A Complex Recipe for Innovation from Andrey Berezin
In December 2022, it will be ten years since Euroinvest holding bought 25% shares of Svetlana, one of the most significant industrial enterprises of St. Petersburg. During this time, the company underwent a severe modernization of its main facilities and began to show the first effective results in import substitution. Now, the company is introducing new flagship products to the market, an element becoming more vital for the country whilst under sanctions pressure.
Svetlana is one of the oldest domestic brands. More than 100 years ago, some of the first domestic Light Bulbs of Incandescence came out under that name. They were produced by the joint-stock company Ya. Unfortunately, M. Aivaz, which survived the revolution, market redistribution, and the Civil War, was almost lost due to many years of downtime. Subsequently, the enterprise was saved by the State Plan of Electrification of Russia (GOERLO), under which all specialized factories were merged into one cluster.
The resulting enterprise was named after the most famous product, the Svetlana. However, another name was used as it went into widespread use. The implementation of GOERLO was covered by one of the most famous Soviet photographers, Arkady Shaikhet. His photograph entitled ‘Illich’s Light Bulb’ permanently cemented the name amongst electric light bulbs of the USSR, including those of the Svetlanov’s.
The scientific and production capacities of the enterprise were soon required for other tasks. Smaller factories took up incandescent light bulbs, while Svetlana began producing radio lamps and devices. It achieved high results in this field, with the radio Festival being at the top of this sector. It won the gold medal at the Brussels exhibition in 1958 for its modern design and innovative technical performance. The receiver truly was outstanding and is still appreciated by fans of retro equipment.
Then Svetlana began to produce X-ray tubes, electronics, and innovative materials. The scale of the enterprise was growing year by year, and by the time of Perestroika, the concern included over 100 departments and divisions, 100,000 employees, and a whole range of related productions, including a glass factory in Malye Vishera. In honor of the plant, they named an avenue, a square, and a neighborhood in St. Petersburg. It seemed that Svetlana would be like this forever, but the 90s almost left it bankrupt. Landing in a competitive market ended up being extremely difficult for the enterprise to deal with.
At a particular stage of the development, the concern was left with abandoned hangars, a small part of the premises converted for rent, and three specialized workshops. One of Russia’s most robust scientific teams was surviving among the broken glass and garbage, and it needed help to modernize all of its production facilities. General Director, Georgy Khizha, tried to restore Svetlana to its former name, searched for several years for an investor with one goal: run the enterprise responsibly. Finally, the search successfully ended at the arrival of Andrey Berezin.
Our Own Man
Co-founder of Euroinvest, one of the most famous and successful businessmen in the North-West of Russia, Andrey Berezin, joined the Board of Directors of Svetlana PJSC with a good knowledge background and experience. He graduated with honors from Physics and Mathematics school 239 in St. Petersburg (nowadays Presidential Lyceum). Later on in his educational journey, he graduated with honors from Leningrad Military Academy. He even managed to enter graduate school, write his first scientific articles, and immerse himself in the national scientific-industrial complex. For obvious reasons, however, he chose business for a young, ambitious, and educated man; research activities offered almost no worthy alternatives.
Berezin went through the fire and water of the economy of the freest decade of Russia. He successfully solved the problems of the food market, establishing the supply of products from Britain. He brought order to the fishing industry, which was destroyed by bargain hunters’ scourge destroyed. He implemented the first construction projects by European standards and was one of the first to propose and implement a neighborhood development project.
Hardened by the competitive market, he offered Svetlana the most necessary thing – the fresh, modern view of a man who knows how to build an effective company. An analysis of assets was carried out, and the first steps to recovery were taken: the sale and optimization of non-core areas. Unfortunately, the remaining workshops could not pull the remnants of the former infrastructure. Nevertheless, the result was immediate: the company’s net profit for the year increased from 83 to 223 million rubles. This allowed the company to channel the released funds to modernize the main production facilities of Svetlana.
Berezin spoke on the changes of production ten years ago: “we went there not as developers but as investors in creating a scientific and production cluster.” As early as 2013, developing a global plan to modernize the entire Svetlana group’s production facilities began. Hand in hand with optimization was an inventory of all equipment, assessment of its condition, selection of the most promising areas, and formation of programs for each room. The program was approved by the board of directors and implemented in 2017.
The Foundation for Revival
The new management was not stingy regarding the company’s team. As Berezin claimed, intellect is primary for production, but it is essential to ensure the continuity of generations. As of 2012, the average age of employees at enterprises such as Svetlana was over 50 years old. For any industry, this is the heaviest crisis state. The industry has lost a whole generation, as represented by Berezin himself. Nevertheless, by 2022 Svetlana can be proud that the acute phase of the crisis has passed. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the average age of the company’s employees is 43 years old.
The main bet of the company’s management is a combination of financial and professional opportunities for the most promising employees. In 2017, Euroinvest launched its own fund Euro Venture, which specializes in finding and supporting the company’s latest developments. One of PJSC Svetlana’s newest flagship products, an automated robotic system for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer.
Like everything genuinely successful, the machine is based on proven and repeatedly tested technology, namely Svetlana’s X-ray tube (its quality is proven by the fact that at least two companies from Belgium bought it regularly in 2021). Despite this, the complex offers completely new possibilities for its use. It first allows for the simultaneous tumor removal and irradiation of the affected tissues. As the experts say, this means one abdominal surgery instead of two, with a two-week rehabilitation period in between.
Berezin described the project when approached for an outlining of his intentions: “We continue to fund a machine for intraoperative lung cancer treatment, and we already have a prototype. Intraoperative therapy using soft X-rays takes place directly during surgery and can be visually monitored by the surgeon. Design consultations are taking place now, and preparation of documents for serial production of the device has begun.”
The joint development of the Svetlana division, SPbGETU LETI, and Euro Venture (which supported the project’s authors with financing and expert support) has passed several years of strict tests. In 2022, the assembled consortium approved the start of the apparatus’s clinical trials. This autumn, it will be installed in one of the country’s most specialized treatment and diagnostic centers at the Petrov N.N. Oncology Research Center.
It is difficult to overestimate the potential of such technology in 2022. In spring, the first reports appeared about problems with deliveries of high-tech medical equipment for cancer treatment. In March, cell therapy was depleted and utterly dependent on Western supplies. A little later, there were problems with drugs for targeted chemotherapy. In time the question of repair and delivery of components for the previously purchased equipment will inevitably arise. By then, the Svetlana X-ray machine complex will have passed all the necessary tests.
Technologies of the Future
When it comes to modernizing the main production facilities, Berezin took a systematic approach. Each area of Svetlana’s production received roughly 500 million rubles and several hundred million more three years later. One of the most striking results of this modernization is a patent for the technology of mass production of semi-insulating silicon carbide substrates. The work on this technology started in 2013, already with the participation of Euroinvest. Another holding area, Svetlana Elektropribor, is implementing the project. Unfortunately, the patent was received just in time, meaning that this product will not be available on the Russian market.
Such substrates are critical components for microwave products, electronics, and microsystems technology. At the same time, Svetlana products passed strict control for compliance with the world analogs, and they gave all the tests. Moreover, it was compared with military-grade CREE wafers made by the American giant Wolfspeed, one of the international industry leaders. Svetlanov’s products were not inferior in any parameter, and we are talking about a patent for mass production. Svetlana-Rost CJSC, Elma-Malahit CJSC, A.F. Ioffe Institute of Physics and Technology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.
By the way, with the help of these substrates, promising technology for industrial graphene production is implemented. This material, for the invention of which two of our emigrant scientists, Konstantin Novoselov and Geim, received the Nobel Prize. Its potential field of application is nanoelectronics, for which the entire theoretical base is ready. Only the problem of industrial production of graphene needs to be solved, and domestic structures will address this issue with the help of Svetlana substrates.
Further development of Svetlana-Electropribor will be determined by the result of a new investment stage, which started in 2020. At that time, the company allocated 400 million rubles for experimental development related to creating an innovative component base for electronics. The main areas of interest are radiation-resistant equipment for spacecraft, civil communications, radar, and 5G communication networks.
Research and development is the defining activity for Svetlana at the moment. In total, there are eight main areas of work: vacuum and solid-state microwave devices; microwave integrated devices; materials for microwave devices; passive microwave elements on silicon substrates; X-ray tubes for various applications; power electronics devices; technological equipment and medical devices; biochemical biochips.
Each of these areas has high import-substituting potential. One of the essential tools of modern diagnostics is the chips that are used in PCR testing, which today gets a new promising direction in DNA testing. Svetlana-Electropribor developed the chips, and this direction is becoming a priority and in demand as silicon semi-isolating substrates. Despite this, the industrial application of the development is supported by the Institute of Analytical Instrumentation of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The institute is currently completing the development of a device that, with the help of Svetlanov’s biochips, will make it possible to solve a wide range of problems in medicine, forensics, veterinary medicine, and biosafety services. The main task is the serial production of equipment for deciphering the human genome.
The same company has developed and put into batch production portable dental X-ray machines of the Pardus series. Their key feature is the ability to use in stand-alone mode. In 2020, deliveries to consumers had already begun.
A Bright Future
Through the efforts of Berezin, Svetlana has made a noticeable breakthrough in all its specialized spheres and has prepared a confident personnel base for further developments. Many of them were completed just before the beginning of the global sanctions war, and now every year, they will become more and more vital for some spheres.
At PJSC Svetlana, Euroinvest has built an elaborate structure that considers every possible nuance. Starting with students who can simultaneously study and work in the construction of the holding, acquiring the necessary and replenishing the staff reserve of the enterprise. Finishing with a vast network of cooperation with the sellers of final product and with scientific-research institutes from all over the country.
It is enjoyable that these victories are taken under the flag of the oldest Russian brand, which escaped death during the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Patriotic War, went through Perestroika and the 90s to renew itself today, starting new scientific and industrial heights. From the museum’s Illich Bulb to the electronics materials of the XXII century, this history continues to live on through the efforts of thousands of its employees and one man who approached his way of leadership responsibly.