional authorities, industrial partners and development institutions, is actively involved in creating innovative infrastructure for the development of all cluster members. Thus, the creation and development of the technological innovation infrastructure of the RIC AFS within the framework of JSC Technopark of St. Petersburg became the basis for the creation of a complex of laboratories in the field of living systems (Life Science Park) and allows us to proceed with the implementation of the joint infrastructure project – Russian-Finnish Life Science Park in within the framework of the Cross-Border Cooperation Program “Russia – Southeast Finland 2014-2020”.
Life Sciences Technology Park will be highly innovative. Thus, the share of innovative companies among planned residents will be more than 70%. The strengths of the Life Sciences technology park include an efficiently functioning organizational structure, which will combine Russian and foreign pharmaceutical companies of different sizes, including network partners. Such an organizational and economic model of interaction between the participants determines the significant competitiveness of both individual elements of the site and the technology park as a whole.
The strengths of the project include thoughtful integration into the infrastructure of the Single Territory, which will offer competitive services to potential consumers, both among developing small businesses and large pharmaceutical manufacturing enterprises.
Also, one of the factors of investment attractiveness is the presence of a strong and competent team of the cluster management company.
In addition to the scientific, technical and industrial aspects, in which areas is innovation necessary? What success has the St. Petersburg cluster achieved in this?
The development of high-tech industries is primarily associated with access to modern information systems and technology platforms. But today there are a number of limitations. First of all, the lack of necessary staff competencies in industry companies – industrial partners of the cluster. There are gaps in the system of training specialists at the level of higher educational institutions, as well as the lack of attention, interest in building a professional career in high-tech industries on the part of school teachers, applicants and their parents.
In modern high-tech industries, the emergence and accumulation of competencies occurs, first of all, at the level of industry companies, but the separation of the necessary competencies of personnel from the basic level of the system of training specialists in higher educational institutions does not allow them to develop effectively, especially in terms of reaching a global level and the need to compete in foreign markets. At the same time, it is also difficult to completely duplicate the educational process at the enterprise level due to significant financial and organizational costs.
The most adequate way to solve the problem is the integration of industrial partners in the training system. They can share the necessary competencies, as well as provide the necessary access to modern information systems, technology platforms and research infrastructure. In turn, universities provide the necessary level of basic training, as well as access for students and teachers to the resources provided.
It is important to increase the motivation and quality of training applicants focused on professional activities in modern high-tech industries. This will allow to achieve better results for future students in the learning process.
Our pharmaceutical cluster has made great strides. The direct employment of graduates of St. Petersburg University of Chemistry and Pharmacy, a key partner of the pharmaceutical cluster, is more than 98%, which is one of the best indicators in the country. Pharmaceutical and chemical-biological classes are being created in the city in the secondary education system, the rating of specialized olympiads in chemistry and biology is being increased, awareness and prestige of the industry are growing among applicants and students, teachers and parents.
One of the cluster projects in the field of personnel policy of the cluster member enterprises is the Farminnotech project – a communication platform that provides interaction between industry companies, young specialists, specialized universities and schools. The aim of the project is to increase the interest of teachers of natural sciences, applicants and parents, to build a professional career in the pharmaceutical industry, or in related high-tech industries.
The platform helps to solve issues related to training and personnel selection, to develop the necessary industry competencies and communication skills, as a whole to stimulate young professionals to build the right trajectory of a successful career in the industry.
For the development of the pharmaceutical cluster of St. Petersburg, the Platform is a driver for resolving issues related to regional, sectoral and innovative policies, fulfilling the social mission of career guidance for schoolchildren, applicants and students.
Thanks to the Platform, the existing tasks for providing high-tech companies with personnel can be integrated into the innovation system of regions and cities, and the developed methodology allows you to integrate an innovative approach into any educational or scientific system.