Five Russian startup companies, four of which are Skolkovo Foundation residents from the innovation center’s IT cluster, will pitch their AI-based sustainable solutions at the Russian track of the AI for Good Global Summit taking place on January 27, a program aimed at accelerating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The summit connects AI innovators with problem owners in order to solve global challenges related to sustainability. The spectators will comprise corporations and government bodies, while also encompassing a much broader and diverse global audience.
Screengrab source: https://aiforgood.itu.int/.
The UN sustainable development program comprises seventeen SDGs covering three key areas: environment, society and governance. These aim to tackle problems related to hunger, poverty, health, education, inequality, sanitation, clean energy, industry, economics, consumption, climate change, sea and land life, justice, and partnerships for these goals.
Sk[ai]HUB is an ecosystem of support measures and initiatives created by the Skolkovo Foundation to develop a high-tech AI field in Russia. The project involves over 400 AI startups, thirty-two thematic events over three years, is home to R&D centers belonging to twelve partners, as well as two supercomputers on the innovation center territory. It is an ecosystem for global development and interaction between Russian AI projects and it is through this platform that Skolkovo is presenting its best AI solutions.
As part of the Sk[ai]HUB Global Challenge, experts selected forty companies (most are Skolkovo residents and many are applying for residency) from 300 nominees to join the UN AI SDG case map for the Russian track of the United Nations program titled “AI for Good.” Of these forty companies, five became laureates and will pitch their solutions at AI for Good on January 27 at the International Telecom Union, a UN subsidiary. The technological solutions provided by these companies fall under the so-called “sustaintech” category, a new and broad term encompassing fields such as medicine, chemicals, AI and so on.
The pitches at AI for Good are the culmination of an ongoing process that began last July as part of SK[ai]HUB’s Global Challenge – Artificial Intelligence for SDGs program, which consisted of an acceleration program, grand financing and business development with large corporations; a key stage of the program was when the selected startup companies took part in closed sessions with mentors. The founders of some of the biggest IT companies made up the group of mentors and included Alexander Egorov, the CEO of Reksoft, an offshore software engineering company that established Ozon, Russia’s largest e-commerce company. Not only did these business figures offer their vast experience to these young companies, the closed sessions also allowed for peer-to-peer feedback. A Skolkovo company in a given group would present a business problem to which the mentor offered advice; likewise, other startups in the group offered their own input.
The man behind Sk[ai]HUB and Global Challenge is Sergey Dutov, the director of business development and industrial partners of the Skolkovo Foundation. Mr. Dutov recently spoke with Sk.ru regarding the innovation center’s role in helping implement the UN SDGs.
“All forty companies provide cases aimed at achieving one or several sustainable development goals,” said Mr. Dutov. “These are preselected companies and we are promoting them. They took part in the biggest Skolkovo events, including our international business missions to Switzerland, China, and Singapore. They are on the map, and we have made a partnership with the Sustainable Development Solution Network and Global Compact to promote them.”
Both those bodies are UN international subsidiaries that are responsible for transferring information between corporations and governments.
“In this way, we transfer information about our technologies among a large group of companies,” said Mr. Dutov. “Right now, we are pushing this information and the goal for next year is to make our interactive map a global toolkit for corporations. It should become the first-choice tool to find technologies in the sphere of artificial intelligence that solve one or several SDGs. It should be a unified instrument for the United Nations that will translate from top to bottom.”
Sk[ai]HUB AI case map. Screengrab source: https://skai.sk.ru/en/map-of-ai-cases-for-sdgs/#content
The AI case map Mr. Dutov is referring to is a tool that offers easy-to-access information on Russian SDG solutions and aims to attract non-Russian SDG solutions to the platform with the goal of creating a unified tool. It offers an interactive means to discover what companies are tackling UN SDGs.
The important point to note about the upcoming AI for Good summit is that the pitching laureate companies won’t just be presenting ideas, but actual solutions that are ready for implementation.
“What is most important is that a startup’s relation to one or several SDGs helps the company sell to corporations and government. That is our mandate – to accelerate startup’s growth and support corporate sustainable development,” said Mr. Dutov.
He went on to explain that the term “SDG” holds a unified meaning, in that any global company, whether Chinese, Swiss, or American, would know what an SDG solution is. Another advantage of the 17 SDGs is that they help startups find new markets by uncovering areas that require new technological solutions.
“One area is ocean technologies,” said Mr. Dutov. “There is a tremendous lack of technologies there; however, you can use the same technologies that are used for facial recognition or for monitoring traffic jams to monitor ocean objects. Until now, companies hadn’t even thought about that and yet the marine technologies market is huge. Thus, current technology that is already in use can be used to achieve two goals: to enter a new market and sustainability.”
An example of one such SDG marine technology is based on the work of a Skolkovo startup that analyzes the sounds made by sea mammals (i.e., whales, dolphins, seals, etc.); it found that specific sounds drive sea mammals away and that a device generating such sound could be mounted onto sea vessels. In this way, it benefits both the environment and business, because it prevents whales and other mammals from being struck and killed by passing ships – a genuine ongoing issue – and saves shipping companies money on repairs.
Another solution is from EMBLE, one of the five AI for Good laureates, which offers an efficient service that performs monitoring and functional diagnostics of equine (horse) internal organs using Deep Sound AI neural network technology, allowing for distance monitoring and diagnostics.
The companies that are pitching at AI for Good on January 27 are: