HOW TO LEVERAGE THE SCIENTIFIC POTENTIAL OF ARMENIA AND THE WORLD

HOW TO LEVERAGE THE SCIENTIFIC POTENTIAL OF ARMENIA AND THE WORLD

Regional Post talked to Vice President for Products and Technology Processes of Philip Morris International (PMI) Luca Rossi about the scientific potential of Armenia and the preconditions ensuring the success of the latter. 

Text: Margarit Mirzoyan 

 

We met Mr. Rossi at the “Once upon a… Science!” TEDxYerevan, where he took the stage to talk about the three primary preconditions that are required for science to take place and succeed. According to him, first of all, what the science field needs is the right people with the right skills at the right places and projects. The second imperative is the environment, which implies the establishment of certain infrastructures, and of course, diversity among the team members. The final chord is forming the correct toolset.

“In order to contribute to the development of science, you need the skills, the involvement of diverse people, and the right environment, but only by completing and putting all these factors together will you be able to achieve the desired result,” Mr. Rossi said during his speech.

We sat at the lobby of the venue where the event was taking place and while young scientists were walking around, talking to each other and networking, Mr. Rossi answered some of our questions about the scientific potential of Armenia and the PMI Science R&D Center, which opened its doors in Yerevan a couple of years ago։ It  is among the multi-profile centers of the company with the “Cube”, Philip Morris’s major research and development project headquartered in Switzerland’s Neuchatel. 

 

Mr. Rossi, Yerevan’s R&D Center is one of just a few such institutions of PMI in the world, along with ones in Switzerland and Singapore. So, why Armenia?

Five years ago, when I first came to Armenia, I saw that this country has a huge potential in terms of science and people. Many students and young scientists are willing to try themselves, bring difference, and drive a significant change. The infrastructure is in development and there’s also a historical footprint of science and knowledge that is strongly rooted in the country. All the preconditions are being met for Armenia to become a technological hub. Therefore, we wanted to be a part of this process and leverage it. This is why we’ve established the PMI Research and Development Center in Yerevan.

So can we say that the scientific legacy left from the Soviet times coupled with the high-tech potential of recent years are the competitive advantages of Armenia compared with other countries?

Yes, of course, both the Soviet heritage and the high-tech tendencies of the current moment created certain advantages, but it is not only that. I’ve never seen many countries where people collectively want to move towards a different condition, towards development. Especially young people and the entrepreneurs, they have a certain energy and drive. They want to leverage science for the benefit of their country. If my understanding is correct, in Armenia there are more physicists per capita than anywhere in the world. It says something about the country and its scientific scenery.

What are the results the center has achieved during its first years?

During the past year, we had practical results in terms of data science, and we utilized these in our products and other processes. We also have generated many new ideas of product concepts and improvements we can have.

 

The TEDxYerevan in full:

 

How did PMI try to adapt the local approaches to the principles established in the “Cube”?

There were some things that we wanted to keep standard to ensure the workflow that is typical to our format, but we also wanted to get the maximum of the potential available in the country. What we did here in Armenia was new to us. We started to experiment with new ways of working with the innovation ecosystem and this approach brought us closer to the scientific community of Armenia.

For example, our PMI R&D center has a training lab for the students, where they get access to the equipment and the tools. The building is located in the yards of the Polytechnic University which makes it even closer to the young minds of the Armenian scientific world.

What are your further plans on science in Armenia?

We are planning on continuing to expand our activities, especially in the innovation field, implementing some pilot projects, trying to understand how to promote and get new ideas. 
The volume of the expansion will depend, of course, on the results that we will get. The more results we have, the more confident we will become. We will continue hiring new people who are interested to come and work with us, applying different expertise and skills.

Do you have a personal bond with the country?

I’ve been to Armenia four times. I cannot choose an exact spot that I like, but what I like most is the people here, their hospitality, openness, and energy. I’m fascinated by the strong scientific background people here in Armenia have. It’s all about the people. 

Just 15 minutes ago you gave an inspirational speech during the TEDx Yerevan. What are the key takeaways from your speech that the young scientists of Armenia should keep in mind?

The people and various organizations operating in the field should seek the conditions I’ve mentioned to enable science. These are the people, the environment, and the skills. You can put in as much money as you want, but it will never work, you will never succeed if all these preconditions aren’t there. 

 

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THE CUBE

In 2015, Philip Morris International opened its research and development center in Switzerland. The “Cube”, as it is called for its visual resemblance to the three-dimensional geometric figure of the same name, has three buildings: Soil, Water and Air. There’s no Fire, because only fire-free products are designed and developed here. There are 3000 employees currently working in the center, trying to replace cigarettes with less harmful alternatives in the near future and develop new generation products.
In the last 5 years, the PMI in general was quite active in the field. For example, in 2019, PMI received 424 scientific patents, and more than 60 startups have been involved in the development of IQOS technology. Additionally, besides the “Cube” PMI invests in many companies and technologies relevant to its area. 

PMI R&D Center in Yerevan

Philip Morris International Research and Development center in Yerevan was established in 2018, becoming the third such center in the world set up by PMI
The center works in several directions, including Data Science, Technologies and Material Science. Throughout the past 4 years, the center put a lot of effort and applied unique approaches to support the research and educational field in Armenia. In collaboration with Enterprise Incubator Foundation, the center continuously supports Masters and PhD programs in relevant fields, promotes Faculty team research projects, supports organization of scientific-technological conferences and conducts trainings. More than 100 Master’s, PhD students and Faculty research teams were awarded scholarships with the support of PMI Science R&D Center. In the framework of joint projects, the center also cooperates with a number of local research institutions and universities, including collaboration with over 125 scientists leading scientific institutes and laboratories in Armenia.