BY JOSEPH DAGDIGIAN
On Bagrevand Street, 21/1 in the Nor Nork section of Yerevan is the Science and Technology Museum, part of the Engineering City complex. While there are science exhibits of famous trail-blazing Armenian scientists from Armenia and the Diaspora, the focus of the museum is on products which were engineered and manufactured in Armenia during the Soviet era.
Products range from machine tools to electronic equipment, computers, household appliances, etc. These products were distributed to all the Soviet republics. The message conveyed is: “Armenians had a talent for engineering and manufacturing a few decades ago. We still have that talent.” We, in Armenia and the Diaspora, need to and can resurrect engineering and manufacturing in Armenia.
Engineering City started with a few high-tech companies getting together with individuals to promote high tech in Armenia. In 2016 and 2017 the Engineering City campus was established as part of a public-private partnership funded by the Armenian government, the World Bank, investors, and the private business sector. Currently 14 companies have facilities there including companies from Armenia, Canada, and the U.S. Industries that are particularly sought include advanced automotive electronics, wireless communication, radio frequency electronics, industrial electronics, manufacturing technology, aerospace, education technologies, etc.
Services offered include precision, numerically controlled machine tools with experienced operators; sheet metal fabrication; RoHS—an international standard, established by the EU, to limit the use of toxic materials such as lead in products—compliant surface mount printed circuit assembly and test; and mold making as well as other services. Companies meeting certain criteria will have an opportunity to receive donations of land to establish an office with access to Engineering City’s lab and manufacturing facilities.
Besides the museum and production facilities, Engineering City offers tuition-free business, management, and technology courses at an on-sight branch of the State Engineering University (Polytechnic Institute). Facilities include a library, a very attractive cafeteria, as well as a technical high school. High school graduates, if they wish, can continue their engineering or scientific education at the Polytechnic Institute or at another university of their choice.
The intent is to create an environment where companies can efficiently develop marketable products and go into production. Any company, whether a startup or a branch of an established company that wants to take advantage of the facilities is welcome. The goal is to facilitate rapid development of products which can be exported, the establishment of a manufacturing city to mass produce products, and the creation of 10,000 good paying jobs.
Marina Saguinian, one of the principals of Engineering City, addressed R&D and manufacturing issues. She indicated that a key to success is rapid development and transition to manufacturing. Armenia can produce products with quality equaling or exceeding those produced elsewhere, and at a lower cost due to low wages in Armenia. Armenians, she emphasized, have the talent to do so.
Recent news from Engineering City indicated that engineers there have completed development of a system to automatically evaluate electronic control systems used in electric vehicles. This equipment, developed in Armenia, is ready for deployment to markets in Europe and Asia.
Saguinian addressed the issue of exporting manufactured goods and was confident that Armenia can effectively compete in the global market. She invites companies to check out Engineering City and open a facility there.