Kyiv opens innovative park to boost startups and technologies

Open Doors Day in UNIT.City. Photo: Olena Makarenko

Open Doors Day in UNIT.City. Photo: Olena Makarenko 

News, Science and Innovation

Article by: Olena Makarenko

The first innovative city, a space with infrastructure for work and living for representatives of innovative businesses, has been opened in Kyiv. It is called UNIT.City and has been set up on the territory of the Motorcycle factory.

So far only 2% of the city is ready. In the next few years it will spread to 25 hectares. The city is completely a private business initiative. Its only investor is Vasyl Khmelnitskyi, an entrepreneur and former politician.  He teamed up with managing partners Maksym Yakover and Maksym Bakhmatov, who recently rose to fame by breathing new life into a dilapidated Soviet-style exhibition center in Kyiv, turning it into a modern entertainment park. Both of them see more opportunities in private business than in projects related to the state, like the exhibition center.

Maksym Yakover, managing partner of UNIT.City lead an exursion for visitors Photo: Euromaidan Press

Euromaidan Press visited UNIT.City on its Open Doors Day which gathered more than a hundred people. The managing partners themselves organized several excursions through the city. We joined the one led by Maksym Yakover. He started from the UNIT.Factory school, the city’s focal point. The team of the UNIT.City is confident that any innovative park should start from an educational institution.

UNIT.Factory (actually, a school)

UNIT.Factory.  Photo: Euromaidan Press

The school’s first 300 students were selected out of 11,000 based on a competition. They receive a free education which takes 1-3 years and based on the French franchise “42.” There are no teachers. The education process envisions a collaboration between students and creating their own projects. In the end, the organizers expect to see alumni who never stop learning, with knowledge at the level of architects (if talking about developers), and able to solve unusual tasks. The age of the students is 18-30 years. They have 24/7 access to the school. The ultimate condition is to work in Ukraine 3 years after graduation. By the end of the year the organizers expect the number of students to rise to 800.

What is an innovative park

Photo: Euromaidan Press

Later at the presentation, Yakover explained the meaning and the mission of the innovative city. Until the mid 80s, he said, business in the world was done in business centers. However, this concept is not relevant anymore. Yakover sneers that no one was told about the change in Ukraine, so business centers are still built here. Later, the concept of science and technology parks was developed. Universities, the main sources of science and innovations, were at their center.

“In the mid-2000s, something changed. The center of the movement shifted towards the youth. Startups and technologies entrepreneurs started to appear. They had totally different requirements to their environment, explains Yakover.

As told by him, since that time such technologies parks started to be located in centers of the cities. Another type of infrastructure was built for the youth.

“No technological parks were built in Ukraine, and there is no sense in building them now. It’s not relevant anymore. What we built now is an innovative park. The fundamental difference is that an innovative park is about creating the atmosphere. It’s about what makes you think, it’s about the network,” says Yakover.

According to the managing partner, the mission of the park is to put Kyiv and Ukraine on the world map of creative ecosystems.

The size of ambitions

Presentation of UNIT.City by Maksym Yakover. Photo: Euromaidan Press

Vasyl Khmelnytskyi is going to spend about $200 mn on the project. What investment risks can the project face in Ukraine? Yakover quotes the main investor:

“On the first presentation in February, Khmelnytskyi said ‘I was thinking whether I should invest or not. I thought that when the economy improves, I’ll start building. I was waiting and waiting and then thought ‘I’ll better start the opposite way: to invest first and the economy will improve’.”

That is how the territory looks so far. Photo: Euromaidan Press

Yakover emphasizes that UNIT.City is a private territory which does not depend on the government.

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Apart from the school, among its other “residents” is the Ukrainian startup Concepter which created an iPhone case with a flash, the unit Hi Tech Office Ukraine and two labs – Sensorama (on virtual reality) and FabLab Fabricator (on 3D-prototyping).

The city is being created by an international team. For example, Israeli specialists are working on security, British ones – on transport and logistics, Poles do the projecting and Lithuanians consult. Ukrainian specialists were involved in building the school.

It is expected that the city will include the whole set of infrastructure – housing, gyms etc. As now there aren’t that many residents here, the partners organized some things on their own. For example, a cafe.

As Yakover told, for him and like-minded people, the idea of such a park has been up in the air for ten years. He is confident that there are more opportunities than risks for business in Ukraine, and that stimulates him and his partners to create here.

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  • veth

    Well done, Ukraine.

  • Alex George

    Smart thinking.

    Information Technology is now said to be the third largest industry sector in Ukraine, and on its way to becoming the second largest in the next decade.

    IT has been the ideal vector to harness Ukrainian creativity in a way that is relatively immune from the Soviet-style corruption that continues to bedevil the Ukrainian economy.

    And it has been boosted by the tens of thousands of refugees from Russia who have fled to Ukraine – many have been in the IT entrepreneurs. Its part of the “brain drain” under Putin that drags Russia down and boosts Ukraine.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      When he was “president”, Medvedev had Great Plans to create a Dwarfstanian Silicon Valley. Little has been heard of this so far, perhaps smothered in Dwarfstan’s bureaucracy? Or has the money been spent on Dwarfstan’s armed forces and security services instead, on Pedo Putolini’s “humble dwellings” or Medvedev’s duck house and vineyards even?

      • Murf

        It died with the sanctions and the rise of Putin’s Fascism.
        Russia’s economic future down the drain.
        All for a barren peninsula and an outdated navel base.
        The Minister of Defense even said they can’t afford a blue water navy.
        Thus far the mighty hath fallen.

  • Tony

    This looks like a promising ecosystem. One crucial thing to put in the students heads is that they alone are responsible for their destiny and their country, they can’t depend on anyone’s help nor can they blame anyone for their failures(including conspiracies). From this understanding of personal responsibility they should understand why they should try to work at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and without complaining. Go all in, it’s your life. If things go well then maybe one can afford to scale down to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    It’s also a good idea to have at least 3 children because who is going to take care of you when their old? Pay others to do it? Well savings only mean something in a working socitey, if there aren’t enough workers in the future then savings will melt under inflation as a majority with savings will try to buy services of a minority that can’t keep up and responds by raising prices. Robust demographics also help fight off external agression. Three children may sound hard on the women but what’s wrong with willingly becoming a housewife? The more innovative jobs could still be done from home via computer.

  • zorbatheturk

    RuSSia falls behind again on innovation.

  • Murf

    Instead of worrying about loosing Donbas and Crimea THIS is what Ukraine needs to be concentrating on.
    The industries there are profitable but fading into obsolescence and can be rebuilt in more loyal locations with modern efficient plants.
    Everybody that had anything going for them left years ago.
    Let the factories rust and the dirty coal mines fill up with water.
    High technology is Ukraine’s future.
    Put money into Aero Space,Avation,IT, and ship building were the realmoney is.
    Every dollar they spend trying to regain and rebuild occupied Donbas is throwing good money after bad.

    • Alex George

      They aren’t trying to recover Donbass (well, the part of it that putin holds, which is less than half) so it can be like the old Donbass. It will be very different after putin is defeated.

      You also mistake the nature of the conflict there – agreeing to let these slivers of Donbass go is not an option which putin ever seriously puts on the table. Ukraine is holding him there because its only other option is giving control of Ukraine to putin. The ONLY other option.