There are 14 small innovative companies at SPbU, which were formed with support of the University.

One of the pioneering and successful small innovative companies is Geological Centre at SPbU. Deputy Director General Aleksei Tudvachev told us about how the company had been formed, developed and what projects it had been focuses on.

Investigations: rock and structural control of solid mineral and hydrocarbon deposits

SPbU’s Geological Centre is one of the first SIC that were formed at the University. Could tell us how it was initiated?

The idea came up when the federal law permitting to open SIC had come into force. So, we could bring together experts, mainly from SPbU, in geology and other areas, and we had already come into contact with most of our potential customers. Importantly, when the Center was opened, we had already developed our unique methods and technologies how to carry out and interpret geological exploration, which we successfully used after the Centre was created.

Actually, SIC SPbU’s Geological Centre is a platform to bring together SPbU’s experts, students and Russian experts from other institutions. It is effective in interdisciplinary research and comprehensive studies, especially in those works that must be done as a completed product, which is important for customers. The principle of our work is cooperation between geologists: hydrogeologists, geophysicists, petrographers, quaternary geologists, sedimentologists, petroleum geologists and geographers, physicists and even lawyers, as we must know the legal bases of our work on a par with the mere geological. So, it is another stimulus for cooperation within the University, and that is important. Research works and applied studies carried out at the SPbU’s Geological Centre remove the barriers in communication, experience and expertise exchange between the academic staff and students as they work in close cooperation on complex and inter-disciplinary tasks to reach their mutual aim.

Tell us about what works the Centre focuses on? What makes it different from the companies of this kind? Where do its innovations lie?

Our scope is quite various and is constantly expanding. Currently, the Geological Centre is carrying out the field works in the regions in solid mineral and hydrocarbon deposit exploration, studying the existing deposits, assessing groundwater resources, supports in getting a license for resource use, developing geological exploration projects for water supply of Russia’s biggest industrial enterprises, assessing inflows in building construction and mine development, developing legal norms, standards and GOSTs in engineering and geology, and developing the projects on re-cultivation of grounds of waste storage to name but a few.

What make the Centre different is its unique methods, technologies and state-of-the-art software (including those designed by our experts).  So, it is experts of high calibre that make our Centre different.

Actually, SIC is a new form of companies, and it is the innovation. Regardless whether it is innovative or not, it is the experts of high calibre who manage, carry out the projects and are responsible to the customers, industry, and even have responsibility to society and the government (as in forecasting inflows in excavation) that make any company successful. 

Why did you chose this form of the company: a small innovative company?

Most of the Centre’s experts studied, worked or still work at the University, and we have very warm feelings to the University and are pleased to develop the Centre with support of SPbU. We attract academic staff, students and post-graduate students to work with us. The students can take internship programmes with us, get valuable data to use in their theses and even get to work with us later. We are very proud of it.

Have you encountered some imbalances in how SIC works and how did you deal with them?

The first three years are very difficult for any company because many big firms are not likely to sign agreements with them, and it is the main official criterion. You can deal with it in two ways: you can work with small companies and carry out subcontracted works of the big companies, including your competitors, still you won’t be in favourable conditions. Importantly, the Centre’s top managers and staff had already had a potential for big projects, as they are recognized experts in scientific and business communities.

Another problem that we are facing now is decreasing of qualification level in our country and consequently dumping in the market, especially from your competitors. The situation is difficult to deal with, as it should be the concern on different levels.

Today, the SPbU’s geological Centre is one of the most successful SICs at SPbU. Are you in great demand?

Definitely. Today, the SPbU’s Geological Centre is in great demand in various fields in economy and social sphere: mineral resource exploration, assessment of mineral deposits, water supply from ground waters, engineering calculations in building and construction, forecasts and evaluations in ecology and environment preservation. As a result, we carry out our projects: we drill boreholes, add new reserves, and supply water.

SPbU’s Geological Centre is a well-known centre in Russia and beyond. Our projects are highly popular, primarily due to high quality and efficiency, including efficiency in document management. Definitely, as the Centre is in high demand, it benefits the University.

There are other SICs at SPbU. What would you advise them?  

It is a hard task to advise something, as the scope and structure of the companies can be considerably different from the SPbU’s geological Centre. All in all, I can say that you should properly manage the a high calibre team and bring together engineers and those who are responsible for marketing your services and products.

Besides, you should work on those problems that impede the SICs. Your forecasts may be not accurate, and you should revise them and invest more money. There are no miracles, and you have to invest vast sums of money in any business to set the ball rolling. It is associated with great risks, especially in innovative business, the investments can exceed profit, and you need more time to develop the SIC from strength to strength. If you fail to succeed, you should always think of alternatives:  adjacent markets, standard services related to your scope, and others.

Do you have plans for future?

Now, the Geological Centre is developing a number of unique methods for geological exploration and software to work with the geological data. Hopefully, we will manage to apply them in future. We are working on entering the global market as the Centre has a positive experience of work with the international partners in the Russian Federation. Besides, our experts in hydrogeology (underwater deposit exploration and assessment, hydrogeology of mineral resources) are on a par and even exceed the experts from Europe or USA, and the cost of our services is more reasonable.