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Nokia, Cisco Line Up as 'Silicon Valley' Partners

Russia may partner with foreign high-tech companies, including Finnish communications firm Nokia and U.S. network developer Cisco Systems, in the development of its "innovation city," presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said Thursday.

“We are currently in simultaneous talks with several companies, and mostly companies from the U.S. and a number of European countries, as well as [companies from] Asia,” he said at a news conference Thursday.

He said Cisco already had agreed to train engineers in the Russian version of Silicon Valley, located in Skolkovo, outside Moscow, and said negotiations with Nokia would soon be concluded.

“I can confirm that our company is in talks on the Skolkovo project,” said Alexander Palladin, a spokesman for Cisco Systems Russia. “The details are currently being discussed in our head office in the U.S., and we haven't been informed of the decision yet.”

Nokia Eurasia spokeswoman Viktoria Yeremina also confirmed that the company was in negotiations on the project. “Nokia representatives were invited to join the Skolkovo Council, the company is considering the possibility of setting up its own lab, Nokia Research Center, in Skolkovo,” she said in e-mailed comments.

President Dmitry Medvedev in March announced the Kremlin's plans to build a community for innovative development, to be modeled on California's Silicon Valley. He tapped billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, currently chief executive of TNK-BP, to oversee the project. Vekselberg, worth $6.4 billion according to Forbes magazine's estimates, owns Renova Group, a holding that includes Swiss technology conglomerate Oerlikon as well as a stake in United Company RusAl.

The innovation city, as it has come to be called, will focus on Medvedev's five priorities for modernization: energy, information technology, telecommunications, biotechnology and nuclear technology. The project will be financed in part by dipping into the government's 10 billion ruble ($340 million) modernization and innovation budget.

Russia already has gone abroad searching for partners. Last month, Medvedev said former Intel chief Craig Barrett would co-chair the innovation city's supervisory board. Other luminaries heading up the project will be Nobel laureate Roger Kormberg, an American biochemist, and Nobel laureate Zhores Alferov, a Russian physicist.

Kremlin first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov said last month that more foreign names will follow.

Vekselberg told Medvedev last week that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would participate in the innovation city's interuniversity academic center, where about 2,000 students would study. A preliminary agreement has already been reached with MIT, and a final agreement may be signed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June.

The deal comes after high-ranked Russian officials and businessmen visited the MIT campus in January to see how the university fostered innovation and technological breakthroughs.

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