Campus: San Diego State University -- October 6, 1999

Russia's Closed Cities Open to Business Opportunities, MBA Consultants Provide Expertise

Project with SDSU and General Atomics to commercialize Russian battery technology

A group of San Diego State University MBA students are embarking on an unusual consulting project designed to create business opportunities that will help reduce the global threat of weapons of mass destruction.

In a multi-party, dual-country program, the SDSU College of Business Administration's MBA Consulting Program is working with General Atomics, the U.S. Department of State and the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics. The program objective is to commercialize high temperature fluoride battery technology and bring viable business to Sarov, Russia. Sarov is a former closed city, known as Arzamas-16, and is about 400 miles east of Moscow. Closed cities are defined as areas that were dedicated to nuclear weapon development.

"Being selected by General Atomics to participate in this important project affirms that San Diego State University MBA students have the advance tools to analyze a product and successfully bring it to market," said Jeff Glazer, director of the Aztec Business Alliance, the umbrella organization of the MBA Consulting Program.

Overview of the Project

Over the semester, three SDSU students and two MBA-equivalent students from Moscow will work together with General Atomics to develop a business plan to commercialize a high temperature battery. Two other Russian students, who are scientists from Sarov, will also participate for part of the semester. The project is designed to give business and business language training to scientists and engineers who formerly worked on weapons of mass destruction.

"This agreement combines the technical skill of the Russians with U.S. business know-how to help establish new, commercially viable businesses," said Thomas Lechtenberg, director of General Atomics' systems engineering division. "Commercializing the high-temperature battery will meet an important need in oil exploration and other businesses."

The battery operates from room temperature to 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly to 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit). Alexander Potanin, a Russian scientist who formerly worked on nuclear weapons development, developed the high temperature fluoride battery technology.

The effort is part of a program between General Atomics, the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics and the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow called the ISTC Russian Business Training Project. The ISTC, which is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, offers former Russian weapons scientists the opportunity to redirect their talents to peaceful activities.

General Atomics is also working with teams from Auburn University and the University of New Mexico to develop Russian-invented technologies into business opportunities for Snezhinsk, formerly Chelyabinsk-70, and Podolsk. At the end of the semester, teams of students from all three universities and General Atomics will present the business plans to the ISTC and the U.S. Department of State.

SDSU's MBA Consulting Program

The MBA Consulting Program provides companies with a team of MBA students who are enrolled in their last semester. The projects comprise the team's culminating experience in the MBA program and are closely supervised by faculty members and company management. Some examples of projects include developing business plans, preparing market research and feasibility studies, and designing financial, accounting and inventory control systems. Companies pay a $2,500 stipend for the students to work on their projects, a fraction of what comparable work would cost from a private consultant.

The College of Business Administration at San Diego State University is a nationally recognized business college, offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs that reflect the entrepreneurial and international character of the San Diego region. It conducts the fifth largest accredited undergraduate business program in the United States. U.S. News & World Report selected the college as one of the top 34 business schools for entrepreneurship; and for three consecutive years, Success magazine named the College of Business as one of the "25 Best Business Schools for Entrepreneurs in America."

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