Trade mission to Moscow and Saint Petersburg
From 21 to 25 October 2019, the Chamber of Commerce of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in close collaboration with Luxinnovation and the Embassy of Luxembourg in Moscow, organised a trade mission to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In Moscow, the delegation enjoyed an accompanied visit to the Skolkovo Open Innovations Forum, a networking reception at the Embassy of Luxembourg, and tailor-made business-to-business meetings, before heading to Saint Petersburg on the Sapsan, the Russian high-speed electric express train. There, the participants got to visit the city's largest incubator, were presented the local ecosystem by the local Chamber of Commerce, and networked with local businesses through b2b meetings and a reception hosted by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.
The commercial delegation, led by the Chamber of Commerce of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was composed of 20 companies with a total of 35 company representatives from a variety of sectors, as well as institutional partners including the Ministry of the Economy and Luxinnovation. The last visit of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce to the Moscow Open Innovation Forum was in 2018. According to the Luxembourg statistics portal (STATEC), the Grand Duchy's exports to Russia have stabilised since 2014. In concrete figures: last year, Luxembourg exported roughly over EUR 128 million worth of goods to Russia (mostly through the sale of heavy machinery, plastics and metals), and EUR 191 million in services, and imported a mere EUR 15 million worth of products, yet EUR 134 million worth of services. This balance sheet, in itself quite impressive, is still far from its upper limit. Russia's prime geographic situation has allowed the country to establish a strong network with its neighbours in Europe, Central Asia, and the Far East. Despite the EU-Russia sanctions and the somewhat acrimonious political climate, business opportunities between the world's largest country and Luxembourg, the second-smallest country in the European Union, could be plentiful.
The aim of this mission was to explore possible future economic cooperation and business opportunities in a variety of sectors, with a focus on innovation. The Trade Mission to Moscow and Saint Petersburg granted a great opportunity for Luxembourg companies to establish new business links and to get in touch with local key partners to get assistance and advice regarding access to this region.
The trade mission began with an all-day accompanied visit to the Skolkovo Open Innovations Forum, Russia's leading platform for technology, entrepreneurs, and corporations, to find new opportunities for development, connect with investors, partners and officials. The Open Innovations Forum, with some 21,000 visitors, is one of the largest events in Russia and 2019 showcased its 8th edition. The forum focuses on future technologies in contemporary human society, economy and everyday life. The main topic was 'Digital Nation - Leap forward to intelligent economy'. Mrs Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation, intervened on a panel on 'The era based on the architectural government platform - Market-driven coup or a digital dream?' alongside speakers from the Russian government and economy (Yandex, Wildberries, etc.).
The Skolkovo Foundation, with whom Luxinnovation signed a Memoradum of Understanding aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of innovation and new technologies, offered the Luxembourg delegation an accompanied visit of the forum, which offers shared and individual facilities to its participants (over 1,600 startups), including but not limited to laboratories, co-working space, and financing bodies.
A number of Skolkovo startups have already found their way to Luxembourg, thanks to the existing cooperation between the Skolkovo Foundation and Luxinnovation, in order to facilitate their globalisation and access to the EU market. Luxinnovation previously made contacts in Russia and has seen these companies quickly become ambassadors for the Luxembourg economy, specifically in the startup community where a snowball effect is currently developing. The companies in question continue to choose Luxembourg as their European hub due to its ideal environment with access to grants, personnel, and its logistic facilities. The day-long visit was wrapped up with a dinner reception held at and offered by the Embassy of Luxembourg in Moscow, which allowed the delegation to connect with the Embassy's extensive network.
The programme on Wednesday, 23 October started off with tailor-made business-to-business meetings. Participating companies enjoyed an extensive series of meetings with local companies that fit the profile they were looking for. Participants had a dozen or more meetings during the 4-hour-long session.
Eager to create new ties in Saint Petersburg, Wednesday's programme was concluded with the delegation heading to the 'Venice of the North' by bullet train in the afternoon. The Sapsan covers the distance of roughly 700 kilometres between the two cities in less than four hours.
The fourth and second to last day allowed for a very interesting visit of the Ingria Business Incubator, Saint Petersburg's number one hub for technology companies. Resident companies of the Ingria Business Incubator get access to a network of contacts shared by experts, investors and large companies, educational programmes, as well as consulting support, equipped workplaces and all the infrastructure necessary for work in Saint Petersburg. The Luxembourg delegation was offered a visit of the facilities (including scientific testing labs and their quantum communications based data situation room) as well as presentations from a number of fast-growing resident startups. Upon an open invitation from the Chamber of Commerce of Saint Petersburg, the delegation headed to their offices and was given a presentation of the Petersburgian ecosystem by the Chamber's vice president, Mrs Ekaterina Lebedeva.
Following the presentation, interested Luxembourg companies participated in the second tailor-made business-to-business matchmaking event of the trade mission at the Chamber's Gala halls at the historic mansion that Tsar Nicolas II offered his sister, the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Romanova, located in the city centre. Once more, participants from the Luxembourg delegation had upwards of a dozen meetings per company over a span of three hours. Thursday's busy programme was concluded with a networking reception at the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, to which each company could invite their business contacts. The reception was hosted by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.
The trade mission was concluded with a brief guided visit of the city of Saint Petersburg before the delegation embarked on their flight home after a week-long mission which, all in all, provided numerous fresh opportunities to strengthen bilateral business contacts and promote economic cooperation between Luxembourg and the world's largest country.
One of the participating companies, the Shadrin Oasis Group, which specialises in pet food, signed a letter of intent with the largest distribution company in the sector (Zoostandart) during the trade mission for an amount of EUR 15 million over five years. The contract will be revised in 12 months and is projected to reach EUR 30 million over the next six years, as well as the implementation of its specialised software in a new distribution model concept for B2B2C that was also developed in Luxembourg.