Academy CEO Joins U.S. State Department Innovation Delegation to Russia

Ellis Rubinstein was a member of a team of high-profile American technology ambassadors who proposed collaborative partnerships to Russian officials.

Published February 24, 2010

Academy President and CEO Ellis Rubinstein joined a ground-breaking delegation of U.S. technology experts in Russia last week. The first “U.S.-Russia Innovation Dialogue” was held in Moscow and Novosibirsk, Siberia, and was an outgrowth of a pact made between Presidents Obama and Medvedev last July 6 in Moscow, through which they agreed to engage in multiple partnerships for economic and social good as part of a “reset” of Russian-American relations. Following their meeting in the Kremlin, the two presidents created a U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission charged to organize productive exchanges.

Last week, the State Department and National Security Council kicked off these exchanges by partnering with their counterparts in Russia to schedule an intense series of meetings between an elite group of Americans and a broad mix of Russians including the first deputies to President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, as well as several Ministers, leading academicians, corporate leaders, young entrepreneurs, and even college and high school students.

Co-led by Howard Solomon of the National Security Council and Jared Cohen of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, the delegation included the CEOs, CTOs, founders, and chairs of companies including eBay, Cisco, Mozilla, EDventure, Howcast, Twitter, Social Gaming Network, and Katalyst. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle, and actor Ashton Kutcher, known as the most followed user on the social-networking site Twitter, also participated.

Meetings focused on the role technology can play in promoting better governance, combating corruption and trafficking in persons, improving healthcare, and expanding educational opportunities for youth and teachers. The American delegation strove successfully to ensure that there would be multiple outcomes of each interaction.

Before departing Russia, the U.S. Innovation Delegation proposed 19 projects for collaboration between the U.S. and Russia in six areas of technology development. The proposal included the suggestion that the New York Academy of Sciences help to establish a U.S.-Russia "Young Scientists Innovation Network." Additional ideas for immediate collaboration, from exchanging ideas for incubating entrepreneurs to using mobile messaging to promote infant health, follow:

Theme 1: Education, Entrepreneurship Training, and Mentorship

U.S.-Novosibirsk IT Internship Program. Recognizing the strong legacy of education in science and technology in Russia, the U.S. innovation delegation participants have agreed to establish 6-month internships in Silicon Valley. These internships are designed to expose Novosibirsk’s most promising young engineering talent to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial experience, culture, and environment. The internships will be designed to cultivate a renewed interest in science and technology and expose interns to models and mentoring that could foster entrepreneurship and social development in Russia.

Establish Pilot Incubators in Select Regions of Russia. In an effort to foster greater entrepreneurship and establish innovation hubs, members of the Innovation Delegation will create entrepreneurship incubators in St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk that are linked to specialized incentives (e.g. subsidized accommodation, moving expenses, etc.).

Exchange of Experiences and Best Practices. Members of the Innovation Delegation will offer their expertise and intellectual collaboration as the Russian government pursues creating its own entrepreneurship incubators.

Public Awareness Campaign to Foster Entrepreneurship. Members of the Innovation Delegation will partner with Russian government, private sector, and media entities to celebrate Russian entrepreneurial heroes/role models and cultivate self-confidence in taking risks, learning from failures, and striving to succeed with new and innovative business ideas.

X-Prize Collaborations in Education and Health. The Innovation Delegation, in coordination with the X Prize Foundation, is investigating the design and implementation of health and education-related X Prizes relevant to Russia.

Establish a U.S.-Russia Young Scientists Innovation Network. The New York Academy of Sciences will partner with Russian stakeholders to promote career mentoring and the development of “frontiers of sciences” communities. The mechanisms through which this network will exist are physical events in Russia, web-based exchanges, global memberships, travel exchanges, and competitions with prizes.

Make Lectures Available Online. Innovation Delegation will partner with Russian institutions of higher learning to provide lectures and coursework that can be made available to the general public.

Institutionalize a Dialogue between Silicon Valley and Academic Institutions. Innovation Delegation will work with Academic institutions to develop a platform through which experts in the industry can virtually provide perspectives, mentorship, and insights that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from.

Theme 2: Anti-Trafficking and Child Protection

U.S.-Novosibirsk Digital Kids Pilot Project. The Innovation Delegation has agreed to provide laptops, computer accessories, and teacher training to Novosibirsk’s city and state run orphanages. Each computer will include applications and programs that will enable them to connect with children around the world and obtain useful and life-enhancing skills and tools. Each computer will also include Skype so that those who receive the computers can stay in touch with those who donated them. The program will incorporate a mentoring component as well as an appropriate curriculum that will prepare them for life after the orphanage.

Establish Competition to Promote Technology Solutions to Fight Human Trafficking. Working with Russian private sector and other stakeholders, the Demi and Ashton Foundation has agreed to establish a $50,000 prize for Russian software developers and engineers to create new technology tools to prevent trafficking in women and children.

Create Safe Jobs Index and Trafficking Violators “Most Wanted” List. Working with international non-governmental organizations focused on anti-trafficking and relevant government agencies, the Demi and Ashton Foundation will create a safe jobs index to assist young women in finding safe employment. A list of identified and convicted traffickers will also be compiled and distributed where in accordance with national legislation.

Develop Anonymous Mobile Message-Based Platform for Reporting Cases of Trafficking. The Innovation delegation will partner with Russian mobile services, Internet providers, civil society actors, and Russian law enforcement authorities, to implement an anonymous mobile message program to alert authorities to possible trafficking cases, collect geo-tracking data, and share information on the web. Establish Public Awareness and Classroom Education Campaign. Working with social media and networking organizations, develop a public awareness campaign on the harms of trafficking that includes an in-class educational curriculum. The Demi and Ashton Foundation will establish prizes for the development of content-based public awareness tools and programs.

Tech/Civil Society Conference. Innovation Delegation will work with the local technology sector to facilitate a conference that links technology stakeholders and civil society organizations based on a shared interest in addressing trafficking, health, education, and anti-corruption.

Theme 3: Combating Cyber Crime

Establish Public-Private Sector Partnerships to Strengthen Cyber Security. Establish a process through which private sector companies interested in investing in Russia can raise issues of cyber crime with the government. We can do this by providing points of contact in U.S. and Russian law enforcement agencies to private sector information technology companies to collaborate in our efforts to fight cyber crime. To facilitate these goals, we recommend that officials from leading companies in the Internet industry, including those companies listed above and possibly others, come to Moscow by the end of June, 2010, to meet with the appropriate government and law enforcement officials in Russia to establish a partnership to combat cyber crime.

Develop Alternative Livelihoods for Cyber Criminals or Those Susceptible to Committing Cyber-Crime. Participants will engage with relevant government and private sector entities and other stakeholders to develop means to provide programmers legitimate and profitable uses for their talent.

Theme 4: Health

Text4Baby. Given the high priority President Obama and President Medvedev have placed on promoting maternal and infant health, Healthy Russia Foundation will partner with Russian mobile service providers, software developers, Russian health industry representatives, and Russian health authorities to establish a mobile message program where pregnant women and new mothers can receive weekly alerts and advice to help those maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their babies. More important, this program provides a platform for women to consult directly with health professionals as appropriate. (A model for this program was recently announced by the U.S. White House. For more information, please see www.text4baby.org)

Theme 5: E-governance and Collaboration

E-governance and Collaboration. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and the Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin will collaborate broadly on e-governance issues, such as the development of platforms for making government data accessible to the public.

Theme 6: Promoting Cultural Collaboration

Integrate Technology into the Moscow Arts Theater. To celebrate our respective cultures and broaden our understanding of one another, the Innovation Delegation will work with the Moscow Arts Theater to assess their technology needs, provide technical assistance, and facilitate partnerships to use technology to extend the cultural reach of the Moscow Arts Theater and deepen connections between theater students in the United States and Russia.

Forge Partnerships between U.S. and Russian Local Media Outlets. Recognizing the growth of the digital media environment, local media outlets in both the U.S. and Russia share common challenges of survival and adaptability. As such, we will work together in the Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Working Group on Education, Culture, Mass Media and Sports to facilitate exchanges and build partnerships that will address the shared challenges and identify opportunities to take advantage of the changing media environment.