Diversity of thinking drives better innovation in Russia

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Diversity is essential for innovation. It enables you to better anticipate and address your customers’ emerging needs around the world. This is why, in our co-innovation program, we bring diverse thinking, ideas and expertise to the table.

For example, we recently launched Orange Fab, our accelerator for startups in Russia. This is part of our ongoing commitment to open innovation that helps enterprises create new value for their end-customers and their businesses.

Russia has a vibrant digital startup scene. The long-standing emphasis on hard science and mathematics in the Russian education system has helped many businesses embrace advanced technology and innovation and build up a big AI talent pool. For example, 286 universities run MSc programs in artificial intelligence (AI) in Russia, training around 50,000 students in data analysis, machine learning, voice and picture recognition, computer linguistics and more. This undeniable talent has been enhanced with the right legal, employment and funding environment to encourage people with great ideas to set up their own companies in Russia.

The new Orange Fab is based in Skolkovo to the West of Moscow – Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley. The government launched its Information Technologies Cluster (ITC) here a decade ago and is now promoting the National Technology Initiative, a program to identify and support new digital markets.

I recently spoke on a panel at the Open Innovation event in Russia and caught up with Pascal Latouche, Director of Orange Fab. According to Pascal, the startup scene in Russia is very different to elsewhere in the world:

“It’s a very high level, and technology-orientated. We match startups with customers who have a relevant business challenge or opportunity and work together to develop a solution that can be deployed at scale and speed. This saves a lot of effort for enterprises who don’t have the time to trawl the global startup landscape to identify new capabilities.”

Think about scaling innovation from the start

Orange Business Services believes that innovation is a great idea, executed in a market. The idea can be a new or improved business model, product or customer experience. But innovation also needs to be sustained and scaled in the real world to bring benefits to consumers, employees or business ecosystems.

The role we play as an IT solutions integrator and managed services provider is vital here. Orange Business Services is the only international supplier of complex, integrated connectivity solutions in Russia and also has advanced IT integration capabilities.

For example, Orange Business Services has worked with the Russian firm Dobroflot to develop an innovative smart fuel monitoring solution. Dobroflot is a leader in the fishing industry in the Far East and Russia's No.1 manufacturer of canned fish. Orange provided an innovative IoT solution to analyze the weather and vessel position and optimize fuel consumption. This has cut fuel costs by ten percent and also helps to prevent unauthorized fuel usage.

Open minds, open doors

Orange has a long-standing commitment to startups. The first Orange Fab was launched in 2013, and we now have an ecosystem of over 1,000 startups in the U.S., Israel, South Korea, France, Senegal and Russia. The Orange Fab in Russia is the first to be overseen by Orange Business Services directly, as the startups focus exclusively on the B2B sector.

We’re working with mature startups, focusing on artificial intelligence, big data analytics, IoT solutions, next-generation networks and cloud technologies. As Pascal explains:

“Each of our startups is unique, and the same can be said of those we will work with in Russia. We’re not here to manage high volumes of startups. We’re selecting the very best ones that can offer fresh thinking and new approaches to address specific business challenges.” These products and services will provide the glue between the startups and our own solutions portfolio.

Computer vision is a significant area of focus for our customers and Orange Business Services, as my colleague Richard van Wageningen, CEO of Orange Business Services in Russia and CIS, outlined in a panel discussion at the 2019 Machines Can See conference in Moscow.

A proven co-innovation track record

We’ve already had great success with startups around the world. For example, we’ve been working with IoT connectivity provider Actility to deploy communications networks for IoT, based on LoRaWAN technology. We also teamed up with SecBI, which has developed a solution for automating threat detection and incident investigation using proprietary machine learning technology to analyze network security logs. Both these companies have been supported by Orange Digital Ventures, the Orange Group’s investment fund.

“We can help startups in many ways from mentoring and business development, all the way up to funding. We have a co-working space dedicated to startups in Russia, for example, and we can also provide cloud hosting and development environments,” explains Pascal.

We animate a 360° co-innovation ecosystem, which puts customers at the center and gathers a unique set of viewpoints, skills and technologies on a particular business challenge or opportunity. Through workshops, we’re able to develop and trial ideas in agile mode, thinking about how they would be scaled and supported in the real world right from the outset. If you have co-innovation ideas you’d like to discuss with us, please do get in touch.

We look forward to hearing your ideas.

Click here for more information on Orange Fab, our startup accelerator program.

Raluca Cousson-Postoarca
Raluca Cousson-Postoarca

Raluca is Head of Innovation at Orange Business Services where she is responsible for co-innovating with our enterprise, start-up and partner networks to create new customer and business value. Raluca began her career in operations management at Citibank, working on retail banking transformation, process improvement and employee onboarding and engagement processes. Prior to her current role, she was Chief of Staff to the Head of Sales for International Business at Orange Business Services. She holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in International Business from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest and Grenoble Ecole de Management in France. She is fluent in Romanian, English and French.