Moscow State University - connecting science and progress

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April 16, 2015
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The main building of Lomonosov Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills © Vladimir Sergeev, Ria Novosti

thinkRUSSIA looks at Russia’s legacy of innovation as Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) enters the top 30 in the Times Higher Education, a prestigious worldwide ranking of universities.  

Moscow State University scored this year the highest position it has ever been awarded in the World Reputation Rankings. In fact, 2015 was a good year generally for Russian universities as St. Petersburg State University, the oldest higher education institution in Russia, also broke into the top 80.

The Russian touch – innovation first

All too often, universities are merely considered these days as a place for students to learn and secure their access to the labor market. It should not be forgotten that universities have also a crucial a role to play when it comes to innovation. The trend in Russia is that creative minds lean towards industrial applications. In 1752, a self-taught Russian inventor named Shamshurenkov came up with the first self-propelling carriage. 17 years later, what is commonly seen as the first version of the automobile was invented.

Lomonosov himself, whom the university is named after, presented in 1754 a small tandem rotor to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Back then, the machine was powered by a spring and suggested as a method to lift meteorological instruments. He would hardly have guessed that 150 years later, his invention would be transformed into a way to transport passengers, thereby inventing the helicopter.  

A grand vision

How universities perform in international rankings provides a good indicator of how a state innovates. Cutting-edge inventions have been flourishing in Russian research centres over the past decade, notably in the realm of new technologies. The latest discoveries of 3D printing of satellites and smartphone covers, the SKIF MSU (Russia's most powerful supercomputer to date), or the spectacular smart tram R1 are but a few examples of the scientific energy surging through the country. And Moscow State, Russia’s oldest university, is hoping to become a technological hub in Russia and beyond.

The university is planning to build a 430,000 square-meter cluster to be used for scientific research. The idea is to make it a technological hub and unleash creative potential. Far from closing its doors, the university has worked hard over the past years to cooperate, not only establishing partnerships with foreign universities, but also deepening its collaboration with leading international institutions of higher education. From three departments in the 18th century, it has grown to 39 faculties and 15 research centres. The UNESCO International Demography Courses and the UNESCO Hydrology Courses are hosted there.

MSU has set the bar high but the question remains if other Russian universities will follow.

Do you know any revolutionary inventions from Russia? Have you ever considered cooperating with one of Russia’s universities or research centres? 

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