The annual Open University Skolkovo (OpUS) Summer Camp kicks off on July 3 with a focus on agro-technologies in the BRICS countries and, for the first time, a truly international flavour.

Some of the students who took part in last year's Open University Skolkovo Summer Camp. Photo:

If previously, the OpUS seasonal camps were open to students from across Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, now the summer camp has firmly expanded its horizons. The working language will for the first time be English, and in addition to students from all five BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), young scientists from 10 other countries are due to take part in the camp, including Armenia, Ghana, Greece, Iraq and Nigeria.

“This is the first time that the OpUS Summer Camp is being held in an international format with the participation of BRICS countries,” says Andrei Egorov, director of the Open University Skolkovo.

This year’s camp is titled SmartAgro BRICS+, and is devoted to the use of hi-tech and biotech solutions in agriculture in the BRICS countries and to international cooperation in science and technology between young researchers from those countries.

The aim is to pave the way for new projects and international partnerships to help the BRICS countries to become world leaders in food production. Currently, an estimated 795 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and with the world’s population growing fast, it is estimated that by 2050 the planet will have to produce 60 percent more food.

For the BRICS group of emerging economies, whose populations make up almost half of the world’s total, the prevention of hunger and agriculture development are key priorities, say the summer camp’s organisers.

“The topic [of agro] is a really pressing one at an international level,” said Egorov.

“At Skolkovo, a new agriculture division was opened last year within the biomed cluster. We decided to support young scientists working on agro-technologies, to give their work a new boost, demonstrate the opportunities that Skolkovo offers and introduce them to global best practices,” he said.

Skolkovo is particularly interested in joint projects with China, India and Brazil, said Roman Kulikov, head of the biotech in agriculture section of Skolkovo’s biomed cluster.

“Each of these countries has made leaps and bounds in agro and biotech in the last 10-15 years, and each one of them has its own model of development and system of state support,” said Kulikov.

The summer camp consists of seminars, lectures and workshops held in an informal format. Photo:

The camp seminars will focus on areas such as crop science, including genetics and selection, livestock farming and aquaculture, including genome engineering and food technologies, the use of satellite systems for precision agriculture, IT for agriculture and automated systems in farming.

The six-day camp will be attended by 120 master’s students and researchers, tech entrepreneurs and corporate professionals working on the creation of new technology for agriculture. Participants were selected on a competitive basis among young people aged from 18 to 35. The event is free of charge. Several participants were selected during the Skolkovo Foundation’s Startup Tour, a roving quest to find promising tech startups in Russia’s regions.  

“We expect participants of the Smartagro BRICS+ summer camp to get charged up with new ideas and learn about global trends,” said Kulikov.

“Young people will come to the camp who have nourished the innovations sphere of their countries, and who are ideological tech transmitters. We want them to mingle with Russian innovators and scientists and show the Russians that biotech – and in particular agro – are the future,” he said.

On the final day of the camp, whose co-organisers are Russia’s Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations and the Education and Science Ministry, students will present their own projects to an audience of experts.

Each day of the summer camp, held at Skolkovo’s Hypercube building, begins with an hour of yoga or other physical exercise, while in the evenings there is a social programme that includes an evening devoted to African culture, as well as screenings of science documentaries about Brazil. A full programme of events and speakers is available on the summer camp’s website.

Open University Skolkovo camps are held twice a year, in the summer and winter, with the aim of attracting gifted young people in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States into innovation and to form a community of young scientists. Previous participants in the seasonal camps have gone on to become leaders of regional or sector-specific innovative projects.

This year’s winter camp was held in February under the title of University and Science, and was devoted to the role of science student communities in the development of Russia’s science and tech industries. In April, the first spring camp was held in the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok.