MIT Will Help Develop a New Graduate Research University Near Moscow

October 26, 2011

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Russia's Skolkovo Foundation announced on Wednesday plans to develop a new graduate research university near Moscow. The university will be located in a technology park in Skolkovo that has been described as Russia's future Silicon Valley.

The arrangement concludes two years of negotiations.

The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, or SkTech, will enroll 1,200 graduate students and 300 postgraduate students, and employ about 200 faculty members, according to MIT. Its five degree programs will be focused around several interdisciplinary areas, including biomedical science, nuclear science, and space science.

The head of the Skolkovo Foundation, Vikor Vekselberg, said MIT would also help to develop 15 research centers in Russia, according to Russian media.

The new university will receive foundation support and is expected to attract financing from private companies as well.

The new university will not carry MIT's name, but faculty from the institute will be integrally involved in curricular design and faculty recruitment, according to The Boston Globe. The university's first president is an MIT engineering professor, Edward Crawley, and MIT faculty members are expected to collaborate with Russian colleagues.

The technology park where the new university is to be located has received significant backing from the Russian government. It has signed agreements with about 200 companies, including Google, Intel, Microsoft, Siemens, Boeing, IBM, Nokia, and Cisco, which committed to invest over $1-billion on a project called Virtual Skolkovo.

The compound is intended to develop close ties between the nation's higher-education system and existing science centers. The technology park's five-year goal is to be generating thousands of Ph.D. graduates in physics, electronics, and biotechnology.

Russian partners stressed the importance of the new university's independence. "To avoid corruption and bureaucratic complications, the new institute aims to stay independent from the state," Konstantin Severinov, a professor of molecular biology who consulted with MIT during negotiations, told The Chronicle.

"Our main priority is to stay absolutely independent and transparent," Seda Pumpyanskaya, the Skolkovo Foundation's vice president, said in an interview with The Chronicle.

Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, who sees Skolkovo as a means to help Russia diversify its economy away from oil, endorsed the deal at a separate technology-related event in Moscow. "I know, the work took you a long time, you had discussions about how to work and what to do," Mr. Medvedev said Wednesday during the opening of a nanotechnology trade show. "I am glad that it all worked out."

The first students will enroll in 2014.