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Conference report, February 7, KPI

The first major conference of the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance took place on February 7 and was dedicated to cooperation of clusters with scientific and educational institutions in development of innovative ecosystems and personnel training. The conference was held in hybrid mode and gathered more than 100 participants. Participation in offline mode at the National Technical University “KPI named after Igor Sikorskyi” was taken by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, 5 universities, 6 UCA clusters (APPAU, Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Poltava, Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad), representatives of USAID. Participants of the conference demonstrated a high level of consolidation of the organized community of clusters of Ukraine, including universities, regarding the key challenges and tasks of development. 2 joint declarations were adopted: an appeal to the authorities and other interested parties and also a joint Resolution-decision of the conference.

Conference discussions, best practices

The forum began with the panel discussion “The best practices of cluster cooperation between higher education institutions and business during the war.”

Oksana Krukevych, head of the science and innovations directorate expert group on Innovation Development, presented 3 categories of innovation support: digital, financial and information-communication. Among them, UCA participants are specially attracted by the COST innovative network, Science and Business platform, Info Science Bot (Telegram channel), as well as Science & Business project implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science.

Oleksandr Stepanets, BOWI Project Manager at the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, spoke about development of KPI DIH 4.0 Center. The theme of DIHs, their expansion and better integration into the European network was central to this conference, so the experience of the BOWI project in this area is currently the best in Ukraine. During the year the KPI DIH 4.0 Center  project conducted a competition of 55 startups , selected 4 of them for innovative experiments (60 thousand euros), which provides systematic support . Also, about 20 KPI experts regularly participate in UCA educational and consulting activities in the EIF program.

The Lviv startup school was represented by its head Nazar Podolchak from the  Lviv Polytechnic National University. Lviv experience is positioned in UCA as # 1 in Ukraine for development of innovative ecosystem of the city and the region. Systematicity, inclusion of numerous tools for development of innovation, projects for tens of millions of hryvnias with involvement of numerous funds, successful interaction with authorities and orientation to the best Western examples – the main features of this case from Nazar Podolchak.

Project Aviacore 4.0, represented by Ph.D., professor Vyacheslav Kharchenko from the M. Zhukovsky National Aerospace University “Kharkiv Aviation Institute” (KHAI) is another benchmark – an example to follow for other universities. V. Kharchenko’s team started in 2018 as the Center 4.0 KHAI and gradually increased experience and resources in the field of industry 4.0. In 2021, KHAI won the Aviacore 4.0 project for creation of Center for Research and Examination of Industry 4.0 in Kharkiv. The cost of the project is about 3 million euros, and it is implemented jointly with the Fraunhofer automation institute from Germany. The first public events of the project took place in January 2022 together with APPAU.

The Zaporizhzhya Polytechnic projects were represented by Andriy Karpenko, professor of the “Zaporizhzhya Polytechnic” National University . In 2021-22, in the Zaporizhzhya region real and intensive cooperation of the local EAM cluster with the Polytechnic began. Prerequisites and factors of strengthening this cooperation also come from their own university projects, among which DAAD and WORK4CE are the most significant. DIH is planned in 2022.

Oleksandr Yurchak, UCA head and moderator of this panel, stressed that creation and dissemination of the best practices of universities’ cooperation with industrial sectors business communities in development of innovations and training remains the # 1 method in the framework of consolidation in cluster movement.

In the following discussion “How to Strengthen Collaboration of Universities and Business in Joint Reaction to Wartime”, Olexander also presented experience and results of the EIF innovative fundraising program for 2022 and development directions in 2023. The program is a flagship in UCA and APPAU and last year almost EURO 1 mln were raised for innovative experiments and development of SMEs. Its key feature is provision of services for SMEs through DIH-I, and in 2022 the program actively cooperated in this with 2 DIHs, from KPI and Kyiv Academic University (KAU).

The topic of practical education was raised by Yuri Klimenko, head of the Vinnytsia automation and instrument making cluster. The key theses of practical oriented education are reflected in the corresponding declaration of conference participants and concern, in addition to improving in the field of dual education, also three other forms:

  • Project oriented programs (practical training programs).
  • Business initiated training program of enterprises’ personnel, which are institutionalized at corporate level, including training and retraining programs.
  • Practical training programs that involve formation of stable skills in using industry 4.0 tools.

Activities of the Poltava State Agrarian University and 4.0 Сenter, created on its basis, in the conditions of war were represented by Center head Volodymyr Muravliov. The Center provides services not only to local SMEs but also to territorial communities (TC), and in this context, its experience is probably the best in Ukraine. These services relate to audit of TC resources, as well as individual decisions as creating an automated TC material resource management system. Volodymyr Muravliov also presented separate innovative solutions of dual use technologies, which are now actively developed by the staff of the Center 4.0.

Panel discussion “Development of innovation clusters in regions and industries – prospects for 2023” focused on specific directions in cooperation of clusters and universities for 2023. Oleksandr Yurchak, UCA, presented a detailed vision of DIH network development in Ukraine, see Declaration.

Vitaliy Zaitsev, Kharkiv IAM cluster director, spoke about initiatives of the cluster in development of cooperation with universities. Despite difficult working conditions of relocated enterprises, the cluster continues its work and consolidates members of Kharkiv engineering community in various projects in Ukraine and abroad.

Serhiy Sergienko, innovative holding deputy director,  spoke about Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine projects. In the experience of the incubator, the factor of geographical expansion is interesting – branches of the holding are opened in 10 regions of the country, as well as abroad (7 countries).

Video of the conference with interviews of several key speakers:

Decisions and statements of conference participants

The conference presented a number of documents consolidated in the community of clusters and universities:

  • Declaration on development of DIH network focuses on the need to develop this tool to support digitalization of SMEs as a key institution. DIHs network has been actively developing in the EU since 2014 and today has more than 600 support centers. But still, despite all the declarations of support for the course towards the EU, Ukrainian authorities are not supported in this role. Conference participants call on the Government and the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine to change this situation in our country by creating a special program to support the network of Ukrainian DIHs.
  • Declaration on practice-oriented education changes perception of dual education as the only way to improve practical skills of graduates of higher education institutions. Conference participants also offer other methods (listed above) and emphasize their necessity in the context of growing employment problems for college and higher education graduates, ineffectiveness of dual education forms for SMEs, and the need for teachers to undergo internships.
  • In the end, the final RESOLUTION of the conference summarizes all decisions and calls on the Government and international donors to take decisive steps to create and develop three basic institutions:
    1. a state institution capable of systematically supporting development of Industry 4.0-5.0 in Ukraine (currently no such an institution).
    2. networks of innovation clusters aimed at development of internal value added chains of production sectors (Industry, Energy, Infrastructure, Transport, Medicine).
    3. a network of Industry 4.0 Expertise Centers built on the principles of European Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs).

and which today practically do not have adequate support from state structures.

Key outcomes and next steps

So, for the first time in the experience of holding similar conferences by Industry 4.0 communities and the cluster movement, the participants demonstrated a strong “institutional” focus. Expert positions on dominance of institutions over instruments were heard many times before among Industry4Ukraine business associations, but for the first time they received such strong support.

It is obvious that this focus and the corresponding solutions are very important and necessary not only for the future Recovery of Ukraine, but also now – in times when it is necessary to demonstrate Resilience of market participants and innovative ecosystems. Their unity in innovative cluster establishment of a real and powerful SME support system through DIHs and with much better coordination from an authorized central government body is the key to stability of the economic front, faster assistance to the Armed Forces and integration into the European Union’s value added chains.

Important conclusions of the conference should also include:

  • a powerful union of representatives of clusters and universities.
  • presence and agreements on cooperation with the national scientific and technical association, which unites the country’s leading science parks.
  • identifying and recording best practices from universities and clusters.

Ukrainian Cluster Alliance, as a co-organizer of the conference, expresses its sincere thanks to the leadership of the Igor Sikorskyi National Technical University KPI for supporting the event, as well as to all participants and partners.

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