Cybernetic prosthetics, electric planes and levitating trains: Slava Technology Park unveils unique inventions

September 19
Science and innovation

Moscow can be called a city of innovation, and with good reason. Especially considering that local authorities have created favourable conditions for technological innovation. This includes modern facilities and tax incentives. In the past five years, the number of technology parks has increased from 15 to 36 around Moscow, and they are filled almost to capacity.

“Technology park residents can receive up to 10 million roubles and can use the sum to compensate for equipment purchases or lease costs, to pay interest on equipment purchases or production expansion loans. Technology park management companies can request subsidies to pay interest on loans for expanding the parks’ assets and purchasing specialised equipment. A number of tax incentives are stipulated for anchor residents,” Alexei Fursin, Head of the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development, said.

This story describes the organisation of the Slava Technology Park and projects by its residents.

A link between generations

The Slava Technology Park is not far from Kaluzhskaya metro station in Nauchny Proyezd. This former industrial area used to be occupied by the famous Slava Clock and Watch Plant. A wall mural in between the main buildings recalls this bygone Soviet era and shows the Zodiac signs and a sundial with Roman numerals; these ancient timekeeping devices watched over the days, months and years.

“This mural highlights the link between generations,” the Technology Park’s Director for Development Ivan Timofeyev noted. Timofeyev’s remark appears correct because the clock on the wall seems to have announced that the 21st century is in full swing. Moreover, the building now houses different production facilities, and the mechanism has changed.

The Technology Park has nine buildings with an area of 31,000 square metres. Slava accommodates 70 residents specialising in bio-medicine, power technology, instrument engineering and artificial intelligence (AI). The largest company employs 85 people, and the others have an average of 15 specialists each. Slava sources consider these statistics to be rather unimpressive, but the truth lies elsewhere.

“This is more than just a place to lease property. The park’s infrastructure, our main distinguishing feature, mostly accommodates the partners of our residents. According to our records, the number of requests from outside innovation companies is ten times the number of residents here. Leaseholders have access to a co-working centre, a business incubator, a convention hall and a collective technology centre,” Ivan Timofeyev said, as we inspected the co-working centre.

The workstations for Slava’s residents’ partners are in bright glass-walled rooms with geometrical figures on the walls and limited furniture. Minimalism is the order of the day. It is very convenient when everything is at hand. Although the business incubator looks very much like a co-working centre it has a different role to play. Entrepreneurs who are only starting out can rent cheap offices here. According to Ivan Timofeyev, the collective technology centre for testing new projects is the most unique element here.

“This section has three laboratories, including a new one. I was directly involved in creating it because I have the required technical education,” he said.

Innovations are the most outstanding element of Slava’s performance.  The technology park employs about 1,000 people, including about 100 with PhD or DSc degrees.

Pinpoint precision

Igor Chmutin, the Head of the Technology Centre, welcomed us to the laboratory in his white gown. His table was cluttered with test-tubes and vessels containing powders and liquids.

“These preparations are based on silver and gold nano-particles and are used in the cosmetics industry. We are testing them,” he explained.

Any organisation or individual can contact the laboratory and test various inventions or substances here. Students can receive career guidance here and conduct experiments prior to defending their graduation papers. The results of these experiments can lead to further innovations. Members of the technology park’s team promote inventions, even those by non-Slava residents.

“When a producer wants to register a new product with Rospotrebnadzor, including a cosmetic substance, they need a protocol of laboratory tests confirming the composition, and so they can come here. Several preparations have already been registered under our supervision,” Igor Chmutin added.

Laboratory experts are now testing a medication for treating fungal eye infections. Russia so far lacks a medicine like this. As a rule, doctors prescribe foreign antibiotics costing about 50,000 roubles each. Moreover, patients have to drink these medications for two weeks.

“The new preparation improves the patient’s condition in a few days and costs just 400 roubles,” Igor Chmutin noted.

Slava residents are also involved in research and development projects. For example, the laboratory’s specialists test innovative orthopedic soles, developed at the technology park.

Human cyborgs

“In the past, it was fashionable to coat artificial limbs with natural-looking artificial skin, but human cyborgs are the main trend today,” Darya Stepura, Head of the Orthesis Science and Production Laboratory, said, while showing an artificial arm. Techbionic, a partner from Nizhny Novgorod, made the arm using a 3D printer, and the company’s specialists made prosthetic sockets, so that the device holds fast. It is possible to make other colour versions of the multi-purpose bright-green plastic artificial limb.

According to Darya Stepura, children like the bright colours. The mother of one girl requested that a device for correcting her daughter’s deformed foot be painted with the official navy-blue, red and yellow colours of the Barcelona Football Club. Her classmates were envious and asked the girl about getting one.

This Slava resident has already filed 40 patents. The innovative projects mostly aim to make affordable, light-weight, flexible and durable artificial limbs and orthesis products. For example, the company has patented a composite-material prosthetic for patients with partially missing feet.

“We use rare and unique composite materials in our designs,” the company’s founder Vladimir Novikov said. Devices for the aquatic therapy of children with cerebral palsy are another new invention. These multi-colour devices are attached to the legs and arms. Shin-mounted devices can be used with flippers.

“The entire structure consists of polymer materials and has no metal components. When we used these devices with flippers on a girl with impaired health, she admitted that she did not expect that she could swim so fast because it had been impossible to use flippers for treating her condition,” Darya Stepura added.

A robotic orthopedic device is another innovation. A lady placed her leg inside a composite-material structure consisting of a frame and a corset. Two sensors detected impulses and set the leg in motion. When the patient steps on two other sensors in the foot section, he or she is able to flex the leg and move about. The control console allows patients to sit down and stand up.

“The device is intended for people with cerebral palsy and other locomotor system problems. Nothing like that exists in the world, There are also exoskeletons or robotic coveralls for bed-ridden patients who are unable to move. Such people are placed inside the exoskeleton that performs many movements for them. Our invention helps partially paralysed people. It could also prove useful for rehabilitating patients after cardiac arrest and stroke; we are still conducting this research,” Vladimir Novikov said.

An electric plane and a levitating train

The workshop was quite noisy, with huge rotating cogwheel-shaped wire spool racks. This is where C-Innovations Co., affiliated with SuperOks Group, manufactures super-conductors.

“When temperatures are reduced, the electric resistance of these wires disappears completely. At the same time, they turn into super-conductors and can transmit hundreds of times more electricity. The wires are based on a stainless alloy ribbon covered with ten super-thin layers. The thinnest layer is just five nano-meters. The super-conductor can be used to accomplish difficult tasks, such as generating powerful magnetic fields. These magnetic fields make it possible to create a compact thermonuclear reactor for generating power. If this is realised, we will no longer have to produce natural fuel for power plants,” Director General Sergei Samoilenkov said.

Although the reactor remains on the drawing board, the company is sending the semi-conductor to 22 countries. The invention can be used in the aerospace or transport industries. Corporations are now testing an electric aircraft engine. The engine, which resembles a large and light propeller servo-drive was built together with the Russian Advanced Research Foundation using these semi-conductors.

“Two engines like this can launch an airliner with 20 passengers, and six engines can power a Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional plane. An electric plane needs a small amount of jet fuel to take off, but it will be possible to save up to 75 percent of the total fuel used on a flight. In fact, fuel consumption accounts for the bulk of aviation expenses. This would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere,” Sergei Samoilenkov added.

The compact super-conductor can help with another innovation, namely, a magnetic-levitation (MAGLEV) train. So far, only a model train is available. Sergei’s assistant took the train model with a coil of wires inside, poured some liquid nitrogen cooled to -200 degrees on the toy tracks from a vacuum flask and placed the model on the rails. The train rose two mm above the tracks and then sped along the guideway.

“It can do 40 km in seven minutes,” Sergei added.

The invention, based on super-conductors, already acts like a current-limiting circuit breaker that prevents electric networks from short-circuiting in one micro-second. This device resembling a giant spool is indispensable for substations powering large urban facilities, including the metro.

We went to the laboratory of a company testing the current-limiting circuit breaker. Once there, we heard whistling and popping sounds, as laboratory assistants tried to find out whether the system could prevent an electrical disaster.

“One such three-phase system now operates at the Mnevniki substation. We are planning to install eight others at four city substations. They will help the city save 148 billion roubles. Circuit-breaker construction expenses exceed this amount several times over,” the SuperOks Director-General noted.

For the sake of technology

In 2020, Slava Technology Park residents filed 23 applications for financial support from the Moscow Government, and subsidies worth 120 million roubles were approved.

All technology park residents can count on support. This includes a partial refunding on equipment purchase expenses. Support is also available to participate in trade shows.

Moreover, companies can request anchor resident status from the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development. These applicants should operate in processing, as well as the IT and communications sectors, and they should also implement research and development projects. Additionally, they have to meet specific criteria as regards their earnings, five-year investment volumes, average wages, and the area occupied in the technology park. This will entitle them to some tax preferences.

“Our anchor residents that yield the greatest earnings pay a reduced, 15.5-percent, profit tax,” Ivan Timofeyev added.

The Slava Technology Park has two anchor residents, Khromsistemslab, which researches metabolism, and DNA-Technology TS.

The park welcomed three new residents recently. One of them is Poveriye responsible for the standardisation of facilities. Virtual Infrastructures provides online access to virtual resources. Gordiz develops personal identification kits, including those for forensic medical examinations.

“We are always happy to establish new business contacts and are ready for technological contacts. First, our residents are united by the fact that they need each other and that they can cooperate. And, of course, they are united by the realisation that the city needs their products. In 2019, our total earnings reached 6 billion roubles,” Ivan Timofeyev said in conclusion.


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