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Helping the Russian innovation ecosystem – an alumna story of Anna Agaltsova

Alumni stories

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09.10.2020

If there is one thing she has learned in the Netherlands, it’s putting the scientific method in practice. Currently helping Russian startups at the Moscow Agency of Innovation, Anna Agaltsova uses her learnings from the VU daily: “How to define research questions, how to find relevant methods.” 

“Let me tell you about a startup that I really love”, Anna starts out. “It initiated by Olga Chubarova, a woman who has working in the energy industry. You must realise that Russia is not particularly gender balanced, so that makes this startup extra special. She started a new project in car tire recycling - Green Tire 365 - using new technology to recycle faster and more efficiently. Tires from big industrial cars wear off quickly. Upgrading the tires is preferable over replacing them. Currently the company builds a new factory in the Moscow region.” From her position at the Moscow Agency of Innovations Anna gets in contact with a lot of interesting initiatives all over the place. “That’s what I also love about the Holland Alumni network. Meeting people from all disciplines.”

The Moscow Agency of Innovations is set up to support the innovation ecosystem in the city. Anna works on different projects, for instance helping start-ups to get in touch with the different departments of the city government. But also to identify the needs from society on the one hand, and from the startups on the other. Anna: “The startups are often looking for investments, but nowadays they don’t want just any investment on whatever condition. For example: now I meet companies who are looking for money to expand to new markets. One logistics company is looking for opportunities to expand to the Polish and Lithuanian markets. Also, many people are looking for good contacts: often people don’t need the money per se; they need the connections, the expertise.”


We organise different competitions and hackatons. We are focused on technology driven businesses.


Methodology: ‘absolutely awesome’
Before Anna entered the entrepreneurial world, she studied sociology in Moscow. “In my fifth year I got an internship at Nuffic Neso in Moscow.” Working as a student counsellor Anna found out about the opportunities of studying in the Netherlands and she wanted to make the leap herself. “I chose the VU because the study of sociology was very much focused on methodology and because I received a scholarship for a research master programme.” 

“The courses on qualitative research were absolutely awesome”, Anna states. “Of the many things I took away from my studies in the Netherlands, the first is ‘methods’. Compared to my studies in Moscow the courses were much more structured. ‘How to define research questions’; ‘how to find relevant methods’ and also ‘how you as a researcher personally influence the field you study’.” Anna uses her methodological knowledge daily in her job as a researcher in the innovation agency. “My experience at the VU has helped me a lot in my current job.”

The Netherlands: one big city
Growing up in Moscow, Anna used to be clueless about her ambitions in life. “To satisfy the adults I came up with the answer that I wanted to design clothes, but in fact I had no idea. Basically I loved historical books but I had no idea what kind of jobs would fit my interests.” The love of books led Anna from the study of sociology, in Moscow and in Amsterdam, to the ‘innovation ecosystem’ in Moscow.

Looking back on her studies at the VU (2011-2013) she absolutely recommends the experience to other students. “I was already a little familiar with The Netherlands, because I prepared two pre-departure briefings when I worked a s a student counsellor. I already had Dutch friends when I was in Moscow, so the transition was very smooth. For me the Netherlands felt like one big city. Delft is only 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam: that’s exactly my daily commute here in Moscow.”

Engaging Holland Alumni in Russia
Anna recommends new students to engage with their new country. Furthermore, she also recommends becoming an active member of the Holland Alumni network, as she did in Russia. “On one hand it was quite a challenge to engage people and to keep them active. Moscow is huge: it takes a lot of your energy after work to commute to a Holland Alumni event.” According to Anna, the secret is engaging people on a personal level. “We also had a good balance between big and smaller, specialized, events with which we targeted specific groups. We played football: the Russsian alumni against the Dutch expats. We played ‘elfstedentocht’ in a park in winter time, when there was ice skating ring. Teams had to solve puzzles.” 

“My favourite project, that also received a lot of positive feedback, was an event where we did an archeological project at Rostov, where the remains of a Dutch fortress from the seventeenth century is found. With only 12 alumni and people from the Dutch embassy and people from the Rostov city government, we worked outside for an entire day. In the end the Rostov mayor arranged a nice dinner and many people stayed for the night. It was an untterly inspiring project.”




Anna in short

Looking back on her studies at the VU (2011-2013) Anna Agaltsova absolutely recommends the experience to other students. “The courses on qualitative research were absolutely awesome. Of the many things I took away from my studies in the Netherlands, the first is ‘methods’."

Anna: "For me the Netherlands felt like one big city. Delft is only 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam: that’s exactly my daily commute here in Moscow.”

Anna: “My main tip would be; be attentive to yourself, if you feel tired, don’t push yourself, but try to be active nevertheless. Try to learn more about Dutch culture. Try to engage with your new country, there is a lot you can learn from it.”

Find Anna on Linkedin and on the Holland Alumni network.


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