понедельник, 11 июля 2011 г.

Interpreter for scientists: How to persuade an oligarch to believe in an innovative technology

Here is the translation of the article about our graduate Artemy Subbotin's project, published in the latest July issue of Forbes Russia. The original PDF-version in Russian is available here.

“It’s too hard for investors and clients to speak to the scientists directly: answering a simple question, scientists give you too much physics. My role is interpreting for them.” Artemiy Subbotin looks more like a doctoral student of an engineering school than a business man. Still the metal quality control machine he is promoting will already be erected at the Severstal plant in Cherepovets this fall.

Artemiy graduated from MATI (Russian State Technological University) and was a typical IT-guy. He got an opportunity to work not only bits and bytes but with people when he was employed by MDM Bank as a manager for internal audit of business processes. In four years Subbotin became Head of IT audit department and understood that he wants to influence business processes himself. Having no experience he went to SKOLKOVO for an MBA programme. From the Boston internship, where they were told a lot about technological start ups, Artemiy returned with a precise goal – to engage in commercialization of scientific inventions. The industry for work wasn’t a question; in a business school every student has a mentor, and Subbotin was lucky to have the Severstal owner, Alexey Mordashev – so he focused his mind on the challenges for metallurgy. Among his acquaintances there were some people already investing in the technology for nondestructive metal quality control.



This is a vital problem for metallurgists. Hot steel becomes a blank (slab) that is then cut and laminated in sheets. A laminate crack or cavity of a millimeter will cause a flaw and reject. At most of the plants nowadays the metal quality is controlled by cooling the slab from 1200 ͦC to 100 ͦ C; but then you need to heat it up again. The new technology provides means for omitting the cooling stage. “According to our calculations, only with omitting the double heating of 1 mln tons of metal the plant can save around $ 2 mln. There are no analogies in the world,” – Subbotin says.

In a word the technology is the following: laser impacting the metal gives an ultrasonic sound which is reflected with distortion if there is a flaw. There are receivers catching it and computers processing the data and giving out all the information about the flaw type, position and depth of occurrence. When Artemiy told his mentor of the technology, Mordashev immediately gave a call to his production director. And Severstal was to become the first client and let testing the machine in the real plant conditions. “Now the main task for us is to come to the market as soon as possible. When we have the first implementation successful, it will be easier to sell the technology,” – Artemiy says.
Future development of the technology may be seen in other industries – for instance in quality control of the rail skids or pipelines.

Forbes, July 2011

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