ASTANA – Astana Business Campus, project of the Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System (NURIS), seeks to develop the knowledge-based economy in Kazakhstan by equipping entrepreneurs with facilities, resources as well as a community of support, said NURIS Head Aidar Zhakupov.
The Astana Business Campus has a 50-hectare campus near Nazarbayev University, the nation’s leading Western-style university.
“The very establishment of Nazarbayev University was meant to bring Western ideas and develop education and science and Astana Business Campus is an innovative cluster of Nazarbayev University continuing the university mission,” said Zhakupov in an interview for this story.
Part of the mission, he noted, is to encourage students to contribute to the development of the knowledge-based ecosystem by increasing the number of high-tech companies and production around the university.
Astana Business Campus, however, seeks to extend beyond the Nazarbayev University community, inspiring people across the city and the country to translate ideas into real products.
The office of technology commercialisation, technopark, office of contract research and business incubator are among the key facilities working toward that objective.
Technopark is a multipurpose complex offering modern facilities for corporate research and development centres, start-ups, service and high-tech companies. Priority areas include energy, information and communication technologies, medicine and biotechnology, design and production as well as robotics.
Apart from a network of experts and mentors, technopark also links potential markets and investors, provides business services, including registering trademarks, conducts patent searches and organises seminars and workshops. Currently, it hosts 12 companies, said Zhakupov.
More companies are willing to use the facility, he added. “They tell us they like the community of Nazarbayev University. The aura is completely different here. We want to work with students,” he said.
Astana Business Campus is implementing the idea voiced by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2012 to set up innovation clusters to nurture new technologies.
Astana Business Campus Quick Start acceleration programme is another key project of Astana Business Campus, helping entrepreneurs improve their products and services.
“This event is open to all even if you do not have any project of your own. There is a good environment. There are many young and ambitious people,” said Zhakupov.
If an acceleration programme assists projects with a business product in place, an incubator helps entrepreneurs develop a product with the help of specialists and mentors.
The university hosted a final selection Feb. 28 for the ABC business incubation programme and 12 projects offering innovative ideas in Industry 4.0, medicine, agriculture and green campus made it to the final.
“Though half of participants are from Nazarbayev University and from the city, this year participants came from Pavlodar, Karaganda, Almaty,” noted Zhakupov.
Yet, the programme also helps established businesses.
One of the recent examples, noted Zhakupov, is a Smart Monkey project that sells sets and boxes for children’s development.
“Specialists, including those in marketing and business, helped them and the project grew. Pivoting, which refers to the interaction aimed at improving the product, resulted in an introduction of Kazakh language to reach out central and southern (primarily Kazakh-speaking) regions of the country,” said Zhakupov, emphasising the upgrade resulted in an immediate increase in sales.
Kunde Café working at Nazarbayev University and employing people with mental challenges also works with Astana Business Campus incubator.
Zhakupov noted this movement is gaining ground in Kazakhstan.
“We are not the only ones in this field. There are TechGarden in Almaty, Astana Hub in Astana on the expo territory. These are all prerequisites for the country’s future development, in the right technological direction,” he said.
These mechanisms create a favourable ecosystem supporting innovative ideas, added Zhakupov.
Organising open events and inviting successful persons in the field helps inspire and motivate potential entrepreneurs, he said.
One of the recently organised events is an open session with Alena Tkachenko, developer of Nommi – a personal Wi-Fi router providing a fast and relatively cheap internet connection around the world. The project participated in INDIEGOGO international crowd funding platform and proved to be the most successful fundraising campaign among Kazakh start-ups.