YEREVAN — The Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center (ISTC), which has been supporting the development of Armenia’s IT sector since 2014, opened its new home on Thursday, November 10, welcoming its first guests to its new 1,000 square-meter state-of-the-art premises on the Yerevan State University Campus.

The ISTC – a joint project of the Government of Armenia, the Enterprise Incubator Foundation, IBM, USAID, and Yerevan State University – helps meet the demand for quality specialists to work in Armenia’s IT sector. ISTC will help develop and strengthen the education and research potential of Armenian universities in the areas of IT and hi-tech. The new facility, fully equipped with the latest IBM technology, will also offer a favorable and innovative environment for the development of sustainable businesses, providing the startups with space and infrastructure, technical and business consulting, and networking opportunities.

usaid-1“I am proud of the fact that this uniquely designed partnership promotes the education of one of Armenia’s most valuable resources – its youth. The collaboration between the private sector and universities creates economic opportunities for younger generations of Armenia,” said U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., who was joined at the opening of the new facility by Armenia’s Minister of Transport, Communication and Information Technologies Vahan Martirosyan, and IBM University Relations Manager Sergey Belov. Attendees at the opening included high-level guests from the Government of Armenia, IBM, and the U.S. Embassy, as well as more than 100 Armenian tech and business representatives.

Supporting the development of Armenia’s IT sector has long been a priority of the U.S., Ambassador Mills said. “USAID support to the IT sector began a decade ago. Since that time, USAID has played an important role in laying the foundation for a strong and vibrant IT sector in Armenia,” he said during the opening. “We see the establishment of the Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center as a capstone achievement in our efforts to partner with you to develop and strengthen IT in Armenia.” Ambassador Mills also emphasized the Center’s important role of fostering cooperation between Armenian and U.S. institutions of higher education, noting that the ISTC has signed collaboration agreements with several U.S. universities, including for example Duke University, Fordham University, and Stanford University.

The ISTC serves students and university faculty, providing them with the latest hardware and software for training and research. Since the project’s launch, the ISTC has already assisted more than 100 professors from nine major Armenian universities to improve their training courses. Thanks to these efforts, more than 1,500 students have already received training through 30 modernized curricula in the areas of artificial intelligence, business process management, cloud computing, and cyber security among others. Several new Master-degree programs in cutting edge technological areas have also been designed with local universities and will be launched in the next academic year.

“The Enterprise Incubator Foundation consistently initiates and implements strategic projects targeted at IT development in the country, formation of innovative environment, and provision of quality training for personnel. One of our most important achievements is the establishment of ISTC. Thanks to this initiative, international knowledge and financial resources will be accessible to Armenia. IT specialists will be trained in line with market requirements. And local companies with have the chance to engage in global networks,” EIF Director Bagrat Yengibaryan said during the event.

IBM’s Sergey Belov noted that ISTC is a best practice of education and research, which can serve as a basis for IBM to promote collaboration and development in the region. “The American University of Armenia and Yerevan State University will have new and fully personalized Academic Hubs, including software and educational materials for their students and professors,” he said.

Several new ISTC initiatives were also announced during the opening event, including the launch of the Research Grant Program that will help develop the R&D capacity of Armenia’s higher education institutions. The program will provide its beneficiaries with full access to the IBM cloud infrastructure as well as support them with funding and research commercialization. Another new initiative will facilitate exchange programs for Armenian researchers at IBM partner universities in the United States.

On the margins of its grand opening event, ISTC also launched the “Smarter Armenia Hackathon ’16,” a two-day contest for students, challenging them to create the best IT solutions in finance, healthcare, and the telecommunications industry.

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