This year, the event took place for the fourth time. In just three years, what was once an intradepartmental initiative has become a major international project. Last year, the conference was conducted as a preliminary round for the PICARD Youth Forum. It was also the time when the International Customs Students Association (the ICSA) was founded - its main goal to contribute to development of international relations and promotion of academic collaboration between students.

In 2017, the i-Customs conference was conducted under the ICSA's umbrella and gathered more than 100 participants from 15 countries; according to Аndrey Nikolaev, Chairman of ICSA's Organizing Committee, authors of 18 best projects of the conference’s first offsite round were invited to St. Petersburg to present their work. For the first time in the conference's history, participants from different countries gathered into teams so as to complete collaborative research projects.

Participants of the i-Science conference

"Our partners from different universities - from Finland, the Phillipines and Ukraine - supported our idea that we shall study a common problem, but from the different sides of the border. We have different statistical data, and participants from different countries often find it hard to get inside information due to access restrictions. Thanks to us working together, the process of gathering and processing information was controlled by our scientific advisors who are renowned professionals in their fields, thus we were able to conduct great research which can give important application results. We hope that conducting such collaborative research will become a great new tradition," comments Andrey Nikolaev.

Elena Gordeeva, I-Customs Project Director, underlines that since its founding, the conference did not only find partners from all over the world, but also strengthened the ties between different Russian universities. The idea has already been supported in Samara, where a regional round of the i-Customs conference took place this year; two of its participants were invited to the conference's final round in St. Petersburg. A similar project will be conducted at Tyumen State University next year. The increase in participants from different regions of Russia and all over the world, as well as international collaboration on the conference's projects bears evidence to further promotion of student intercommunication in the field of international commerce and customs.

"When we created the project, our initial idea was that despite the political differences, we have to consolidate the young people, as they can start communicating and solve problems together. This is a great tendency: it seems that international student collaboration will continue to develop with each year. We underline that younger people have to cooperate and contribute to the development of academic collaboration that knows no political borders," comments Elena Gordeeva.

Projects by individuals and teams were assessed by an international jury consisting of Hao Wu (Brussels, Belgium), a representative of the Worlds Customs Organization, GennadiyBrovka, Dean of the Management Technology and Humanitarization Faculty of the Belarusian National Technical University, professors Nadia Degli Antoni and Cesare Gagliardi from Verona University, and Andres Rohde, President of International Customs Law Academy (ICLA). Wieslaw Czyzowicz, professor for the Warsaw School of Economics, acted as scientific advisor for the conference.

Elena Gordeeva and Andres Rohde

"I took a look at several reports and I can already say that this year, their level is much higher than last year. And what's most important is that such international collaboration is becoming more common. This is what ICSA was created for - not just exchange of opinions, but conduction of collaborative research projects, underlines Wieslaw Czyzowicz. It's great that at ITMO University and other universities that partake in this conference, students actively develop such projects and overcome national and international barriers. Science is international, and its problems, especially in such fields as customs affairs, are similar in different countries. That is why we should use common scientific and methodological approaches. Another important thing is that similar propositions and solutions are already being reflected in the students' reports."

During the conference's on-site round, participants from Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Belarus and Finland presented their collaboration projects. Anna Prianichnikova and Niki Pleser from the Lapland University of Applied Sciences, and Ekaterina Kalmykova and Nelli Galiyeva from ITMO University conducted a study on the balance of domestic and foreign markets in Finland and Russia. All in all, it took them three months to complete the project.

"We distributed responsibilities in such a way that we could study both Russian and Finnish documents and conduct a complete and objective analysis. Our subject is most interesting, and working in collaboration complies with the latest tendencies of education and research. Thanks to that, we got a lot of new information, and we will be glad to collaborate with Russian students in the future," share Anna Prianichnikova and Niki Pleser from the Lapland University of Applied Sciences.

Anzelika Krastina, Head of the Lapland University of Applied Sciences' International Relations Office, notes that the collaboration can be further developed as soon as next year.

"Though it was our first time collaborating with ITMO University, we found common approaches and achieved understanding on all the important issues. We definitely plan to develop this collaboration and bring several teams next year. What is more, we can organize a common school where lecturers and students from both our universities would share their knowledge and experience. Lapland University of Applied Sciences is open to international cooperation: we aim to develop more collaboration projects with Russia's North-West, and are always interested in new projects and opportunities," comments Anzelika Krastina.

Apart from participants from Finland, the Philippines and Ukraine, students from Belarus also presented their projects. Anastasia Zhevlakova participated in i-Customs for the first time; her topic had to do with the influence of globalization and regionalization on customs affairs. Anastasia underlines that with each year, the collaboration between Belorussian and Russian universities develops, and students get more opportunities to realize their potential outside their home universities.

"Even in the Eurasian space, collaboration develops.For example, this year there was the conference in Orel I also participated in. What is more, we are planning to create a Customs Association at our university as well. We have collaboration agreements with many universities, ITMO included, and now this process goes even faster. We aim to continue the collaboration, and plan to not only visit, but also invite young researchers to our university as well," comments Anastasia Zhevlakova.

The other newcomers to i-Customs were the delegation from the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) of Honduras. According to Professor Claudette Cubero, their university's students want to come to St. Petersburg next year to present their research projects.

"Our students do research in various fileds. Despite our university being focused on engineering, we also actively develop such fields as social sciences, business and international relations. This time, we came to the event as observers, so as to see what kinds of projects do the researchers prepare for the conference. Next year, we hope to take part in it and present our own work, explains the professor. Further development of cooperation between young researchers from different parts of the world is absolutely inevitable. We need to promote such collaboration in the field of international commerce and customs affairs, as globalization processes now affect all countries and fields of human activity."

Following the conference's results, the expert jury chose five best research projects. Those were reports by participants from Belarus, Russia and the Philippines. Their authors will take part in the V International PICARD forum organized by the World Customs Organization, ICSA and ITMO's Faculty of the International Business and Law. The event will take place in Tunisia this September.