KonFest is a really diverse event. First of all, it is a "live" conference, i.e. the participants can first listen to lectures by the invited speakers and then meet them and their colleagues to have an informal discussion. Secondly, KonFest is also a festival: apart from lectures, it also features "brain rings", discussions styled after boxing matches where opponents defend two opposite standpoints and are moderated by a “referee”.

KonFest's main organizers are members of the QBit agency, Valery Platonov and Pavel Savchenko. The agency has been working in the field of intellectual capital since 1999. According to Valery Platonov, KonFest's main goal is aimed at the future.

"We both have children, and we want them to stay in our beautiful country after they graduate, says Valery. We don't want the brain leak to continue: we are well capable of launching great companies on our territory. In order for people to have jobs, someone has to offer them. We collaborate with ITMO University, as it is one of Russia's forward-thinking universities. They have program tracks that we are interested in, and we want them to explain to their students which specialists are currently sought-after by the industry".

KonFest 2018. Credit: social networks
KonFest 2018. Credit: social networks

The QBit agency is the university's partner, and the businessmen will participate in the upcoming Open Day at ITMO University.

This year's KonFest was dedicated to the K2B (Knowledge to Business) sector and brought together speakers from most different fields: government officials, business coaches, heads of advertising agencies and such. Among the speakers were also Marina Lebedeva, Deputy Dean on Strategic Development and Communications of ITMO's Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations and Nina Yanykina, Head of ITMO's Institute of Entrepreneurship.

ITMO.NEWS put down the highlights of the event's key speakers.

Göran Roos, specialist in the field of intellectual capital and author of "Managing Intellectual Capital in Practice": How companies work with resources and will machine learning ever replace us

People often mix up intellectual capital and intangible property. Intellectual capital is a type of property, a resource.

Still, possessing some resource shouldn't be a goal in itself; it is an essential, but an insufficient condition. Managing resources means knowing how to allocate them. If I were to give you ten specialists, your profits won't grow by ten times just because of that. What is important is how you will use them. Allocating resources is about transforming one resource into another. All transformations are possible, but not all are essential for a particular organization.

Göran Roos
Göran Roos

In order to decide which resources we consider important, we can use a technique from system dynamics, namely the influence diagram. In general, there are two things that you should know about a company: what's happening and if it's important or not. Not all things in an organization matter, but if they do, you have to know them and plan your strategy accordingly.

To get results in the long run, you have to focus on not the results but rather the means to attain them. In essence, you have to generate the amount of money that is necessary for the system's development.

What is the future of artificial intelligence in company management? First of all, you have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of humans and machines. For example, let's take one of AI's aspects, machine learning. Machine learning doesn't really understand what it's doing: it recognizes patterns and learns to improve its results as it gets new data.

As for humans, if you can do something well, you will do everything right in most cases. Surely, there'll be mistakes, but making grave mistakes is unlikely. Machine learning shows great results: machines don't make mistakes in 99% of instances. Still, the remaining 1% of mistakes are likely to be terminal, which is why there should always be a human involved in every process.

The second issue has to do with understanding what exactly machine learning learns. There's a classical example for it from Canadian agriculture. Developers wanted to teach a machine to identify sheep on pictures and showed it some hundred thousand images. Then they conducted a scientific investigation in order to uncover what exactly the machine learned. It turned out that it learned to recognize the beautiful landscapes from the backgrounds and not the sheep.

Artificial intelligence is an instrument that we make use of. Throughout our whole history, we've been working with instruments, and we were in the lead. It is I who decide how to use a hammer, not vice-versa. When using machine learning, the machine can have more power than I do: it has more data and better efficiency. Therefore, when designing human-machine interactions, you have to make it so that the power balance is in favor of humans.

Nina Yanikina: How sharing services will affect the K2B market

We can well call the K2B market a market of intellectual resources. Its key participants are those who produce content and those who interact with them in the course of business activities. Who are they?

First of all, the suppliers of intellectual knowledge are research organizations and universities. This works for both Russian and international markets. In other countries, many organizations conduct research and make it into a product right away, and then such products are being further developed as startups. In Russia, we’ve been living in the conditions of a market-driven economy for several decades already, and see how it gradually develops.

Still, there’s an important issue: there’s no property culture in the Russian K2B market. How do we perceive intellectual products? I know it, therefore I own it and I can use it to my advantage. This is quite an obstacle, but we have to live with it.

Nina Yanikina
Nina Yanikina

Other providers and generators of intellectual products are companies, primarily major technology companies such as Yandex, Mail.ru and other.

The state is yet another essential participant of the K2B market. On one hand, the state owns most assets in the market-driven economy. 80% of corporations’ capital in Russia belongs to the government. What is more, the state owns universities, research institutions and the Academy of Sciences. In this regard, it has a great effect on the K2B market’s development. On the other, the state a policy maker, and sets the development paths that we follow.

An essential category of K2B’s market participants are people and communities. Their interests can be identified by using the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, starting with physiological and safety needs and up to esteem and self-actualization.

As for K2B market's development, let us consider it with regard to the effect of the development of technology and knowledge economy. As of now, digital technologies affect all fields of human activity, from the basic consumer behavior to the business processes of corporations.

One of the key processes here is the emergence of sharing economics. We can observe more and more attempts at removing the state from working with intellectual assets. For instance, the iPChain association, which is comprised of several subjects of the B2B market that have created an independent digital platform that makes use of AI, distributed ledger technology, blockchain and smart contracts. This solution makes it possible for a developer (a company or an individual person) to upload their product on the platform, fix their rights and gain income, sidestepping any patent authority. For now, there aren't many systems like that, but new ones continue to emerge. Such services don't offer the same patents as governmental agencies do, but that can change, as well.

The Higher School of Economics has once conducted a research on five development stages of sharing economics. The first is "second-hand" sharing (libraries, museums, etc.), then - the emergence of torrents, then the integration of online and offline services (UBER). Now we've come to social sharing. It has to do with not just the basic needs, but also esteem needs by making it possible to "share" social statuses. I no longer need to buy an extremely expensive car to impress my colleagues: I can rent a hi-end car from UBER.

The next stage will be close to an ideal state of affairs when middlemen will be excluded from all resource distribution processes. Consulting agencies, technological brokers, communication agencies that focus on science communication - they might all disappear on this final stage of sharing economics.

Personally, I have several hypotheses on which trends will affect the B2B market in the following few years. First of all, AI will be introduced everywhere and replace both players and middlemen. Secondly, that would be gigonomics - the economics of freelancers. More and more individuals will be producing content independently from companies. Thirdly, state authorities will no longer partake in registering patents.