St Petersburg University have released the results of the ‘SPbU Start-up 2020’ contest. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held online. First place, a 300 000 rouble scholarship and a 700 000 rouble grant to open a small innovative enterprise was awarded to the Speechkah team. The team developed a course that will allow the learning of Russian without an intermediary language.

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'Our course does not require the use of any additional language – the training is conducted entirely in Russian. The course is built on the snowball principle: each new topic is introduced through the material that was explained in the previous lessons. If a person has studied them properly, they will easily understand what the next lesson is about,' said the captain of the team Speechkah Uliana Shvets-Teneta-Gurii, who is a student at St Petersburg University.

Similar training systems have already been applied to the teaching of the Russian language, but they are not universal. However, there are studies proving that at the initial stages of language learning, the efficiency of the process is almost doubled if there is no intermediary language. Now the team is developing thematic mini-courses and compiling the A1 course, which will include about 60–65 lessons. At the same time, the students are working on product marketing.

The Light Up team, runner-up in the contest, was awarded a total of 1.2 million roubles. This amount includes a prize scholarship of 200,000 roubles, and a grant of 1,000,000 roubles to establish and develop a small innovative enterprise together with St Petersburg University. The students are working on developing a technology that could help in the fight against cancer. The idea is to inject tags containing gold and silver nanoparticles into the bloodstream of patients. The tags will illuminate cancer tumours and make them more visible to doctors. Third place and a 100,000 rouble prize went to the GenomeX team, who are developing an inexpensive and reliable system for diagnosing spinal muscular atrophy.

'All the winning teams were awarded roughly equal marks by the members of the Expert Council. The difference between them is 0.1%,' said Evgenii Pen, Chairman of the Expert Council of the 'SPbU Start-up' contest.

I would like to thank all participants for their will to win, which brought them to the final. To those who present their start-up projects as final year projects, I would like to also wish them success.

Chairman of the Expert Council of the ‘SPbU Start-up 2020’ contest Evgenii Pen

The 'SPbU Start-up ' has been held for the fifth time with the support of the University's Endowment Fund. The semi-final was attended by the people who came up with the 20 science-intensive business ideas this year. In the final round of the contest there were nine teams fighting for the prize. All participants received a four-month scholarship from the Endowment Fund of St Petersburg University (10 000 roubles each) to improve their ideas.

'I would recommend to my colleagues that they treat this experience as a library of solutions. I would hope that they listen to the questions that the advisory board members asked the other teams. They would then understand how to present their own projects in the way that they could do better in the future. All the teams that presented today are finalists, which means that all of them can be called winners. I hope that you feel exactly that way. No matter how the places are distributed, you are doing well, you are on the right track and, I think, you have a great future,' said Vladimir Lakeev, Director for Research and Development of the Foundation for Support of Scientific and Project Activities of Students, Postgraduate Students and Young Scientists 'National Intellectual Development'.

The main requirements of the contest are to form a team of three to five students or postgraduates of St Petersburg University from three different fields. They must develop a science-based and commercially viable project. Winners at each stage are selected by an expert council composed of representatives of the University and renowned business people.

'It is gratifying to see that most of the teams that made it to the finals took into account the comments and suggestions made by the Expert Council at the previous stage of the contest. That is why today's results are an indicator of your ability to learn and to benefit from feedback. They are all very interesting and have the potential for development. The experience gained in this contest will help you to present your ideas to future investors,' said Advisor to the Director General of Oceanos Vladislav Zanin.