TOMSK, Sep 8 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Taylasheva. TPU attracted about 50 million investments in student business projects last
year. Each freshman – there are about 1500 of them this year – is not only a
future engineer, but also a potential entrepreneur. Why does a startup need an
engineering education and what environment helps to create breakthrough
products – is in the material of RIA Tomsk.
Case study method
Given: one of the areas of the food industry, growing from year to year. Exports
are also increasing – by tens of percent per year.
Problem: production uses imported components, which have no analogues in
Russia. And there are raw materials for them.
In principle, these initial data can be applied to dozens of areas of food
industry – the problems of import substitution in the industry are painfully
similar. But some manage to find a solution – if they applied to the right
"Two years ago, the investor set a task for Tomsk Polytechnic
University: to develop a technology for the production of a sorbent for
bleaching oils based on clay from one of the deposits", – Director of the
School of Engineering Entrepreneurship (SEE) of Tomsk Polytechnic University
Aleksander Osadchenko is quoted.
The task was taken up by two TPU students – Vlada Badretdinova and Tatyana
Serykh. Although both did not study directly at School of Engineering
Entrepreneurship (bur received a specialty in "chemical technology"),
they actively participated in the entrepreneurial track of the university.
They plunged into the problem, starting from scratch. For example, from the
fact that the oil and fat industry is growing rapidly: a couple of years ago,
in terms of shipments of rapeseed oil, Russia took the second place in the
world after Canada. That adsorptive refining (bleaching) – is an obligatory
stage of production, it helps not only to improve the presentation of vegetable
oil, but to rid it of toxic substances.
That for this purpose, bleaching earths obtained during the activation of
natural materials are used. And most importantly, foreign bleaching clay
imported from Europe and the USA is mainly used for bleaching vegetable oils in
Russia. At the same time, more than 600 million tons of clay raw materials are
located on the territory of Russia, on the basis of which it is possible to
obtain promising adsorbents...
"The most interesting in this regard was the bleaching earth of the
bergmeal of the Russia's largest Zikeevskoye field in the Kaluga region. In two
years we solved the problem by starting with a market study and finishing with
a ready-made technology for the production of a new sorption material. The
sorption efficiency is 94,5%, while the indicator of one of the highest quality
foreign products from Germany – is 93,3%", – say Vlada and Tatyana.
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"This project may be implemented by one of the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship students, and we will continue our studies at ITMO's master's program in St. Petersburg: we entered the direction of Infochemistry", – tells Tatyana Serykh.
Sell it yourself
"Investors in Polytech believe: over the past year they have invested
about 50 million rubles in student projects", – emphasizes Aleksander
A pool of investors has formed, ranging from individuals (both Tomsk and
"federal") and ending with development institutions such as the Fund
for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises or Internet Initiatives
Development Fund. “I get calls every week: "Are there interesting projects
to invest in?". They understand that the most promising ideas are in the
university, and we are building a system when these ideas are brought to a real
startup", – tells Osadchenko.
© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
"There are 1500 freshmen at Tomsk Polytechnic University, each of them we consider as a potential entrepreneur and we will involve everyone in our orbit", – says Aleksander Osadchenko.
The first stage of involvement in the "entrepreneurial orbit" –
is beautiful and interesting events: "Entrepreneurs' cafe", business
quests and so on. The second – is about generating business ideas, when
students are encouraged to find their own niche or create a new one through
different formats. The next series of activities – is team building, flexible and
quick, and after that – the first interview with an investor, where a person
gets feedback about his business model, which is not always pleasant.
"At the next stages, we help make the startup more mundane, with the
elaboration of nuances: financial, tax, production. We give classical tools:
writing a business plan, analyzing markets, forecasting demand. And we also
force them to go and sell it with their own hands. First, after an entrepreneur
sees a real client, the business concept often changes.
Secondly, if the first sales arise, a person experiences a real thrill –
from the fact that he created something that would not exist without him, which
is the fruit of his intellect and labor. After that, we add a few
"cosmetic" touches to the project in terms of packaging, product
presentation – and we are waiting for the defense "Startup as a
diploma", which is immediately followed by an investment session", –
says Aleksander Osadchenko.
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All TPU sophomores are taught the course "Entrepreneurship". Each student – a physicist, chemist, electric power engineer, etc. – has the opportunity to defend his own startup as a diploma. In the past academic year, this "option" was chosen by about 60 people.
"We also have a system of services for the development of student
entrepreneurship – "B-51" (located on Belinsky, 51). This is the
university "Boiling Point" with all its new and rather original
formats. This is the Center for Youth Innovative Creativity FabLab, where you
can delineate something for yourself, make a prototype of the product.
This is the Customer development laboratory, where specially trained people
will help with sales. This year we are launching a digital marketing
laboratory, where there will be such cool things as testing a product using an
electroencephalograph, which measures a person's cognitive reactions to any
content. Finally, "B-51" – is also mentoring support for startups
from existing entrepreneurs", – says Osadchenko.
The funnel is roughly the following: during the academic year, the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship covers about 5 thousand people; by
the new year, about 100 startups of different quality are born. Almost 50
remain at the exit, for which, according to Osadchenko, one is not ashamed. And
about 10 of them can actually surge forward.
Wednesday did not oppress
One of the successful startups of the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship
graduates – is the digital platform (marketplace for business) Supl.biz. The
company – is one of the drivers for the development of end-to-end digital
technologies (AI and new production technologies) in Tomsk. The platform
aggregates a large amount of data, now it has more than 700 thousand orders for
a total of $2,2 billion.
And it was born in 2013, when the co-founder of the project Dmitry
Prokopyev studied at the Institute of International Management (the predecessor
of the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship).
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"Entrepreneurial thinking – is the ability to aggregate various information and turn it into value for the world, create a new entity. Sitting at home with a pen and a notebook, it is very difficult to come up with a good idea for a business", – believes Dmitry Prokopyev.
"I entered the evening department – I wanted to gain entrepreneurial
skills. During my studies, we came up with several different startups and
discussed the idea with my partner at Supl.biz. The training helped me
understand what a good manager is, how to assemble a team, how to manage it
effectively, how to attract investments The company managed to get a grant from
the Fund for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises, which allowed it to
start growing, we passed acceleration of Internet Initiatives Development Fund.
And it is extremely important that we got into the right environment, met
people (from among teachers and mentors) who already had a successful business,
and, in principle, all classmates were eager to create something of their own.
The environment is super important, especially at a young age, when you have no
experience", – says Dmitry.
Currently, he is involved in the strategic development of the company, and
considers the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship as his main place of work –
he returned to alma mater after receiving his PhD at Polytechnic University of
Milan and became the Deputy Director for Development at the School of Engineering Entrepreneurship. Prokopiev smiles: "I really
like our university", and explains:
"As a community expert, I myself learn a lot from this environment. I
believe that our school – is one of the strongest in Tomsk, that works with
technological entrepreneurship, we are well represented in Russia and work with
Projects at the school are also trying to be done in a trend – and in the
near future agrotech, medical tech, everything related to robotization, AI,
education and overcoming the consequences of COVID-19 will clearly grow.
Aleksander Osadchenko adds:
"We are training a kind of engineering special forces: these are, on
the one hand, engineers with deep basic knowledge of physics, chemistry,
mathematics. On the other hand, people with an entrepreneurial mindset, who
have a talent for predicting the future and achieving the implementation of
their ideas faster. A classic engineer often does everything according to the
technical task. An engineer-entrepreneur writes this technical task himself".
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TPU School of Engineering Entrepreneurship