The Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises is the Russian innovation support fund that was established in 1994 and manages funding programs for applied and market oriented research with the aim of developing innovative and technology oriented enterprises and start-ups. It offers support for research consortia, teams and individuals. One of its programs is called “UMNIK”, which can be translated into Russian as “smart fellow”. It helps young researchers to develop their business-oriented projects and launch start-ups.
Each time the organizers propose new topics, which, in general, fit into several main areas: information technology; medicine of the future; modern materials; new devices and hardware systems; and biotechnology.
Since the program was launched in 2008, 20 000 young researchers have received support from the Foundation. 846 of them were from Tomsk universities.
The UMNIK program helps young people to self-actualize. When a person takes responsibility for federal money (and this requires a certain amount of courage, because they need to keep track along the way), he or she passes a kind of test. A test for the ability to follow the road map, keep records, and comply with the work regulations.
As for the conditions of the competition, the main ones are the age (from 18 to 30 years) and the time given to finish the research (2 years). After the approval of the application, the author of the project is allocated "non-refundable" 500,000 rubles, and he or she disposes of them to achieve the goals. Assistants can be hired or everything can be done by the applicant.
Of course, a young scientist has an option to remain completely autonomous. But experience shows that more often the situation develops in a different way: an important role in the search for an idea and "infecting" a researcher with it is played by a research supervisor, who can find a promising student, motivate to work on the team, and maintain an appropriate atmosphere in it. This method of attracting young people to the program has led to the formation of not just working groups, but entire schools of "smart youth" on the basis of universities.