TechUkraine Changemakers: Alexandre Yurchak

Alexandre Yurchak – General Director of the Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine (APPAU)

“Elevator pitch” – ID (short resume – who, what, where)

Born in 2016, Industry 4.0 in Ukraine is the common platform for all hi-tech industrial segments – from IT-developers to machine-builders. We believe that Industry 4.0 can be a national driver that leads Ukraine to a hi-tech and prospering economy. Industry 4.0 ensures today so necessary an alliance between new digital technologies (4.0), industrial innovators, and manufacturers. Industry 4.0 is created and supported today by Association of Industrial Automation where I take the position of the general director.

“Bootstrapping” – When did you start “tech&innovation life” and why? What was the challenge of the sphere?

I work in the field of Industrial Automation & IT for almost 30 years, and in my carrier, I always promoted innovations. What changed last 5-7 years with the venue of Industry 4.0, these are the speed of innovation, the scope of new technologies, and their penetration in every aspect of our life and work. All that increased enormously and continue to grow. So, as the coordinator of the local Industry 4.0 platform, I also need to change my approaches and my paradigms. I had to build a more open mind and review my relation to startups and innovations. 

For instance, until this time, we have hot discussions in Ukraine regarding the capabilities of startups to develop valuable and ‘ready-to-use’ products and solutions. When we look at the local end-user market, we see that market share belongs to 90% to mature (‘adulte’) companies born in the 90th of the last century. And such a situation is simply explained as technical demands of industrial end-users are typically higher comparing to B2C (consumer) markets. And no or just small technical risks are acceptable. So technically, solid solutions and products take time.

From another side, we observe that ‘adulte’ companies, developers, and system integrators are too conservative, and they are late with innovations 4.0 comparing to developed countries. We live today in the world of disruptive innovations when technologies are available everywhere, and new products and services come daily.

There is the only solution in such a context: develop innovative ecosystems, with another ratio and relations among players, and with other goals. In our platform I4.0, we have a clear intention to develop industrial startups and to focus a lot on a new type of ecosystem.

“Ninja/Rockstar” – How do you change the ecosystem?

Firstly, in 2017 we tried to understand what is our real ecosystem. We started with accounting and have built the 1st version of the Ukrainian Landscape of Industry 4.0, with just 50 local innovators on it. And many of them were from other Tech segments, not Industry 4.0 (means Manufacturing, Energy or Transport). It was 1st call for us that our innovative ecosystems in Industrial segments are rather weak.  

We analyzed deeper the State of ecosystems while developing the national strategy Industry 4.0 in 2018. This time we made 1st attempt to account and to understand the State of all other elements of ecosystems, like technoparks, or R&D centers, or incubators. The conclusions were still sadder. But in the same year, fundamental changes started. We proposed the concept of regional Centers of Industry 4.0, briefly ‘Center 4.0’. They are based on selected technical Universities. Today we have 3 such Centers in Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv, and we plan to open still 3 others.

In 2019 we proposed the holistic model of the innovative ecosystem for industrial hi-tech. It plays the role of ‘check-list’ about any industry, but what is more important, it gives orientation to all policy-makers about relevant priorities of development. For example, we saw in many sectors that evolution issues are not just in many startups, or incubators, or funds. What is not less and maybe more important in industrial hi-tech is a solid infrastructure that enables a way from a prototype ( MVP) to the market. And typically, these are such elements as well as equipped Labs, FabLabs, Technoparks, Center of Expertise, and so on. Millions of dollars should be invested in them as our old post-soviet infrastructure is almost destroyed. So, we changed discourse with Ministries but also with manufacturers and policy-makers explaining the 1st priorities of such investment in their innovation strategies. It takes time to change the old mentality, approaches, and avoid populistic rhetoric about startups and innovations. Our Government should invest in a solid innovation infrastructurebut not just to use old assets and human capital, or to make PR on innovations. But anyway we move. It is also important to do small steps ourselves, communities, and associations without waiting for significant investments. Like we do with Center 4.0 and now combining efforts with TechUkraine and other progressive communities. Together, we can move faster.

“Moat/Value proposition” – The most prominent projects, achievements you are proud of

We move now with well developed and detailed strategy I4.0 in a very systematic and consistent way. There, we have a portfolio of 16 projects to be realized in 3 years. Typically, in any country, it is the level of State policies and State support. In Ukraine, the State, unfortunately, pays no attention to Industry 4.0, and our Association took responsibility for those projects. Last year we worked on 7 projects with the highest priorities. They are next:

  1. Development of the network Centers 4.0, I mentioned above. 
  2. Renewed Landscape I4.0 (v2.0) where we put already 76 local innovators 4.0
  3. Big campaign of promotion 5 international standards ISO/IEC. It should be noted that Industry 4.0 in the sense of cyber-physical interaction of devices, machines, processes, and people is highly based on common standards.
  4. Developing roadmaps of digital transformation in several industries, as Railways, Food, Metallurgy.  
  5. To cope better with high-level lobbying issues, we created another platform Industry4Ukraine that unites today 50+ business associations, people from Government and policy-makers.
  6.  Top rise awareness of local end-users about Industry 4.0 together with partners we organized big 1st big forum, maybe biggest in Eastern Europe, with an invitation of colleagues from Poland, Israel, and France.
  7. We also won a grant project for the participation of the National booth in Hannover Messe, which is the #1 trade show in Industry 4.0 worldwide. This project will completely change our capabilities in export and internationalization.  

Summing up, all these projects lead to building a powerful, innovative ecosystem and community able to drive the hi-tech industrial development for internal as well, for external markets. 

Readers can find more information about the results of those and other projects in our special report. 

‘Tech for good” – The next big thing you predict in the next decade for Ukraine

Ukraine still has substantial assets in the innovation and hi-tech arena worldwide. It is not just about human capital and its such an expression as a number of IT-specialists. We need to understand, keep, and develop the roots of such assets. Here we come again to the notion of innovative ecosystems and their importance for the future. So, we can keep and improve our positions as an innovative hi-tech country only by better development of all elements of ecosystems: reformed high education system, different kinds of incubators and accelerators, multiple funds, tens of technoparks, and hundreds of R&D centers. And of course, we need hundreds of startups in every sector of the economy. As a member of the TechUkraine community, we are ready to cooperate and work together to help startups grow in the industrial arena. I’m optimistic about the future, and I believe in our common ability to make Ukraine one of the technologic leaders of Eastern Europe in Industry 4.0. What is essential here, it is about right positioning and right strategy. Our strategy forms the 10-years vision and says next, – ‘In 2030 Ukraine is a hi-tech, post-industrial country, that is integrated into global values chains and able to produce unique and high-quality engineering products and servicesFor its own needs, Ukraine is self-sufficient to ensure its army and its economics by the most needed technologies.’ 

So, we’re already on the way of implementation of this vision.

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