Bridging the gap between science and industry: Science & Technology Convergence Conference, Armenia
By Naira Kocharyan
How does an Eastern Partnership country encourage repatriation to reverse ‘brain drain’, explore and establish joint research laboratories and practical collaborations with European and US partners, and work towards creating a national PhD programme in Machine Learning? The EaPConnect project partner in Armenia, IIAP NAS RA, and associates came up with the idea of the ‘Science and Technology Convergence Conference’ (STCC), a platform for researchers, professors, institutions, commercial organisations and funders to meet, supported by the European Union.
Following the success of the first STCC in 2016, the third conference was organised in 2019 by IIAP NAS RA (the Institute of Informatics and Automation Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) and Smart Gate VC.
“I can congratulate us, because it was a month of technology: we had #WCIT, and before that #EaPEC 2019, and now we are here at #STCC,” Vice-President of NAS RA Yuri Shoukuryan welcomed the STCC 2019 participants.
The EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin and the RA Minister for High-Tech Industry Hakob Arshakyan also delivered opening remarks. Andrea Wiktorin stressed the importance of efforts to involve women in technology and provide opportunities for young professionals.
“We are rethinking and re-evaluating the role of science, we must put in efforts to develop science,” Hakob Arshakyan RA Minister for High-Tech Industry.
The 2019 conference was a great success, attracting more than 60 international speakers and exhibition posters from more than 30 organisations. Topics covered ‘Machine learning’, ‘Electronic design automation’, ‘Robotics & Internet of Things’, ‘Quantum computing’, and ‘Computer vision’. Panel discussions explored topics such as ‘Towards competitive science funding in Armenia’; ‘Science funding and industry collaboration models’; ‘Investing in Deep Tech’; ‘The challenges of industry-academia collaboration in post-Soviet space’; ‘Repatriation of scientists: imperative and challenges’; and ‘Computational biology: a driver for the biotech industry’.
“Collaboration between industry and academia is quite crucial in order to create scientific knowledge and to obtain industrial data. We want to be closer with these parties with the implementation of scientific results, but these models that are working quite well in western countries don’t work in Armenia, in my point of view, because there is a lack of trust. We need to solve this problem somehow and to do several things to decrease this gap.” Hrachya Astsatryan, Director of ASNET-AM at IIAP NAS RA speaking as a panellist in the discussion on ‘The challenges of industry-academia collaboration in post-soviet space’.
The large number of participants at STCC 2019 contrasts with the first event, highlighting the success of the formula. “The first STCC event was held with 7 organisations from industry and 5 universities and research organisations participating,” says Sergey Abrahamyan, a scientist from IIAP and an organiser of the conference. At the first STCC, participants from the scientific community and industry exchanged ideas on possible new projects, and discussed ongoing developments and issues that hinder progress. They also examined the status of scientific achievements and potential avenues of cooperation between science and technology. “The initial idea was to bring industry and science to a common platform where they can understand each other’s problems and speak a common language,” says Sergey Abrahamyan. “As a result, we gained cooperation agreement.”
The organisers of STCC hope that, with the remarkable increase in the number of participants this year, they will achieve more cooperation and foster links between research institutions and the private sector that will carry this event on to further success.
STCC 2019 was held in Yerevan on 11-12 October and was supported by a number of sponsors and partners including the European Union for Armenia and EU4Business.