In order to provide any innovators, students and faculty a platform to commercialise their research, an incubation centre (IC) was set up at IIT Patna three years back. This was backed by the state government of Bihar and MeitY. The programme offers budding entrepreneurs an array of resources and support services. Joseph Paul Arackalan, manager-IC, IIT Patna, in conversation with Syeda Beenish of EFY, shares the vision of the IC and talks of how it runs in tandem with the government’s ‘Startup India’, with its current focus being limited to ESDM and medical electronics. Successful completion of a business incubation programme increases the likelihood that a startup company will stay in business for the long term. The excerpts…
EB: Tell us about the incubation centre at IIT Patna.
The incubation centre, IIT Patna (IC IIT Patna), aims to be the leading technology business incubator in the country. It focuses on the development of products and intellectual property, especially in electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) and medical electronics.
IC IIT Patna offers an incubation programme that can run for up to two years with a three-month pre-incubation programme. It targets aspiring entrepreneurs with exciting ideas in ESDM. Currently, the IC supports 11 companies and is in talks to bring more companies on board.
EB: How does IC IIT Patna help people fulfil their entrepreneurial dreams?
Typically, the startups that are in ESDM face three challenges. First, it is the unavailability and high cost of the required technical infrastructure for prototyping and testing. The second is the longer cycle times in case of errors while prototyping. And overall expenses account for the third but most crucial challenge of all.
The IC IIT Patna supports startups through the stages of idea validation, product development, building and testing prototypes, and early stage scaling of innovations. In addition to fully furnished office space, IC IIT Patna helps these startups with state-of-art laboratories for design, PCB prototyping and assembly, testing and product prototyping. This enables the companies to do cost-effective prototyping, in-house.
The programme offers expert guidance and mentorship from industry leaders and the IIT Patna faculty. This includes product definition and streamlining the prototyping cycle, thus reducing iterations while enhancing product capabilities. There is in-house team of 10 people to support incubatee companies.
To increase market penetration and shorten the sales cycle, mentors offer support on the business, IPR and other aspects like funds generation. The IC also provides a seed funding of up to ₹ 1 million, which companies can use for prototyping and other operational costs. This is of immense help to startups in their early days.
EB: What is the main motivation behind this programme?
IC IIT Patna is a result of the collaboration between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), government of India and the state government of Bihar. In the electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) sector, India is heavily dependent on imports. To move towards self-sufficiency in ESDM and in medical electronics, an ecosystem that supports electronics startup companies has to be created. IC IIT Patna is such a platform, to help develop products and intellectual property.
In this effort, we aim to utilise the expertise at IIT Patna to identify, translate and nurture technology ideas and innovation in the ESDM sector so that entrepreneurs can grow into successful commercial companies.
EB: How old is the programme?
The IC IIT Patna was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 25, 2015. The IC’s facilities are in the IIT Patna campus and it has been supporting startups since 2016.
EB: Please share some success stories with our readers.
The IC IIT Patna project evaluation team selects aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative and commercially viable ideas in the ESDM sector from the large number of applications it receives. The startup companies work in technology-intensive projects. Bionic Hope Pvt Ltd, the first company incubated by IC IIT Patna, had won funding of ₹ 4.34 million under the centre government BIRAC IIPME (Industry Innovation Programme in Medical Electronics) scheme. The company developed a functional prosthetic device with a sense of touch. The team has also been selected for entrepreneurship training in Switzerland.
EB: Are you seeing increased participation year-on-year?
The IC has been growing at a significant pace. In the first year, it on-boarded three incubated companies, and this number grew to 11 in the second year of operations. In addition, the IC provided pre-incubation support to many companies. The Centre is also working closely with the government of Bihar to implement the state’s startup policy.
We accept business proposals from aspiring entrepreneurs round the year. The project evaluation team (comprising experts from industry, academia and the investment community) evaluates the proposals as well as the selected startups for the incubation programme. Any student, faculty member or innovator can apply by sending in their business proposal to [email protected]