Nikola Tesla “The spread of civilization may be likened to a fire; first, a feeble spark, next a flickering flame, then a mighty blaze, ever increasing in speed and power.”
Proving Tesla, The Venture Center, India’s largest multifaceted science and technology business incubator is a mighty blaze increasing rapidly in holistic power and glory from its humble beginnings. Located within a 5000 square meter facility in an 11-acre sprawling campus of the NCL Innovation Park, the Venture Center is a premier incubator in Asia playing a monumental role in enabling social change and impact by fostering a creative, knowledge focused, and intellectual property-rich start-up ecosystem.
The incubator, also known as Entrepreneurship Development Center, is a non-profit company hosted by the CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) & National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, India. Co-founded by Dr. Premnath Venugopalan, a visionary, inventor, and technocrat, the center boasts more than 75 on-campus start-ups, which includes 10 percent social enterprises, 30 percent women entrepreneurs, and a basket of more than 60 patents and 90 trademarks filed over five years. I interviewed Dr.V Premnath last week here.
Watch the interview here.
“One of the six NIDHI COE- Centres of Excellence in India”
Under his brilliant leadership, the center has developed a self-sustaining business model to generate revenues through services rather than relying only on grants and donations. Its commendable to note the incubator has worked without any support of grants in 2016. This is a bellwether achievement and needs to serve as an example for non-profits. The center has won multiple national and international awards chiefly national award for technology business incubators from the President of India in 2016 and co-winner of Asian Association for Business Incubation (AABI) Incubator of year award in 2018. It won this year’s National Entrepreneurship Award in the category of Incubation centers.
The incubator’s philosophy, derived from tough tech inspired by the start-up ecosystem at Cambridge University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge and Oxford Universities are pillars behind building the biotech hub in the United Kingdom, one largest in Europe1 and MIT’s incubator/accelerator, The Engine, which focusses on high-end technology and engineering-oriented start-ups. The start-ups at the Venture Center are addressing the most challenging global scientific problems in health care, agri tech, waste management, and sustainability through scalable, measurable, cost-effective, readily useable and disruptive inventions.
The center is endorsed by The National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) (NSTEDB), Department of Science and Technology, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. It offers state of the art facilities including, high-end research and development labs, advanced prototyping facilities, an IP facilitation center, Regulatory Information and Facilitation Center (RIFC), a well-stocked technology focused library backed by 200 events including seminars and training programs per year. The center plays multiple roles across the start-up ecosystem, wearing many hats and serves as a single global platform for start-ups.
Through its mentoring programs like Ignition, Eklavya & Include programs, it advises and nurtures holistic development through mentorship and coaching helped by a network of more than 350 subject matter experts, including academicians, business leaders, technocrats, and social change enablers. It structures the development across different stages in the business cycle, starting from the ideation stage to funding the ventures. The start-ups are headed by first-generation entrepreneurs who struggle to raise seed funding, especially for product-based engineering ventures, and their need for capital is particularly acute during the initial start-up phase. During this time, FFF i.e., family, friends, and fools apart from angel investors, supply seed capital for sustaining businesses. Termed as the valley of death, most start-ups fail during this time due to a lack of adequate funding. Many first-generation entrepreneurs are self-made entrepreneurs without any deep pockets to compensate them for the opportunity cost, CAPEX, and operational expenses for sustaining businesses. Venture Center, along with its various mentoring programs, fine-tunes business ideas, builds resourceful partnerships along with developing soft pitches for start-ups to better liaise with investors. It catalyzes incubatees through the valley of death through sustained guidance in facilitating the holistic development of the business model.
The incubator refines business plans, facilitates research & development through top-end labs, provides access to the latest in technological and entrepreneurship world through seminars, training, hackathons, books, publications backed by partnerships with best think tanks. It facilitates developing a proof of concept, enabling prototype development and market-fit product. Finally, it funds through multiple funding options, some of them available in house like the government seed funds like DST NSTEDB, DBT BIRAC.and facilitating interaction with the best in class angel/seed funds/venture capitalists’ managers like Blume Ventures, I Crowd, Villgro, India Angel Network etc.
The incubator is playing a stellar role in the Start Up India initiative and is the nodal agency and national partner for National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations Entrepreneur in Residence (NIDHI-EIR) and one of the six NIDHI Centers of Excellence in India. It is also the Center for Biopharma Analysis, partner for BIRAC Social Innovation Immersion Program, BIRAC-BIG, BIRAC Regional Innovation Center (BRBC) among others.
“Under the kick-ass leadership of India’s Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, Indian government launched an ambitious plan to develop 50,000 start-ups and create 2M jobs by 2024. A corpus of $1.3B is allocated through fund of funds route with Rs1000Cr/$140M approx. for seed funding. To effectively ride the fourth technology and knowledge driven revolution, and become globally competitive, the Indian government started National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI), an umbrella programme conceived and developed by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Division of Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful start-ups. To successfully implement the DNA within the country, the program collaborated with all the actors within the ecosystem: central and state governments, academic and R&D institutions, financial institutions, angel investors, venture capitalists, mentors, private sectors and civic societies. “
Lab2Mkt program is Venture Center’s flagship early-stage technology commercialization program. Build on a three-tiered approach, Lab2Mkt begins with guiding ventures in incorporation and IP due diligence, assisting in proof of concept, business model, and primary market research to refining market plan, engaging with beta customers, and facilitating in Seed and Series A funding. Here, Venture Center plays a multifaceted role in collaborating for work with various partners such as technology domain experts, IP creation & licensing professionals, government funding agencies, corporations, etc.
Lab2Mkt is the go2market early-stage technology commercialization program dedicated to bringing cutting edge technology developed by publicly funded organizations from inception stage to a well-developed business plan backed with a proof of concept. The immensely successfully initiative has invested in twelve companies and co-founded nine companies. This is a game changer since the market size of publicly funded organizations in India is much bigger than privately funded companies compared to developed markets wherein private market plays a major role in invigorating entrepreneurship ecosystem. Listen to the podcast here.
“A leading example of the initiative is Module Innovations Pvt Ltd. The start-up is developing affordable and innovative diagnostic devices for rapid microbial detection and has received Biotechnology Ignition Grant by DBT-BIRAC, GoI. The start-up has received numerous accolades and won prestigious competitions, including Unitus Seed Fund Start Health Competition3 and IIGP, Grand-Challenges and mobilized investment through carbX”
The program launched various sub initiatives to capture entrepreneurs at different trajectories of innovation cycle; right from students at academic institutions to scientific innovative entrepreneurship cathedrals.
- NIDHI-GCC – Grand Challenge and Competitions for scouting innovations
- NIDHI-Promotion and Acceleration of Young and Aspiring technology entrepreneurs (NIDHI-PRAYAS) Support from Idea to Prototype.
- NIDHI-Entrepreneur in Residence (NIDHI-EIR) – Support system to reduce risk.
- NIDHI through Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDCs) in academic institutions; Encouraging Students to promote start-ups.
- Start-up Centre in collaboration with MHRD; Inculcating a spirit of entrepreneurship in National Institutions of Higher Learning.
- NIDHI-Technology Business Incubator (NIDHI-TBI) – Converting Innovations to start-ups.
- NIDHI-Accelerator – Fast tracking a start-up through focused intervention.
- NIDHI-Seed Support System (NIDHI-SSS) – Providing early stage investment
- NIDHI Centres of Excellence (NIDHI-COE) – A World class facility to help start-ups go global and/or scale up.
- NIDHI Start-up Corridors – A network of experienced and new institutions collectively promoting start-ups.
Social Impact and The Path Ahead
The Venture Center is a runaway train incubating start-ups which are creating considerable social impact within the sustainability landscape across multiple sectors ranging from health and agri tech, energy, climate change to AI.
Every year, urban India produces 62 million tonnes of garbage, of which:
5.6 million tonnes = plastic waste
7.9 million tonnes = hazardous waste
— United Nations India (@UNinIndia) October 31, 2019
Indius is using disrupting technology and inventions for spinal implants with novel designs while Jeevtronics has developed the world’s first hand-cranked defibrillator that is cost-effective and works without power. Ahammune Biosciences is finding innovative solutions to treat immune mediated diseases of the skin like depigmenting disorder, Vitiligo. Noble Exchange has developed Asia’s largest organic kitchen waste management at an unprecedented scale processing up to 300 tons of waste every day. It’s a major processing powerhouse for Pune Municipal Corporation. Addressing waste management is a complicated problem and need a top down policy enforcement for addressing the problem.
“Swati Agro, Barefeet and Green Pyramid are solving challenges of bacterial infection in crops, detection of adulterants in milk products and removing carcinogenic pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables. Source: Venture Center.”
The company has tie-ups with world-renowned think tanks like TISS, PATH, and regularly holds seminars on pressing problems of today’s society like maternal-child health, sanitation, access to energy, clean drinking water, agri and heath tech challenges like AMR, etc. The incubator is a trailblazer on a path to become a dominant global scientific, innovative, and knowledge-based institution with strong support from all actors within the entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially the Indian Government. Only time will tell its effect on the global start-up footprint, but its surely and steadily on its path of enabling a sustainable global change.
Interview with Dr. V Premnath here.
A change for the better. A change for the future.