The Moscow Innovation Pilot Program is a unique open innovation tool implemented in Moscow, Russia. It enables small and medium-sized technology companies from all over the world to test their innovative solutions in Moscow at more than 150 urban and commercial facilities and, most importantly, to receive feedback from various groups of citizens (as well as top specialists) about the characteristics and user experience of tested innovative solutions.
On the basis of this feedback (and organizational support from the Moscow City Government) innovators can improve the potential of their products for application and scaling, drastically reduce the time between idea and the real market and swiftly pass the most critical stage of development, avoiding lobbying or spending time on communication with the city administration and corporations – who, in return, receive the cutting-edge products.
Institutional design of the Program is also a result of open innovation approach: it was developed during multilateral dialogue conducted in working groups with representatives of the key stakeholders – citizens, startups, SMEs, city administration, large corporations, etc.
The key goals of the Program are:
- To foster citizen engagement in innovative development by involving people of all gender, ethnicity, class and age in testing innovations and providing their opinion on them, and to make city innovation policy more transparent.
- To improve the quality of life, especially of citizens with special needs, by introduction of cutting-edge innovative solutions.
- To connect large business and startups in order to test important hypotheses and to customize products according to business needs.
- To help tech startups and SMEs receive feedback from potential customers and place their products onto the market.
- To provide other cities of the world with an easily replicable tool of innovative development.
Sustainability and inclusion
The Program is aimed at improving urban sustainability by establishing and enhancing a public-private partnership that connects the key stakeholders interested in creating innovative products and innovative development of the city in general.
The underlying principle of the Program is to involve citizens of all gender, ethnicity, class and age in testing innovations so that Moscow would become a more inclusive city, comfortable for everyone. By the way, to make Moscow “a city for everyone” is also the Moscow Mayor’s motto.
At that, the Program addresses gender inequality: it enables innovative companies, many of which are led by women or have a large proportion of women employees, to put their products on the market. This, in turn, encourages women innovators to establish their own businesses or work in the sphere of innovations, helping them improve their career and achieve new life goals. Also, by engaging citizens in the process of testing innovative products, the Program helps women find new solutions that can improve their everyday life and the life of their families.
Since one of the key goal of Program is to make Moscow more comfortable for people with special needs, many of piloted innovations belong to this sphere, for instance:
- “VOICE VISION”.
The sound vision solution “VoiCe vision” includes glasses with built-in video camera and bone conduction headphones. The device is designed with use of the Peter Meyer’s sensory substitution algorithm. The unique technology allows you to “see” the surrounding space using your hearing. The device converts the image captured by the external camera into an audio track according to the specified algorithm. The users of “VoiCe Vision” turn from blind to visually impaired – with prolonged use of the device, the brain zones responsible for visual sensations are activated. The person senses the picture.
“VoiCe vision” is the only device in the world that solves the problem of spatial orientation for blind people by providing them with the opportunity to see the world through sounds.
In 2019, with the support of the Moscow Innovation Pilot Program the pilot testing of the solution was carried out at the site of the “Boarding House for Visually Impaired persons” (Moscow City Government, Department of Labor and Social Protection). As a result, the institution purchased several devices for its own needs, and a decision was made on the further larger-scale implementation of the device in the urban infrastructure.
After first successful implementation, Moscow Innovation Pilot Program helped to scale up the project. Preparation for mass use of the product was conducted in cooperation with the Russian State Library for the Blind, the largest specialized library in the Russian Federation.
- “RAY” ELECTRONIC CANE.
The ultrasound cane is a small, portable and lightweight device (50 g) powered by 2 rechargeable batteries and fits in any pocket. The obstacles can be recognized at distance of up to 2.85 meters, and the device will notify its owner about this by means of a sound signal or vibration (the user can choose between these two modes). Ray also includes light probe function with acoustic or tactile alerts. Thus, Ray detects things that are beyond the reach of conventional canes. Electronic cane is more informative and safer to move around a big city as it alerts the owner about all obstacles on his way at distance of even nearly 3 meters.
The pilot testing was carried out in the Russian State Library for blind people. The data collected allowed to prove the concept and launch its mass production.
Organization and funding
The Program is run by the Moscow Agency of Innovations, agency of the Moscow City municipality supporting innovations, a subsidiary organization of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development of Moscow City.
The Program is funded by the Moscow City Government, which covers all expenses on pilot testing project management, document workflow, solution expertise and PR support, while SMEs and pilot testing sites cover the technical issues of the piloting process.
In 2016-2019, the Program was run in a test regime based on the “open calls” system: the Moscow city departments formulated tasks relevant for the city, and startups submitted their solutions for the contest. Depending on the type of solution, the Moscow Agency of Innovations partnered with a corresponding organization (i.e., hospital) to test the solution in practice.
During this period, the Moscow Agency of Innovations conducted analytics of the Moscow innovation ecosystem, studied international experience and worked with the key stakeholders – citizens, startups, SMEs, representatives of the city administration, large corporations, etc. – to develop a Program design which would suit their interest the best. As a result, unique methodology was developed for all stages of the Program:
- Assessing applications for participation in the Program;
- Conducting expertise of innovative products submitted for piloting;
- Conducting pilot testing of innovative products and collecting feedback from users;
- Analyzing the collected data and preparing the final report on pilot testing.
When the Program design was complete, it was launched on the full scale on the basis of Decree of the Government of Moscow “On pilot testing of innovative solutions in the city of Moscow” No. 631-PP dated 05/27/2020.
The cycle of piloting takes up to 6 months, averaging 3-4 months, and includes 7 stages:
- The pilot site providers publish their requests on i.moscow IT portal – a web platform connecting members of the Moscow innovative ecosystem.
- The solution development company submits an application at i.moscow.
- The pilot site provider selects solutions to be tested that match its request.
- Experts and pilot site provider assess the chosen solution and develop a custom piloting methodology together with the solution development company.
- A tripartite treaty is signed by the solution development company, pilot site provider and the Moscow Agency of Innovations.
- Pilot site provider and solution development company run a pilot, conduct permanent monitoring and collect citizens’ feedback.
- Pilot site provider prepares a follow-up report with recommendations on further development / implementation of the product.
Design of the Program makes it an easily replicable open innovation tool for other cities, especially in Russia, since it is tailored to the specifics of Russian innovation ecosystem, normative, institutional and organizational framework.
The results of the Program prove it to be an effective tool for urban innovative development, especially for creating new opportunities for tech startups and SMEs and engaging citizens in urban innovation development. The Moscow Agency of Innovations is willing to share its experience by conducting roundtables, workshops and “deep dives” on particular aspects of the Program.
The Program has already involved more than 15,000 citizens in the process of testing innovative products in the city. A considerable proportion of them are youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities, since most of the piloted innovations are aimed at improving quality of life of these groups (see examples below).
Since the launch of the Program, hi-tech companies submitted more than 1,500 requests for testing their innovative products, and more than 120 of them have been piloted.
The Program is constantly developing: it is joined by new pilot testing sites, startups and SMEs willing to test their products. After piloting, the city administration continues to support innovative companies by providing them with expert support, financial support (subsidies and grants), information and PR support.