Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre, Chairman, Axillor Ventures, addressing the seminar on ‘Sparking a Lab to Market Transformation in India with Deep-tech startups’
CHENNAI, 12th January 2023: Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ (IIT Madras) Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GDC) hosted a seminar on ‘Sparking a Lab to Market Transformation in India with Deep-tech startups’ with key stakeholders from industry, academic, Government, policymakers and start-up eco-system taking part.
The objective was to generate ideas and debate on avenues to commercialise translational research and create socio-economic impact through deep-tech startups.
Given that innovation and entrepreneurship are a national priority for India, this seminar was relevant for faculty, scientists, researchers, and students, who wish to commercialise their STEM research and create socio-economic impact at scale. The seminar also addressed other stakeholders in the startup ecosystem including Angel investors, Venture capital fund managers, Incubator managers, startup mentors, and founders of early-stage startups.
Addressing the Seminar, Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre, Chairman, Axillor Ventures and Padma Bhushan awardee said, “Stepping up the national outlay for scientific research by 2-3X the present level should be a national priority. A good 30 per cent of this should be budgeted for transformational research to solve the grand challenges and hard problems that India is tackling in her quest for development. Scientific inventions make a disproportionate impact on society when it is taken to market with innovation. A solution that works for India will work for half the world’s population, and this can be a huge win-win for India and the world!”
As part of the GDC Seminar, panel discussions were also held in which successful academics who had launched startups and students who had transformed themselves into entrepreneurs, shared their experiences and insights from GDC’s programs – I-NCUBATE and I-NSPIRE.
So far over 1,200 participants, including more than 200 faculty members and nearly 1,000 researchers and students have gone through GDC’s intensive boot camps as part of 300 deep-tech startups. Of these, nearly 120 startups have scaled their ventures, gone to market, and raised about Rs. 125 crore in external funding.
As GDC prepares to launch into its second five-year phase, Dr. Gururaj Deshpande, co-founder of GDC and a successful serial entrepreneur said, “The GDC is working at both the top level (policymakers) and at the grassroot level (the startups in the labs) to make the I-NCUBATE program a national movement. Every year, GDC works with about 100 startups and transforms 300 researchers/entrepreneurs, while this number needs to scale by 10X in India for deep-tech startups to make a perceptible impact in the economy.”
Dr. Gururaj Deshpande added, “We will work patiently and with dedication with the startups in STEM colleges across India, and I am confident that the results of the seeds we sow today will be seen in the future. There is a need for about 10 per cent of research funding to be allocated to entrepreneurial development at the lab stage for transformational research to create impact.”
Dr. Gururaj Deshpande is the Chairman of Sparta Group, and Founder of the Deshpande Foundation, a global philanthropic organization nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship in universities and cities across the USA, Canada, and India.
Despite having a supportive innovation policy environment, the presence of many incubators, and a well-developed financing system, only a small proportion of STEM faculty and researchers in India commercialize their translational research by way of startups or technology transfer mechanisms. There is an urgent need to transition India’s university paradigm that can foster and catalyze the next generation of entrepreneurial technical innovators. The seminar was intended to address these issues.
Earlier addressing the event, Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship are now given as much emphasis in IIT Madras as academics to enable students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom. The strategic vision of the Institute envisages that half the faculty will be actively involved in innovation and taking their research to the market through one or more avenues including IP licensing, technology transfer, and startups. Today, we have unified and strengthened innovation & entrepreneurship on our campus by moving all the activities under one roof as part of a new iconic building. I expect the pace and impact of innovation in IIT Madras Campus to grow multi-fold in the coming year.”
Prof. Krishnan Balasubramanian, Professor-in-charge of GDC and founder of half a dozen world-class startups, said, “There are several faculty and students in IITs and STEM colleges who can bring their innovation to market and create a magical impact on the economy of India. What is holding faculty back is a lack of personal awareness of the market demands, institutional support to harness their skills, the entrepreneurial mindset they and their students badly need, and the ability to demonstrate their innovations convincingly to customers and investors. GDC is showing the way how these skill sets can be enhanced to create new deep-tech innovations, tech transfers and start-ups, and thereby help innovate the new India.”
The GDC was established in 2017 at IIT Madras by the philanthropic contributions of IIT Madras’ illustrious alumni, Dr. Gururaj Deshpande, Mrs. Jaishree Deshpande, and Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan as an alumni-sponsored initiativcommercializationmercialisation of academic research in IIT Madras and other STEM colleges across India. Inspired by the hugely successful I-Corps program of the National Science Foundation in the US, GDC provides capacity-building and expert mentorship to help academic researchers and students rapidly develop their entrepreneurial quotient and business acumen and build disruptive deep-tech startups from STEM labs.
Delivering the first keynote address at the seminar, Dr. Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, said, “As India has assumed the Presidency of G20, there is a brand new initiative called ‘Start-up 20.’ This is the first year when ‘Start-up 20’ initiative will give a platform equal to major corporations. The idea is to, by the end of the year, bring the countries together to bring out a policy document that can be shared to G20 countries for further discussion in bilateral and multilateral discussions on how start-up ecosystems of the G20 nations can work together.”
Dr. Chintan Vaishnav added, “The innovation ecosystem of the country is the third largest in the world. However, in our estimate, we are only about one-tenth of where we can be when our innovation will get fully developed. Last year, our office published a cost-benefit of having created Atal Innovation Mission. We have had a return of Rs. 5.5 for every Re.1 invested by the Mission. So, this is worth doing.”
Delivering the second keynote of the day, Prof. Rishikesha Krishnan, Director, IIM Bengaluru, said, “In an academic institution, when we are talking about start-ups, we would like them to be based on the research of students or faculty...India has a long history of R&D in academic and research institutions resulting in significant social impact. Swaraj Tractor developed by Chandra Mohan of CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) became the heart of Punjab tractors. This was a huge success story, which is not as widely known as it should be.”
Mr. Raghuttama Rao, Chief Executive Officer, GDC-IIT Madras, added, “In GDC 1.0, we have demonstrated that innovation is not just an inborn talent, but that entrepreneurship and business acumen can be learnt if structured scientifically. GDC’s programs I-NCUBATE and I-NSPIRE have been successful in 40 STEM colleges and 25 incubators across India. In GDC 2.0, we plan to scale our programs by working with Corporates (seeking to work with university startups in Open Innovation) and Government (seeking to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem) across India. Disruptive deep-tech startups which are less than 1% of the number of startups in India today, will soon get a leg up as the GDC will help several STEM colleges and incubators build a bridge from ‘lab to market’.”
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