Panel suggests corpus for science start-ups

Team of scientists has prepared a report and recommended the creation of the fund

The scientific advisory council to the prime minister has asked premier science institutions and the science and technology departments to set aside at least five per cent of their funds to create a corpus of $ one million, to be utilised for funding emerging start-ups and research scholars.

About 40 per cent of all technology start-ups in the country are from Bangalore, which has special responsibility to nurture entrepreneurship in science. The city has many more start-ups coming up, all looking for funding. Scientists are of the expectation that more classical science start-ups would have to come out of Bangalore.

A team of scientists which prepared the report and recommended the creation of the corpus fund has stated that India is not a country where risks are high.

Risk financing in the form of venture capital, which acts as an intermediary for long-term investment and which supports young start-ups, becomes critical.

Such capital must support the start-ups from their creation till they mature. India lacks such funds.
But out of funds made available to Bangalore’s youngsters, three well-known start-ups have come up - Flipkart, Inmobi and Red Bus.

More such start-ups are expected to emerge in classical science too, apart from information technology. Bangalore’s Strand Life Sciences was the most famous start-up in biosciences.

The US model

“The United States has a policy where every department has to set aside five per cent of its funds for innovative programmes. The US Department of Defence and the National Institute of Health are primary contributors for innovation projects in the United States. Likewise, Indian institutions will benefit from funding start-ups and research scholars. Start-ups are catalysed through such funding.

Excellent initiatives by Department of Science and Technology and Department of Bio-Technology need to be revisited to introduce systems that will support really high risk cutting edge science-based innovation,” the report says.

According to scientists, the New Millenium Technology Leadership Initiative launched by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was a good example of such funding. The scheme, launched 14 years ago, funded entirely new technology leading to creation of new products with an aim to create new markets. Bangalore’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and IISc’s biotech initiatives have been popular under the CSIR initiative.

The Initiative is the country’s biggest public-private partnership in post-Independent India. It is this role that the SAC-PM wants institutions to play - nurture new ideas against traditional ones, support technology developers, especially new ones, and deliver scale.

This will actually give the country a realistic chance to be described as a top destination for education. The team also says that in science-led innovation, when a new idea is born, which leads to the design and development of a new product that the present market has not seen before, a hassle-free provision of early stage financing is crucial.

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