GenerationS: Could you please tell how your cooperation with "EFKO" SC started and developed?
Alexander Kolbas: I met "EFKO" SC and Innovation center "Biruch" at the GenerationS-2015 pre-accelerator. The company was a partner of BiotechMed track. Colleagues from the innovation center distinguished the project and offered to talk of possible cooperation — requested information about the project, development status and demands. At that moment we were interested exactly in attraction of a strong industrial partner, not the investments and I seized this chance. Our next meeting was in Tomsk at the accelerator where I took the samples of our products and all materials. We agreed on the definite cooperation steps.
I passed through training in the "Biruch" Management School, get acquainted with the laboratory equipment, looked at "EFKO" plants in Belgorod region. I was really impressed with the scale of production. Throughout the entire way from pre-accelerator to graduation from the GenerationS-2015 acceleration program, "Biruch" IC provided support and, besides the grant in BiotechMed nomination, concluded a cooperation agreement and a contract for equipment modernization and technical documentation for one its productions. We planned a production experiment in integration of our technology and should produce the pre-production prototype.
Unfortunately, here we faced some problems. We are a start-up and don't have our own production, and the tries to come to agreement with the other plants of producing a prototype based on our designs were not successful. No one wanted to accept an order for a single product sample. That is why we lost 2 years. In generation, this is a typical problem for production, biotechnology and biomedical start-ups — significant investments in the equipment, premises, and specialists are required, and a start-up just doesn't have them. Investors are not ready to invest in the project that wasn't proved in industry conditions. Because of this problem many good start-ups are not taken further. But we were lucky — when the management of the innovation center learned about this situation, they offered assistance, resources and a venue to complete production of the prototype and test it. Thus, our cooperation was taken on a new level.
GenerationS: What opportunities for the project development does "Biruch-NT" innovation center offer?
Alexander Kolbas: To my mind, "Biruch-NT" innovation center is a unique and the only private center in Russia that invests its effort, competences and money in the industrial start-ups. They act as experts, consultants and mentors, help with project development and are ready to become the first start-up customer, and this is extremely important for a small company to survive. "Biruch-NT" innovation center offered to my project to create a joint pilot project related to equipment modernization at "EFKO" SC. Technical specification and work plan were approved, finance and the necessary resources of the design bureau were provided. And now we are moving forward to real integration of the technology in the production.
GenerationS: Could you please tell us of your work in the innovation center — what climate is there is the schedule severe?