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AUA’s Dr. Armen Mkrtchyan Takes Part in a Forum on the Positioning of Armenia Among the 20 Most Innovative Countries in the World by 2018

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YEREVAN, Armenia – The American University of Armenia’s (AUA) Dr. Armen Mkrtchyan was part of an exciting event on November 13-14 that can have far-reaching implications for Armenia’s IT prospects in the next few years. Mkrtchyan, who is an assistant professor in the College of Science and Engineering, and also the director of its Innovation and Technology Incubation Center, was on a panel titled, “Innovation and Education” as part of the Business Innovation Forum’s (BFI) “Armenia – 20.18” event in Dilijan. The key topic of the discourse was the positioning of Armenia among the 20 most innovative countries in the world by 2018.

In order to succeed along this visionary path, “Armenia must try to increase its national production and consumption of high-end products. If, for example, we know how to develop lasers that are of use to Armenia, we can sell it to foreign entities and companies in Poland, as an example. In this way, the know-how stays in Armenia, especially if the government helps in promoting it too,” Mkrtchyan said. 

One of the key requirements to position Armenia as an IT center in the world calls for cooperation between industry and research institutions, such as universities, according to Mkrtchyan. National development in the IT realm requires high-end technological research.  AUA has already taken the lead by establishing the Innovation and Technology Incubation Center (ITIC), which is set to be opened in 2016.

“Collaboration with private companies in Armenia to help conduct high-end technical research is important. We’re trying to create collaboration and sharing between and among universities and companies in Armenia. AUA is part of the larger entrepreneurship ecosystem in Armenia. Research leads to creating innovation,” Mkrtchyan, who holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.

Along with representatives from the Polytechnic Institute, Slavonic University, various startups and government officials, Armen Mkrtchyan participated in the ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ panel. Different aspects of promoting entrepreneurial mindset in educational institutions, as well as advancing engineering and practical educations were discussed during the forum.

One key participant was Elena Donets, “a leading figure in the Israeli entrepreneurship scene and entrepreneur at heart,” who contributed to all three panel discussions at the Forum, including “Innovation and Education,” “Innovative Ecosystems,” and “Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” Donets, who is Chief Executive Officer at StarTau, Tel Aviv University’s Entrepreneurship Center, may play a role in advising AUA’s ITIC, as it takes its first steps into the entrepreneurial world and, later, as it progresses through the venture creation process.

Armenia must also develop strategies to create more startups, though not only for IT outsourcing (filling contract orders for foreign companies), but also to manufacture hardware and hybrid (software and hardware) solutions.

“Outsourcing can play a crucial role for startups, especially when they are strapped for cash and lack experience. It’s okay at the beginning. Outsourcing is an opportunity to get training, get technical and managerial experience, then you can start your own project. You need resources to create new products. But, first, it’s about survival,” Mkrtchyan said.

New Armenian startups, like PicsArt, ggTaxi, and Joomag Armenia are growing fast. Another startup, Menu Group recently raised $720,000, a substantial amount that materialized in part through venture capital funding led by Granatus Ventures.

“We should spread the word that successful startups are a reality in Armenia. We must focus on the positive and promote it,” Mkrtchyan said, emphasizing that these new companies must also exhibit social responsibility and “share their experience with others in the industry,” which goes counter to the “typical” Armenian way. “People are scared to share,” Mkrtchyan said, but it is the only way for large-scale growth, according to Mkrtchyan. It can lead to people saying, “I can join you too,” and finding the motivation to enter the IT world.

The organizer of the Forum in Dilijan, the Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE), is a platform for knowledge sharing and practical solutions discussions among the local and international experts of the high-tech and related industries.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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