About the competition

It’s not the first time that the UMNIK competition is being held. The Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises has been organizing it with various research groups and universities for several years now. This year, the Foundation partnered with ITMO University. 

“ITMO is known in Russia as the best school for programmers, and that’s even reflected in the name – IT. A competition held in collaboration with ITMO opens up new opportunities for talented students as they will be able to test their research ideas and start a science-driven business while still staying at university with all the necessary infrastructure. Grants from the Foundation allow students to focus on the scientific part of it without the need to look for investors. It’s important that the selection process is remote and students from all over the country can submit their applications. We are hoping to see ideas that will change our future and technologies that will affect our whole world,” says Vitaly Kiselev, curator of the UMNIK program in the area of digital economics at the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises. 

How to apply?

ITMO University
ITMO University

Students, PhD researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs or staff members of hi-tech companies between 18 and 30 years old, who are Russian citizens and have not received support from the Foundation before are eligible to apply. 

The participating project has to fit into one of the six fields of the competition: artificial intelligence; new production technologies; Internet of Things; robotics and sensorics; 5G communication technology; satellite communication. 

To take part in the competition, the candidates need to fill in the application form on the UMNIK program website before July 15, 2020. The final round will take place at ITMO. 

“It is the first time that the UMNIK-ITMO competition is held. It is a very important event for the University because UMNIK focuses on end-to-end technologies in the digital economy, and ITMO is the leading research center in this field. The competition is organized by ITMO’s Technopark and the Project Activity and Fundraising Unit. The applications will be evaluated by 26 ITMO University specialists – highly-qualified researchers in engineering, physics, mathematics, or economics with their research field as close to the competition’s topic as possible,” explains Sergey Deriugin, lead analyst at the Department of National Programs and Projects. 

Authors of the best projects will receive 500,000 rubles in funding from the Foundation to bring their projects to life. 

Former winners of the competition

ITMO University students have already taken part in the UMNIK competition before. ITMO.NEWS talked to the winners and got to know what they gained from participating in the contest, and what piece of advice they had for the current applicants. 

Anastasiia Yusupova

student at the Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics

Anastasiia Yusupova. Photo courtesy of the subject
Anastasiia Yusupova. Photo courtesy of the subject

The project I submitted involved the development of an obstacle-detecting biomechatronic unit for visually impaired people. It started as my Bachelor’s thesis, and I continued to develop it thanks to UMNIK. The grant gave me the chance to purchase the equipment I needed to make a prototype. 

I applied with only an idea and some preliminary calculations, an understanding of the functionality of the new device and the algorithm behind it – and now, after a year of work, I have a test prototype of the device. UMNIK helped me bring my idea to life. I have another year ahead of me, during which I am planning to finish the prototype and apply for a patent. I believe that my project will be of help for visually impaired people in the future.

George Zograf

PhD student, Faculty of Physics and Engineering

George Zograf
George Zograf

My research concerns the development of dielectric nanoparticle-based thermo-optically destructible capsules with a direct temperature response, which are intended for targeted drug delivery. 

Together with colleagues from the Faculty of Physics and Engineering, we have conducted theoretical calculations of optically-induced heating, produced and described the semiconducting nanoparticles. Moreover, my colleagues are collaborating with researchers from Pavlov First State Medical University of St. Petersburg, which will have a positive effect on the project’s success. The grant will help us focus on the practical applications of fundamental research that I am working on for my PhD thesis. 

UMNIK is oriented towards the market and innovations which makes it significantly different from the research activity and grant reports that I am used to. 
I would like to wish the best of luck to the future participants, don’t be afraid to take the risk and apply. I am sure that there are many talented students and highly competent lecturers who can consult and advise you. In the modern world, the business experience you get with UMNIK is a great boost to your research and managing skills.

Ilya Shilov

PhD student, Faculty of Secure Information Technologies

Ilya Shilov. Photo courtesy of the subject
Ilya Shilov. Photo courtesy of the subject

I took part in the competition in 2018 with a project on multidimensional blockchain. It was meant to be used in automated banking systems to improve their fail-safety, as well as the amount of trust between the different actors of the financial market. 

It’s one of the competition's stand-out points that the results of your project have to be commercializable. It’s not enough to just carry out a research project, an interesting and potentially useful development. You have to be able to present it and bring it to the market. That’s why UMNIK is only the first step on your project’s path. Participants are supposed to use the Foundation’s support from other programs to create and develop their own small innovative enterprises. 

The grant helps you to formulate and outline the number of tasks you need to do, and set deadlines for when they have to be completed. Moreover, with the money I received I was able to purchase the equipment I needed to conduct my research. It’s also a great incentive to develop your project: if the judges saw its potential, then it was not all in vain, and it can gain success in practice one way or another.