Russia, once a hotbed of Soviet-funded research, is clearly feeling left out of the world's technological developments. The country is trying to make up for it by packing lots of thinking into Skolkovo, a so-called "innovation town" to be built outside Moscow.
This week, French architectural group AREP Ville unveiled the winning design for the town. The 15,000-person, $4.3 billion city will feature five zones, each focusing on a different area of research: IT, nuclear, biomedical technologies, energy, and space research. Residents will get the benefit of picturesque tree-lined walkways, bike paths, and foot bridges. And, presumably, free-flowing vodka.
The whole thing will be powered by renewable energy, courtesy of on-site geothermal facilities, solar panels, and wind farms. So far, companies like Nokia, Siemens, Cisco and Intel have expressed interest in setting up shop in the town, according to the Moscow Times. Microsoft has already signed a draft agreement to come on board.
Cultivating an innovative town or city isn't always easy—just ask the United Arab Emirates. The country's Masdar City—a zero-emissions cleantech city-within-a-city that was clearly the inspiration for Skolkovo—was once supposed to host self-driving transit pods, massive geothermal facilities, and a number of cleantech companies. The companies are staying, but financial problems have forced Masdar to scrap many of its more ambitious plans (the transit pods are still there, albeit on a smaller scale).
So it it possible to build a successful "innovation town" from the ground up like this? We can watch Masdar for clues. That city won't be finished until approximately 2025, but it looks promising so far. Whether AREP and Russia can pull off a similar feat remains to be seen. Perhaps someone should consider building an innovation city in a place without extreme weather. Somewhere like Northern California?