The first step in establishing a technology-based venture is to get information on what is available. Although this will not always be a straightforward task, it is not as difficult as it may appear at first. This WTEC report is one source of information and contacts. All of the scientists and managers that the panelists met were very interested in developing business connections. Their addresses and telephone numbers are given in this report. This list of scientists can be expanded by drawing upon intertechnical community contacts that may already exist within your organization. Scientists that people within your organization have already met are an excellent starting point. These contacts could have been generated through attendance at symposia, professional society meetings, or even during graduate school. There may be a recent emigre working in your lab. One important difference between scientists in the FSU and in the West is the degree of informal networking that takes place outside the narrow technical field. It literally comes down to someone who knows someone who knows someone else. To tap into this informal network of contacts, do not hesitate to ask your contact if he or she knows anyone working on the topic of interest to you. You will be surprised how well this informal system works. The author has used it many times with excellent results.
Another good source of information is the government of the newly independent country. All are interested in attracting western investment, and many have set up ministries or bureaus that are responsible for privatization and defense conversion. Some of these ministries have lists of entities interested in forming alliances with western companies. The primary difficulty with this resource is that with all of the changes that are taking place, the primary focus is to generate interest in investments in the large, major industries and factories. Specific narrow areas of interest, such as displays or liquid crystal materials, may be too focused to warrant the government's attention.
The United States government is also a good source of information. The Commerce Department issues BUSNIS, a publication that lists business opportunities in Russia and other countries. The Department of State has USAID offices throughout the former Soviet Union. A visit to the AID field office may yield many valuable contacts.
Trade shows are now springing up all over the FSU. These trade shows have exhibitors ranging from small start-up companies to huge state-owned enterprises. Likewise, trade shows highlighting technology of the FSU have been held in the United States and Europe.
Many universities have had active exchange programs with Soviet scientists for years. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many started programs assisting business there, or assisting U.S. companies wishing to establish a business presence there.
There are a number of technology transfer companies that specialize in locating, establishing ownership, and licensing technology from the FSU. These companies have well-developed networks and procedures for establishing technology partnerships.
Lastly, there are many publications that are good sources. Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) has an office in Moscow and regularly publishes the Semicon Newsletter. Recently full text and abstract patent information on new Russian patents has become available on CD ROM.