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Far East chief proposes "Silicon Island" off Vladivostok

0 30 January 2014

Ambitious ideas are not new in Russia’s remote Far East. In Soviet times roads and railways were strung across the region’s enormous empty spaces at huge cost, and since then successive governments have organised conferences and mooted ideas like Special Economic Zones to try and boost the region’s economy. Perhaps my favourite plan is the one to build a railway to Alaska, via a tunnel under the Barents Sea.

This week Yuri Trutnev, the President’s representative in the Far East Region, added another idea to the long list of Far East development schemes - to create a Russian Silicon Valley on an island connected to Vladivostok by bridge. 

"The idea of creating a Russian Silicon Valley on Russky Island has been suggested. It would be a place to bring together people with talents in various disruptive scientific disciplines, capable of creating hi-tech products that could be used all over the world. We need to create a place where talent could be gathered from all over the Asia-Pacific Region."

Trutnev designated the Far East Federal University a “territory for potential scientific development”, meaning that it should be more than just an educational establishment. He believes that Russia has quite a lot of talented people, but they lack a place like Silicon Valley in the USA. By creating such a place near Vladivostok, Trutnev hopes to slow the brain drain to the USA, and to attract talent to Russia. 

Trutnev did not mention Skolkovo, the technopark on the outskirts of Moscow that has often been called “Russia’s Silicon Valley”, and it is unclear whether his idea would rival Skolkovo, or provide a regional alternative for the Russian Far East and its Asian neighbours. 

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