Future of Ukraine in Europe and innovation ecosystem ‘Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine’

The Rector of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Mykhailo Zgurovsky, discusses Ukraine’s fight against invasion and its determination to meet challenges and rebuild.
13th December 2022
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For most Europeans, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine above all concerns destroyed cities, civilian casualties and millions of refugees.

And people in the West understand clearly that the future of Ukraine is, in fact, the future of their countries.

For Ukrainians, irrespective of their age, gender or profession, the war is a harsh reality.

Higher education institutions are certainly no exception to the grim realities of war, particularly one of the flagships in Ukraine – the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI).

As a matter of fact, Russia’s war in Ukraine did not begin on 24 February 2022, but in March 2014.

From the first day of the war, KPI staff and students have been fighting at the front. During the first seven years of the war, fourteen of them sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Ukraine (four of them were posthumously awarded the title Hero of Ukraine) and during the nine months since the full-scale invasion in 2022, seventeen more KPI staff and students have died.

At present the situation is extremely difficult, especially due to indiscriminate missile attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine and Kyiv taking place every week since 10 October 2022.

For example, on 15 November 2022 alone, a wave of 96 missiles and Iranian-made drones hit Ukraine’s energy facilities. Ukrainian people are experiencing difficulties because of electricity outages. According to local authorities, around half of all critical energy infrastructure was seriously damaged by missile strikes.

Ukraine survived the blackout, but there is a still greater threat of a new and even more serious blackout; Russian terrorists seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and missiles continue to rain down throughout Ukraine, killing civilians.

The attacks by the Putin-regime complicate the operations of our university, although all this will never shake our staunchness or resolution to fight against Russian aggressors.

Founded in 1898, KPI is one of the most prestigious and well-known institutions in Ukraine, and one of the largest research universities of science and technology in Eastern Europe.

The university has a history of training a plethora of prominent figures, particularly in the scientific sphere. Yevhen Paton, inventor of electrical welding, while others include Igor Sikorsky, Kyiv-born pioneer in aeroplane and helicopter design who studied engineering at KPI, and Sergey Korolyov, top-flight designer of guided missiles, rockets and spacecraft, chief designer of the first artificial satellite in 1957, and the guiding genius behind the first manned spaceflight in 1961.

With 125 years of experience of engineering education, KPI has proven itself as a high-quality and affordable destination for international students. KPI has 2,279 academic staff to support its 23,400 students across 24 institutes and faculties, offering 18 fields of study and more than 40 specialisations with society- and industry-ready skills including through internships and dedicated support from admission to graduation. KPI offers a broad variety of programs ranging from pre-admission courses to PhDs.

KPI’s computer-science and engineering programs are some of the best in Ukraine and are recognised internationally, largely owing to the academic achievements of its diverse staff and students.

Signing the Magna Charta Universitatum in 2003, KPI has been one of the first Ukrainian institutions to join this European and global community, and it is fruitfully cooperating with more than 300 universities and other partners from 44 countries. KPI academics have participated in over 140 international projects, with close links especially to the United States, Poland, Germany, France, Sweden, Canada, Turkey and Japan, among many others. It is worth noting that one of the key traditions of KPI is industry-focused collaboration.

According to this tradition, established by the eminent scientists-innovators who worked in KPI during its rise and development, the Innovation Ecosystem Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine (SCU) was launched and has expanded nationally over the years, and also internationally in recent years.

In the pre-war years, the Innovation Ecosystem SCU comprised 25 startup schools based in 20 regions of Ukraine. Regional innovation clusters, high-tech companies, banks, funds, and local authorities grouped around these startup schools. Increasingly, the Innovation Ecosystem SCU is gaining worldwide recognition and popularity: three international SCU offices have been opened in the United States, two each in Israel, Azerbaijan and China, and one in Poland.

Its key element, the annual festivals of innovation projects – the Sikorsky Challenge – was in 2022 devoted to the post-war rebuilding and innovative transformation of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, said in May 2022: "The postwar reconstruction of Ukraine should become the same historical example as the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. It will be an investment in the stability of the entire Central and Eastern Europe."

KPI, the Innovation Ecosystem SCU joined this ambitious program in pursuit of innovations, inventions and startups, bringing them to domestic and foreign markets, which would accelerate the post-war reconstruction and innovative transformation of Ukraine.

At a Conference of Rectors and Presidents of European Universities of Technology in September in Vienna, it was proposed to establish a common and holistic innovation space of Europe and Ukraine for its post-war innovation transformation on the basis of the Innovation Ecosystem SCU. And during the CESAER Annual Meetings (CAM) 2022 in October hosted by TU Dresden, a key theme was regional visions for global challenges, connecting challenges and opportunities from the local to the European level and beyond. During CAM, the General Assembly of CESAER invited KPI to become a Member as of 1 January 2023, an invitation we warmly accepted, and we look forward to joining the community in the new year.

Working together in Europe will ensure the fastest possible entry of our country into the EU with high standards of economic development and security, as well as advancing the contribution of education and science to building a new, more secure Europe together across the whole continent.

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