FAST | EDUCATION

Ecosystem platforms

FAST recognizes the crucial role of skilled human capital — that is, academic and industry experts and professionals — in advancing Armenian STI. Many of FAST programs place a strong emphasis on education, capacity building and the enhancement of Armenia’s intellectual capital.

As such, FAST has paid particular attention to educational enhancement in data science and artificial intelligence. This saw the development and delivery of advanced AI training for special detachments of the Armenian army in 2019 — a program that in 2020 evolved into the Unit 1991 Education and R&D program. This program, it is hoped, can help to mainstream AI competence into the domestic labour market.

FAST also launched an AI Bootcamp, mainly for industry professionals, with a view to addressing future programming needs for advanced data scientists and AI specialists, as well as supporting labor market demands for professionals with industry-ready knowledge and skills. The need to address Armenia’s labor shortage in industry-primed professionals had originally seen FAST launch an Apprenticeship program in 2018. This program piloted a new framework for on-the-job training with several leading Armenian IT companies whilst facilitating continuation in formal education.

FAST’s educational programming has also targeted entrepreneurial knowledge and skills enhancement through such programs as Startup Studio, Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs Program and AgriTech Accelerator. FAST has also implemented a program – SciNova – which offers a curriculum on research design and science commercialization, aim to help orient Armenia’s aspiring STEM talent towards research and innovative work attuned to commercial viability.


IMPACTS ON EDUCATION OUTPUTS

FAST’s education-targeted programs have provided domain-specific training for over 1,000 individuals, as well as knowledge transfer opportunities for an additional 1,600 participants, from a wide variety of backgrounds.

These trainings and conferences have enhanced capacity in core innovation subjects like data science, artificial intelligence, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, among others.

1000+ beneficiaries received deep training

240 school students in DS/AI

50+ university staff

100+ university studies

125 industry representatives

350 entrepreneurs

1600+ beneficiaries provided with knowledge transfer opportunities

STARTUP STUDIO

FAST created a platform to support science and technology-backed startups through a coaching and mentorship program, as well as providing access to coworking spaces at FAST’s Creative Campus.

The 3-month program helped startups to undertake the entrepreneurial journey with modules specifically designed to cover their needs. The program consisted of business and technical sessions, teamwork, panel discussions, mentor engagements, motivational talks and interactive games. It also involved the organization of demo days for pitches to investors.

The program offered a separate track for budding entrepreneurs to introduce and develop entrepreneurial culture among them, and provide fundamental knowledge and practical skills to serve as a base for participants to create their ventures.

ASPIRING FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS PROGRAM

The Program was designed to empower women in science and entrepreneurship, to help women obtain the necessary tools for conceiving, developing and launching a science and technology-backed startup.

The rigorous 2-month program aimed to introduce and develop an entrepreneurship culture among participants by providing fundamental knowledge and practical skills as a base for these entrepreneurs to create their ventures.

It culminated in a demo day for graduates to pitch to a large audience of investors, entrepreneurs, technology leaders and other related groups.

AI BOOTCAMP

A 12-week intensive course on data science and AI was designed to aid participants to transition effectively to or develop a career in the field.

The course includes workshops and specialized modules on developing creative ideas, entrepreneurial innovation, generative algorithms, deep reinforcement learning, chemoinformatics, graph neural networks and time series, and hybrid models for algorithmic trading, among other topics. It provides high-quality skills and in-depth AI training, while creating a talent pipeline for the Advanced Solutions Center and other initiatives using top graduates.


“It’s not a stretch to call my experience with the AI Bootcamp life-changing. It really helped me solidify my career choice and narrow down my graduate school focus. Working on the final project under the supervision of one of our mentors made me realize that I really enjoy doing research and this is exactly what I want to do in the future. Fast forward six months, I ended up working on something that I’m really passionate about while being surrounded by intelligent and inspiring people.”

Irina Tirosyan

Program Participant, Armenia

APPRENTICESHIP

FAST established a new framework for on-the-job training with leading Armenian IT companies — EPAM, Digitain, SoftConstruct and SFL — that can be combined with formal education.

Students were spending about 10 hours a week with the host organization for up to one year. The program aimed to transform the industry into a knowledge-generator and, in the long run, modify the university curriculum to take into consideration industry needs. Accumulated expertise was also shared with the Government of Armenia to integrate best practices into a unified nationwide process to reform the professional internships model implemented in universities.

UNIT 1991

In 2019, FAST, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Hi-Tech Cybersecurity Center signed an MoU and established Unit 1991 as the army’s high-tech R&D detachment designed to ensure the technological supremacy of Armenian armed forces in any current or potential conflict.

It serves as a comprehensive platform for monitoring and building talent flow capacity and deploying R&D projects that generate applicable solutions. FAST designs and implements advanced educational courses on data science and artificial intelligence for future conscripts, women and Unit 1991 recruits, as well as facilitating R&D projects.


“The course, in addition to the knowledge required to prepare for the exam, provided an understanding of higher mathematics, which I am studying at university. The most important thing is that the course proved that understanding math for artificial intelligence is not impossible, but achievable, provided we have good mathematical thinking.”

Hayk Sargsyan

Participant, Pre-army training, Armenia

AGRITECH ACCELERATOR

Working with UNDP ImpactAim Venture Accelerator and the Armenian National Agrarian University, FAST has co-designed and implemented an acceleration program to support startups and budding entrepreneurs offering solutions to agricultural challenges in Armenia and beyond.

The program aimed to create strong links among program participants, academia and industry stakeholders. The core program lasted 12 weeks and walked participants through a tailor-made entrepreneurial journey. It consisted of a series of sessions introducing entrepreneurship, the impact of frontier technologies on agriculture and core startup development, followed by a prototyping stage.


“The Armenian National Agrarian University and the ImpactAIM ANAU AgriTech Accelerator are very pleased to partner with FAST in achieving our common goals of building the right agritech and biotech ecosystem for Armenia and turning new technologies into the driving force of the education system and the country in general. FAST has been instrumental for all its partners in timely soliciting needed resources and professional support where they are most expected, while carrying out its mission of building a technological future for Armenia and elsewhere.”

Vardan Urutyan

President, Armenian Natioal Agrarian University, Armenia

SCINOVA

FAST designed a program aimed at creating a curriculum on “Research Design and Science Commercialisation’’.

The curriculum introduces masters and PhD students to the basics of conducting quality research and creating commercial value from scientific inventions.

Training for trainers is made available to academic staff from all academic institutions providing STEM education in the second half of the curriculum’s pilot phase.

This program was implemented jointly with Aston University within the framework of the Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme funded by the British Council.

ARMENIA 2020