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Co-founder of Max Polyakov’s Noosphere Shares Thoughts on How Ukraine can Win the Technology Race

The attitude toward the Soviet era in the history of Ukraine is rather ambiguous. The vast majority are desperate to criticize the USSR years, a minority feels nostalgic. At that, one cannot but agree that Ukraine has inherited a powerful technological and scientific basis that has given the world many outstanding scientists, researchers, and developers. A case in point is the rocket industry that enjoyed especially strong positions in Ukraine. Notably, not only in the USSR era, but after Ukraine left the Soviet Union as well.

For instance, Dnipro (formerly Dnepropetrovsk) is considered as the cradle of the Soviet rocket industry that was created on the basis of the Dnipropetrovsk Automotive Factory back in 1944. Consequently, Special Development Laboratory No. 586 was created in the factory, today it is known as PA Yuzhmash. It was local developers who created the legendary R-12 carrier rocket in the 1950s, the development being lead by the renowned mechanic Mikhail Yangel.

Unfortunately, after the Soviet Union fell apart, the famous might of the rocket industry waned. Yet, the potential – in terms of technology, science, and human resources remains, and investors (particularly Noosphere Ventures, managed by Max Polyakov) are absolutely confident in this fact. The question is – can we use it for the benefit of the Ukrainian economy and its reputation? There is a chance. And it is in our hands, Michael Ryabokon, who co-founded Noosphere Engineering School together with Max Polyakov, assures us.

This way is that Ukraine has been able to host both the World and European championships in model rocketry. It is notable that the World Air Sports Federation – FAI, with headquarters in Switzerland, has awarded this title to us of all countries, despite the harsh competition. It was only logical to host these championships in Dnipro. Unfortunately, a war has started in East Ukraine, and the championships were at a risk of cancellation. However, Europe preserved our right to host the championship, but under the condition that the location was moved farther from the military conflict zone to the west.

“The youth want to be sure that it is not necessary to leave the country to be successful”

In August 2016 Association Noosphere, founded by Max Polyakov, hosted FAI’s World championship in rocket modeling. Оver 300 competitors from 20 countries came to Lviv to compete in the art of constructing and launching model rockets. The contest participants included teams from the most technologically developed regions: the USA, Japan, China, Canada, and Great Britain. Indeed, Ukraine had an advantage in this field. First of all, the Ukrainian team are the current champions of Europe in model rocketry. In 2015 at the European Championships, the Ukrainian team won 14 gold, 6 silver, and 7 bronze medals in the overall standings. A splendid result that keeps improving from year to year.

There is another, more important thing here. The very title to host the championship illustrates the belief in us and presents the opportunity to make a name for ourselves at the international level. Indeed, model rocketry is an engineering advertisement of sorts, a demonstration of the country’s scientific potential.

And Ukrainian science is in need of such things. It takes us great effort to shed the stereotypes of the past few decades when it was self-contained without taking the demands of other industries and the rapidly changing market into account. The situation is that the majority of our researchers (younger and older alike) do not realize the practical value of their ideas and achievements or the obstacles to their implementation. And the participation in such contests, competing with experts in various fields who will visit us from all over the planet, is an excellent way to demonstrate that being an engineer is not only exciting but also prestigious.

The youth want to be sure that it is not necessary to leave the country to be successful – a message Association Noosphere of Max Polyakov has been conveying for over three years now. By giving developers a sense of significance and relevance, we can stop the outflow of talent and human assets which has been a pressing problem and a topic for discussion on the state level.

“They believe in us and present the opportunity to make a name for ourselves at the international level. Indeed, model rocketry is an engineering advertisement of sorts, a demonstration of the country’s scientific potential”

We need to remember that model rocketry presents a splendid base for training the future military engineers and a breath of fresh air for the defense industry in general. According to Max Polyakov from Noosphere, this is a highly lucrative investment field. For instance, the championships in Lviv were attended by the chairpersons and leading engineers of companies engaged not only in the rocket industry, but also in military technologies. Thus, it means not only potential contracts and orders for Ukrainian production companies, but also potential investments in creating game-changing weapons and solutions for the army (surveillance systems, navigation, unmanned vehicles, anti-aircraft defence, etc.).

It is obvious that the renaissance of the country’s engineering sector might not be achieved by a single championship, even an international one. We need to solve a number of state-level problems, including the approach to the education system in regard to science and technology, as well as the numerous state restrictions, for example, in the fields of the space and military industries. Unlike many nations, such as the USA, where private companies supply arms to the state, we have a monopoly on military technology and production. They have market-based competition and the necessity to improve, while we have a stagnating environment for innovation.

However, it is pointless to list all the possible reasons that hamper the development of the environment for innovation. Instead, we should seek alternatives to replace the low-efficiency institutions. For the last few years, that has been the major focus of Association Noosphere, that was founded by Max Polyakov in 2012, to attract the attention of wide audiences – both home and internationally – to our intellectual and technological fields. They present a base for globally in-demand startups and help shape a more sustainable and competitive economy for Ukraine.

Originally posted on forbes.net.ua Michael Ryabokon opinion section

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