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Why partner with Russia?

Last month I attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia, along with our CEO John Chambers. Together we participated in the Skolkovo Foundation Council Meeting (held quarterly) where we discussed strategies for increased momentum for Skolkovo. During the forum, John reiterated Cisco’s long-term approach to the country and highlighted the growth and potential of Russia within the context of tough economic times elsewhere in the world – a tremendous opportunity both for Cisco and for Russia.

Two years ago we made a commitment to support the Russian Government’s modernization agenda. Since then we have achieved visible progress in promoting a close partnership with the Russian Government by:

  • Aligning our activities in Russia with the country’s government course
  • Supporting Russia’s intention to modernize its economy and infrastructure, building upon the legacy of innovation that is a part of Cisco’s DNA
  • Offering technology and knowledge to help Russia achieve its national goals
  • Putting our positive stance on public-private partnerships and collaboration into action

A global company like Cisco is involved in public-private partnerships in innovating and renewing communities in many countries of the world. In Paredes, Portugal, Cisco is collaborating with Living PlanIT to develop PlanIT Valley, a sustainable community built on technology that transforms the area into a connected community running on next generation technology. Another example is Cisco’s work with McCaffery Interests in redeveloping the Chicago waterfront to revitalize the area.

I often get asked though, why partner with Russia? I wanted to share some of our thinking with you.

At Cisco, we view Skolkovo as a platform for future growth and innovation of new and emerging technologies. Russia is home to world-class talent in basic and applied sciences, offers a great education system that creates a workforce that has the ability to think differently, and a tenacious and persistent work ethic. These qualities in addition to Russia’s rich history and tradition of discoveries in science and research that has extended for centuries, makes it a perfect choice for Cisco’s innovation incubation efforts.

Cisco is invested in the success of Skolkovo. Earlier this year we outlined our Research and Development plans with the Skolkovo Foundation and are already executing on them. We are now beginning to hire our first engineering team in Russia focused on developing new emerging technologies.

Our plans at Skolkovo don’t stop at software development. As a key partner of the Foundation, we are actively involved in many important areas. For innovation to thrive, the right creative environment is required for the free flow of ideas and capital. Later this year, Cisco will support startups with funding through the launch of our second Skolkovo Innovation Award, focused on discovering and rewarding new promising startups in the areas of Healthcare and Education. We will provide technology and tools to all participants and reward the best startups with seed funding. The support for entrepreneurs through venture capital funding is in line with Cisco’s strategy to nurture innovation from talented people all over the world, as our work with the Almaz/Cisco Venture Capital Fund shows. To date, the Almaz/Cisco Fund has invested in 12 companies, of which 2 have residency in Skolkovo, and another 3 are in the process of applying for residency.

In the area of education, we will launch Cisco’s Entrepreneur Institute at Skolkovo Technopark, which will train Skolkovo Residents on how to develop and grow successful IT businesses. Beyond Skolkovo, we plan to partner with Russian educational institutions on joint technology development and research projects for emerging technologies. This will allow graduate students and researchers to co-develop technologies with Cisco engineers and validate their research against the needs of the marketplace. This extends our education investment in Cisco. Another example is our Networking Academy program in Russia, which was refined a year ago when Cisco announced its intention to triple the number of academies in this country, from 217 to 650, enabling 16,000 Russians to be trained each year by 2015. We are well on our way to meeting this goal.

In closing, we believe there is tremendous opportunity in Russia and we applaud the country for investing in its future and its people by spurring innovation, job creation and economic growth.

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