The Youth Science and Technology Innovation Contest (YSTIC) is a Russian program that was first launched in 2007. It is designed to find and support young scientists who seek self-fulfillment by means of innovative activity, and to motivate youths to participate in scientific and technical activities by organizing and funding various innovative projects. During the contest, students, and post-graduates, young scientists from academic and specialized research institutes, and innovation enterprise employees go through several stages of a selection process, during which they introduce their own scientific developments to the experts. The winner receives two years funding of 200,000 rubles per year toward their own research in the field of scientific and experimental development. St. Petersburg State Technological Institute graduate Maksim Vasiliev is a YSTIC finalist. Today, he shares his thoughts about the contest and reveals how he has benefited from participating it in.
Maksim, you have been through the selection process, and now you are among the YSTIC finalists. In your opinion, how useful are such contests for youth and entry-level engineers from Russia?
In terms of applied research and new scientific intensive businesses, participation in YSTIC is a must. Such contests are very interesting, since, at the final stage of scientific research work and the initial stage of experimental design, there are only a very small number of such support programs in Russia. Educational and research institutes are not so interested in the initial stage of experimental design developments, it is too early to secure investments from industrial enterprises, and to get venture capital funding you need to first introduce a prototype. I am thankful to Bortnik’s fund and to the YSTIC contest organizers for giving me the opportunity to advance my work and remain in science and research.
What project did you bring to the contest, what was your goal?
The idea of my project was the development of an energy and resource-saving device for the production of fine emulsions and nanoparticle disaggregation. We are planning for the device to be implemented in companies that are working with chemical and petrochemical technologies, refining, producing nanoparticles, food, cosmetic products, pharmaceutical drugs, etc. The main features of the device are design simplicity, portability and a tubular configuration that provides process continuity, leading to increased efficiency. The most significant advantage is that, during the production of fine emulsion, this device consumes 4.5 times less energy than the traditional devices that are currently used in the industry.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your project?
One of the biggest strengths of my project lies in its industry orientation, scientific innovation, patent application and a number of scientific publications. In addition, there is a company that has realized the advantages of this device compared to its existing technology.
The project’s weakness, as strange as it seems, appears to be the sheer number of different products I could have created. At times, this threatened to detract my focus, waste my energy and prevent me from having any products ready in time. As such, I had to commit myself to one single direction for the project and to make sure I didn’t deviate from it.
What makes your development useful, how do you see the final product?
The project is called “Development of an energy and resource-saving device for production of fine emulsions and nanoparticle disaggregation.” We are planning on bringing the energy-saving device to market, where it can be used to produce food products (milk, mayonnaise, sauces), cosmetic products (lotions, creams, etc.), pharmaceutical preparations, and chemical technologies.
Speaking about the contest, how did it help you to achieve your goal?
The winner gets a grant of 400.000 rubles over two years to fund their work. This is a great help. However, the expert feedback I received during the selection stage was also invaluable. After receiving the feedback, I started to focus more on the main direction of the project development and the key characteristics of my technology, both of which will be very important in terms of mass production.
Maksim, what future do you think is awaiting the contest winners?
Although 400.000 rubles over two years is not a huge amount of money, the winner gets the opportunity to take a part in the YSTIC START contest through which he or she can build up their own personal high-tech company. Presentations and discussions with contest experts are invaluable in preparing winners for the commercialization of their products; i.e., the actual creation of a commercial, market-orientated product. In Saint Petersburg, the YSTIC program is represented by Politechnicheskiy Industrial Park, which includes the Politechnicheskiy Business Incubator. The Politechnicheskiy Business Incubator provides practical assistance, arranges consultations with experts, various training, and seminars and also helps to raise funding for key projects.
What advice can you give to the future contestants?
I think that the technology business is one of the most interesting and fascinating career opportunities out there. So, if you understand the technology and have identified real issues that can be solved by your product, and if you have confidence in yourself, don’t let this opportunity pass you by. The contest provides a perfect opportunity for you to implement your own ideas and projects while receiving expert guidance and financial support.