Development parks
Текст: Alexey Kirillov | 2014-05-15 | Фото: Archive of Alexey Glebov; Mars-Tefo | 14783

‘Development parks’ is a project that breaks stereotypes about modern Russian education and business. The only thing that matters is the fact that this project is only one of the few exceptions in the reality of Russia today.

Aleksey Glebov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ‘Development Parks’ company, told us the details of the project’s implementation.

– Aleksey, could you tell us please, what line of business are you in and what the purpose of ‘Development Parks’ is?

When we started this project, our task was set to create new strategic types of activity and hi tech workplaces, where this activity would be in demand. At this point, we started to work according to the then existing global trends.  For example, in its last report, McKinsey points out that within the next 3-4 years in the global job market a serious deficit of top-level professionals will occur, also among engineers, which is around 40 million people. Furthermore, 140 million people with low or average qualifications would be made redundant as they won’t be needed – they will be superfluous. The only thing that is hard to fully understand is what the next technology growth wave will be based on. We can examine existing wave contours, but it is not wholly structured. 

What should we do in such a situation? The answer to this question is the creation of ‘Development Parks’, a network of educative and play grounds, where we can search for the germination of new perspective technology and markets that would grow in the next 5-10-15 years. We are simulating how and what should occur, and then we can see what skills we need to become the players on these markets and then we start to develop them.

As the basis of this development we use a ‘development cycle’ system that we have created: ‘demonstration’ – ‘choice’ – ‘educational research’ – ‘educational quest’ – ‘realization’.  At the ‘demonstration’ stage we present the list of different professions to the participants in the training, so they can make a conscious decision regarding a profession according to their own interests. The main task of this stage is motivation for conscious activity, achievement of the result and self-improvement. During the first cycle of the ‘choice stage’, a participant chooses a profession to see how it feels and try it out as a part of a role play. During the next cycles of this stage, a demand for acquisition of knowledge and career competence in game companies of the future and in real innovative projects is created. The prime tools here are organizational and activity games and projecting sessions.  During the first cycle of ‘educational research’ you are introduced to the topic, then an ocular demonstration of the scientific and technological frontier, as well as possibilities of future frontiers. During the next cycles, it turns into intensive research into the selected topics. In computer games it is known as character upgrading and gives you a chance to move to the next level, or increase some of your capabilities on the current level. The next stage is ‘educational quest’, i.e. the traversal of a track from one project to another with increasing competence. In the first cycle of the ‘educational quest’ there is learning about the profession, which is available in the game’s model, and later – a career in the game companies of the future. The main task is transitioning beyond the possibilities’ limited by the borders of today. Then, finally, the realization stage the professions’ test is performed which is a transition to the next game level, or to the level of real projects.

In this case, we know the following for certain: you need ten thousand hours of actual practice in order to obtain an international standard qualification in any field of activity. This data was obtained as a result of research undertaken by many groups of psychologists. Research was separately undertaken for engineers as well, and the results were the same. So you need not only study at the university for 5 years, but also to do real-life construction like boilers and burners, to take part in their assembly, to carry out tests, i.e. to cover the whole process in ten thousand hours. But in order to acquire this ten thousand hours, assuming it is over 10 years, you need to dedicate 20 hours a week to the training in engineering, science, or journalism, anywhere, but combining it with study at school or university, or combining it with work or managing your own business. 

– Your project has some social features, but the distinct business-logic can be seen. And the inspiration you are talking about (too bad our readers won’t feel it) suggests that you are really enjoying this project. Which is the closest to the truth?

The topic of development is interesting enough for me on its own. I wish it could become more of a trend here. It is very hurtful, so to say, to see how the level of professionalism has diminished in many fields. There is a big internal will to change the situation. That is why I could deal with this project just from the social point of view. But I think it has very good business prospects, and not just in terms of commercial education for new activities. Specifically I would like to place more emphasis on when new projects and teams come to the Parks, it would then become possible to be the first one to invest in the most interesting start-ups.

I have already had two existing production businesses for quite a while. Everything is running smoothly there, the business processes are set up, and the client base is formed. But the markets, where businesses are presented, after they have reached a certain level, have risen no further. Consequently, they can’t provide serious business growth. New niches should be found, and Development Parks is a good instrument for such a search.

Besides, my age allows me to pass on experience to young teams, together with certain resources, i.e. to come as an investor, take a share, but not to deal with the field work. It is becoming interesting to supervise a few talented and ambitious teams that are working in promising directions, where serious growth is possible. Clearly, not all the teams will rock, it is a risky investment in any case. But you can see in Development Parks those in whom you invest. If the team has completed at least one project within 6 months, that means I will have seen them work. I think 6 months is a good enough term to understand a lot about someone, to see if one can trust you with money, or some other resources. That’s completely different from the situation where you have a business-plan, or resumé, or fantastic prospects, or a bum steer; then investments are obtained and, as result, many investments were wasted, being told that they didn’t succeed, but such is life. That’s one of our main differences from a venture capital fund.

And one more point: a unique ecosystem will grow around these parks (and is already growing), that comprises people interested in such projects. One part of these parks will be as consumers, and another part will be as developers. So in truth such projects will be easy to progress, while the new type of market is formed.

Alexey Glebov on one of the manufacturing enterprises.

– In order to make the whole system work, well-qualified experts are needed; those experts who will be able to give an educative guess as to what may appear in 10 years. Do you think such an expert community is possible to find?

Yes, an expert community is a one of the key elements of the project’s success, and it is already developing. For example, Igor Volk, pilot cosmonaut, test engineer, and the pilot of the spacecraft Buran, is one of our advisors. There is no better expert in cosmonautics and piloting. But the procedure for the expert’s selection is not perfectly organized yet; communication is mostly performed by means of personal reference.

A real interest for us is represented by the experts in three fields of activity. The first one – the education of the new generation, as we call it, with an analogy to sport, is the formation of higher achievements, aimed not at the diploma level, but on results in the form of the business, the project or specific competence. We have decent examiners in this field, because we understand who is worth what. We are making an effort to find the right experts in the field of engineering, including access to transportation, robotics, and infrastructure of a new generation, eco-friendly independent systems for power supply and life’s activities. We are also organizing cooperation with foreign partners, especially in 3-D transport; this topic has progressed well lately in Europe. It means that the process of a pool of expert’ forming is developing in this field, but hasn’t been completely finished. And the third field is health management, but it is still in its early stage. We see a huge examination reserve here, but we don’t have real experts yet, because of the lack of our organizational and management resources, i.e. there isn’t enough time and the human factor to fully dedicate ourselves to this problem.

– It is clear why educational experts are needed for solving these project tasks. It is clear why experts in engineering are needed. But how can you include health management with it?

Health is a relative notion. When we say ‘health management’ we mean management of a person’s psychophysiological potential, i.e. potential is the starting point that should be implemented. For example, it is hard for someone with poor eyesight to work as an engineer, maybe because he can’t use a computer for a long time. After all, in the series of hi tech fields today, the health requirements for an engineer are almost the same as those for cosmonauts. And nowadays, youths already have a bunch of health problems starting at university, or even earlier in school. What kind of professionals will we eventually end up with?

That is why we say that we need to work from childhood with psychophysiological potential. In this case the Japanese succeeded. It is not surprising that the world-famous book Kindergarten is too late was written there. The name of the book speaks for itself. Its author, by the way, is the President of the Japanese Early Development Association, Masaru Ibuka, and in conjunction with this position, also one of the two founders of Sony. The second one, Akio Morita, is probably known to everyone.

As a matter of fact, a human being has the highest potential for the brain’s structural change in the early stages of life. Through genes, humans are quite similar to apes, but one difference from the biological perspective is equivocal: apes are born with practically a fully-formed brain’s structure, while human beings have the whole set of structures formed only after the birth. It has one disadvantage – a very long period of childhood, but on the other hand, humans have the strength and ability to adjust to different external parameters. That is why, when we want to increase a person’s potential, including health, we should start as young as possible, probably even beginning before the birth, and if after birth, then right from the very first days. It will be harder to solve some things later in life. If in the first days of life, a human being is provided with super-professional medical assistance, they won’t get many illnesses that would inflict on them for the rest of their life. As a result it will maximize potential in terms of thinking, reaction rate, development of the vestibular apparatus, tactile sensitivity, the ability to understand other people, etc. The list is endless.

We are also talking about preventative medicine – the medicine of the future, which won’t wait for the illness to appear before treatment, but because of early detection, healthy nutrition, lifestyle, etc., it would basically prevent it. That is a totally different approach, even a different mentality to now. Those people, who have graduated from our Medical Colleges, have learnt that when you have high blood pressure you just have to take a pill for it, but nobody knows its outcome. These problems can firstly be solved in the theoretical part, and then in real projects connected with future medicine.

– So you mean that the engineers of the future will be different from those we have now, in health matters, mentality, and approach to activities. How would this difference become apparent?

Today, 3D-transport is studied seriously, and I want to emphasize that through play and real projects we can come close to training people who could be capable to think in specific branchterms, not within one project – a flying machine. They understand a branch as a field of activity where the company operator is, with their own system of production, their own logistics of operation, a market of private users. They start seeing everything as a whole, as a life-cycle of the whole product, and the whole sphere. To see the past, present and future of this sphere, to make forecasts, to look one step forward. The same skills are also needed in cosmonautics and in energetic, and elsewhere!

– So through thinking about branches, they are able to create new branches…

That is what I mean. Already there is going to be the creation of a new branch of 3D-transport, and interestingly, it isn’t based on the existing automobile and aviation industries. Not without reason, the United States Department of Defense, through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), allocated 65 million US dollars for the construction of the ‘aerojeep’ for the US Marine Corps; it will fly vertically, and can transfer up to 4 infantrymen to any point, after one infantryman chooses it in the GPS-navigator. But note that this order didn’t go to Chrysler, nor Ford, or even Boeing. The order was signed up with the Terrafugia Company, where, at that moment, only 15 engineers were working, and it has proved itself only by PR for the flying machine. Why did it happen? It happened because it is an absolutely new field of activity, where totally different thinking prevails. Air automobile traffic should be controlled, but this control would be arranged differently from today’s monitoring service. Aeromobiles should be washed, parked, filled, and the infrastructure currently provided is not suitable. It is completely different usage model, a different world’s view, the completely different lifestyle of the vehicle’s owner, and generally cardinal reconstruction of the whole world. Having such transport possibilities, a person is practically unrestricted in their choice of workplace, accommodation, vacation, etc. And such a branch won’t be designed by those who are used to just making planes or cars.

More than a hundred people, excluding administrators and experts, are working on the project. These are well-qualified testing technicians, software designers, interior designers, architects and futurologists.

– I would like to talk about some project details. How do you solve organizing events?

The main goal is the expanded network of Parks around the country, or at least they should be in each big city, e.g. there should be no fewer than 10 in Moscow. But from our point of view, they can be fully loaded in cities with a population of 50-100 thousand people.

We are planning to move through small, compact enough, parks-terminals that would occupy 600-1800 m2 depending on the arrangement. More than 150 people a day can pass through such Park. So if we get 100 people, that could have classes 3 times a week, which would ensure the major part of the pass capacity.

– What works on the network’s expansion had already been carried out?

Under the constructed development cycle we have performed developmental works on a new model of educative games in full-scaled interactive format. Since April 12, 2012, and up till now, we are leading the control try-out and practice on the testing ground of the All-Russia Exhibition Center. This test format is called Interactorium. We have also prepared several products under ‘educational research’ and ‘educative quest’ as well. Now we are working on the sequences of the test projects that are designing future companies (supposedly in 2030) and real projects, part of which will give you the capability to create competitive projects for new markets.

According to our estimates, the obtained educational and test product complies with international standards. In addition to the above, theoretical and experimental works suggest that the next step that takes the products to an essentially different level is also possible. In order to reach this level, the creation of the whole network of Parks, not just separate ones, is needed, which means specifically organized strategic games and other tools would combine test and real projects. The scenarios and schedule of events that connect the parks in one project are already planned.

More than 100 people are working on the project already, not including administrators and experts. That’s well-qualified test technicians, software people, interior designers, architects and futurologists.

– What does the testing ground in an All-Russia Exhibition Center look like? Is that a park in miniature?

In some way it is. The footprint occupies 600 m2, and now is presented in one of the variants of its implementation, created in actual size. But this station is assembled from the universal package of developed spheres (so called separate units) that could be reprogrammed for totally different tasks, like from squares you collect new worlds. Imagine, you have a Mars station today, and tomorrow it is a development laboratory for energy-efficient technology of 2030, and the day after tomorrow it is the company for aeromobile manufacturing. If, now, looking in the illuminator you can see surface, then the software of the submarine station will transform the lifeless red landscape into an ocean with fish. The same is with the Martian-lander on the navigable surface; it will be transformed into a bathyscaphe. Of course, you should also change appearance and equipment.

That is the above “Interactorium”. Its units help to simulate, in interesting forms, different situations and to start working on the competences and to obtain practical skills that in the present reality are impossible to obtain. This means to start working for those ten thousand hours, that person needs to become a professional of an international standard. We will have 7 units of developed spheres and one – of educative research, i.e. 8 in total. For comparison, for the Park, we are planning for Moscow, we intend to create 15 units of developed spheres and 5 for educational research – and that gives 20 in total.

Experimental platform of the ‘Development Parks’ project of Mars-Tefo.

– Generally speaking, how possible is it in test mode to work with real professional skills?

The answer to this question is given by the flight simulators. The pilots should have the competence that would never be created practically. I doubt that anyone will board a plane with a failed engine or some other critical situation. However, on a simulator you can produce an automatic response. And even if such situation should happen in real- life, there is a great probability that the pilot will take the correct action.

Interactorium is the same as a simulator, but we are training those skills that would be needed later, on the horizon that we can forecast. Yes, we can make small mistakes, but there is nothing bad if you correct your mistakes. And if this ability is connected with management, organization, engineering, etc., then it will simply be supplemented. So, from those ten thousand hours that you need to become a well-qualified draftsman, you have already passed 7 thousand hours and the remaining 3 thousand won’t be that hard to pass.

In this case the test situation can provide the deep research of the participant into the process. The person proves himself and goes through during the test activity absolutely the same as in real life. We have many interesting stories about that. For example, the scenario of one game suggested a meteorite attack. One of the guys got stressed and ran away shouting the words “Are they stupid, or what? – They all are going to die!” But his friends handled the situation, and then he runs back to share the victory.

The second example is from the ‘educational research’. According to the game’s scenario, the electrical out happened because of an accident. The participant, who worked on the power supply apparatus, was unable to fix it. He suddenly realizes that he has not enough knowledge so he starts to find the solution to the problem in a book.

– You are talking about kids now. And generally, what is the appropriate age for the participants to take part in the test scenarios?

We see Parks as being the supplementary education during the whole of a person’s life. That is why the matter of age should be discussed as there will be products, adjusted for different age groups. It is performed in the form of a show and a series of games for the kids. The main task is not only to entertain the child, but also to provide a definite bundle of knowledge, that would orientate that child on the choice of a future profession.

As for slightly older people – that is a transfer to real or close to reality projects. But it is also some test things, the creation of an airplane model. If your model flies, and you have worked out its management system, you can move to the creation of the model in the next and bigger scale. And later you making a prototype of a real flying machine, and maybe even receive financial backing for that. Your machine may not be commercially successful, but there is no task for that at this stage. The most important thing is that those people who work in the team obtained the needed capabilities. However, after 4-5 cycles, the project could be profitable.

The third age range is people from 35 years old and above, who have achieved everything they could in their profession, who understand that their field of activity or the possibilities of career development are exhausted and they want to either have their own business, or to change direction and try something in perspective new direction. The basic form for them will be organizational and activity games, projected sessions and other tools, that would help to understand the real start-up, and this is already a game for adults, which are already projected and done separately.

– In the Soviet Union the activity clubs a wide-spread.  The airplane modeling you are talking about, reminds me …

The activity clubs had their professional, orientating and educational goals. In the airplane modeling clubs they created such models that the guys could take part in sporting competitions with. And our final mission is different; it is the creation of companies that would become players in the new markets in 5-7-10 years, for example in the market of private air transportation. While building the models, we are aiming for that market’s segment, and doing series of projects that could help to become established in it. In the first project you obtain organizational competence, in the second – you deal with math and aerodynamics, in the third – you are constructing something with your own hands, and so on.

Example of how to make training interesting.

– Let’s talk about real start-ups. How do you plan to work with them?

The logic of work in the sphere of real projects is generally understandable. In the first stage of such projects, only miniature models will be used, conventionally speaking, the plane’s models with a wingspan of 1 meter that flies by radio control. But the algorithms of controlling such models in space are the same as the algorithms of controlling 3D-space – the math is the same. If you learn how to make these models fly like birds, without colliding, then this motion algorithm can be easily transferred. And that’s what you can show the investors. But the main focus of the project here should be not be the item but people, i.e. the team that has worked on this project, and obtained some competence and understood something about the market. The point is that you have to invest in a team and not in the specific idea, like venture funds do. We say, “Guys, the idea can be changed many times. If it goes through 5 circles of discussion, modeling, adaptation, then the eventual product may be different from the initial plan. On the first 4 cycles we won’t generally create the commercial product, it will be too raw.” But if we say that the competence is our final product, then first cycle will be considered as a class project, it will be financed as class project, and the deliverable considered as minimal.

For the second stage we select those teams that will provide the best result. They, for example, could sign up an order for the model’s production for its usage in Parks network as gaming property. But that would be a real order, and on account of the order they could create the next generation of models. The competition could be announced and emerging from this would come particular solutions, in terms of noisiness and model’s capacity, minimum size of the runway, all-weather capability, etc.

In the next stage, those target markets that are not occupied today are seized and the real business-projects could be introduced there. For example, now we interact with a group headed by the head of the Sukhoi Company – the constructor who participated in development of Su-27. Now he is retired, but continues to be engaged in construction matters, and he has a very interesting aerodynamic scheme for pilotless devices for agricultural aircraft in development. Now, there is no pilotless aircraft present in agriculture, though this market quite active. And so, this construction group has small flying models (they started with these) – one operator can simultaneously operate four pilotless aircrafts from one automated workplace. That creates a completely different economy, when instead of the weight of the pilot – you have just the actual load, and instead of 4 highly paid pilots – just one operator. There is also one full-size device – it was launched from a wing but for now it is operated by the pilot. However, soon this full-size machine will appear with a pilotless option. And then it becomes economically viable – there are no similar planes available in the world’s market currently. And work as a participating trainee in a similar project allows for gaining the necessary capabilities very quickly. 

– Where do you find your ideas for real projects?

It is one of the community of experts’ tasks, and subjects under these ideas we study for some years. We are only discussing those subjects for now, which business models and the enterprise schemes are clear to us, and they are capable of creating a breakthrough in efficiency and productivity many times. Certainly, we don’t publish these schemes and we don’t put complete them, but we understand how to construct them. Therefore when groups of people appear, capable of working as team, we will give them these schemes, so to say, as a gift from the park, so that they try to make them. And the next step they take will be independency.

– Aren’t you afraid, that there are not that many people capable of making up such teams?

There really not that many now. But if to take that horizon about which I speak in 15 years, and to start being guided today as ten-year children, in 15 years they will be 25 – and it will be quite possible to rely on them.

– Have you thought that similar projects will have been started not here, but abroad? Do you understand that many subjects which you plan to be engaged in have already achieved more serious development there…

When I started the manufacturing enterprise, I visited more than sixty similar productions outlets in many countries of the world. I have been all over Europe and studied their experience; looked at what we do differently for productivity, as well as that it is possible to do; I visited all producers of equipment, studying features for this or that. It is good and interesting to look, but I am not sure about working and living there … After all it is rather boring there. And in general, I consider that there are more opportunities in Russia and our native cultural environment gives us the opportunities too.

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