For nurturing knowledge based and technology driven ideas and innovations into successful Start-ups, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Division, Department of Science & Technology (“DST”), Government of India developed an umbrella programme called National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (“NIDHI”). The programme is designed to augment and take forward national priorities and goals of building an innovation driven entrepreneurial ecosystem with an objective of socio-economic development through wealth and job creation. It is an USD 15 Million (INR 100 Crore) programme to promote Start-ups. There are 9 key components of NIDHI, namely:
- NIDHI-GCC - Grand Challenges 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;
- Start-up-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 (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.
In this era of Start-ups, young entrepreneurs have great innovative ideas that can be transformed into successful ventures but what pulls them back is lack of early stage support to transform their ideas into prototypes. Lot of innovators lose interest and are not able to sustain the journey due to absence of this critical support.
The National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (“NSTEDB”) of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has promoted over one hundred Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Parks (“STEPs)” and Technology Business Incubators (“TBIs”). STEPs and TBIs are primarily housed in and around academic, technical, management institutions, technology and research parks to tap innovations and technologies for venture creation by utilizing expertise and infrastructure already available with the host institution. Many of these STEPs and TBIs have an in-house seed funding mechanism supported by NSTEDB & Technology Development Board (“TDB”). Seed funds, by their very nature tend, to focus more towards commercialization and market side of venture, rather than on the technology development, idea formation, proof of concept, proto typing, IPR and other knowledge side of the innovative Start-ups. There is a definite need to address the gap and provide young entrepreneurs with funding and support at a very early stage to conceptualise their ideas into something fruitful.
Under the umbrella initiative, on September 2, 2016, the DST launched “PRAYAS”program to support innovators to build prototypes of their ideas by providing a grant up to INR 10 lakhs to Start-ups and an access to a Fabrication Laboratory to provide them with physical infrastructure, technical guidance and business mentorship. The program focuses on addressing the idea to prototype funding gap whichwould attract a large number of youngsters to come forward to try out their ideas without actually worrying about the failure.
Model of the PRAYAS Programme
PRAYAS GRANT - The quantum of prototype grant per innovator is a maximum of INR 10 lakhs. The PRAYAS grant would be handled by the PRAYAS CENTRE (“PC”). Each centre would get 10 innovators per year. Thus a support of Rs. 1.00 crore per year for five years will be provided as prototyping grant to each PC.
PRAYAS CENTRES - The PC is a place where innovative ideas are supported through physical infrastructure, technical guidance, business mentorship and a prototype grant for converting the idea into a prototype. A furnished and well equipped space of about 3000 sqft would be set up at the host TBIs. The innovators would approach one of the PC for seeking support under the programme. Each PC will seek applications from innovators in a common template. The PCs would have a transparent screening mechanism for selecting the innovators based on the potential of the idea/innovation. The selected innovators would get access to the infrastructure, prototype grant and mentorship. The PCs would also ensure that innovators who apply to seek fund support should be incubated/to be incubated with STEP/TBI. A total of 10 PCs will be approved each year and each PC shall be supported for 5 years.
Fabrication Laboratories - Dedicated Fabrication Laboratories would be set up in PCs to facilitate mechanical and digital fabrication (in case TBIs/STEPs do not have such facilities and infrastructure existing in the institute). Fabrication Laboratories would enable innovators to go through a cycle of imagination, design, prototyping, reflection, and iteration as a part of process to find solutions to challenges or bring their ideas to reality. The charges of using the equipment and consumables specific to an innovator would be decided by PC and would be in built in the grant to be provided to the PC innovator. The condition and usability of the equipment in the Fabrication Laboratory would be reassessed at the end of five years for obsolescence and for possible replacement.
A Nodal Program Management Unit (“PMU”) for effective implementation of PRAYAS - The DST has identified Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (“SINE”), IIT, Bombay at the national to act as the PMU of the PRAYAS program. The PMU is empowered to steer the entire process of PRAYAS, which includes creation of an online portal for submission of proposals, selection of PCs, fund disbursal, utilization of funds, monitoring and evaluation, organizing annual PC meets, documentation of innovation successes and failures, and innovator grievance redressal mechanism in consultation with NSTEDB, DST and in line with DST norms and PRAYAS Guidelines.
PRAYAS targets to facilitate and enable minimum 100 innovators annually across the country in translating their ideas into prototype through funding support to maximum 10 PCs in the country. The first call for applications for setting up PCs just got shut on September 25, 2016. For the first year, only STEPs/TBIs promoted by the Government of India can apply for PCs. Once PCs are set up, the selection process for innovators who wish to seek support under the program shall start. Apart from various departments and ministries of the government, academic institutions, and financial institutions, PRAYAS is also collaborating with Intel, Lockheed Martin and Boeing to establish research parks and Start-up centres. PRAYAS, indeed, is a great initiative for young businessmen looking for right mentors and initial capital to nurture their ideas into prototypes.
Please check our earlier posts on other Government benefits for startups: https://novojuris.com/2016/07/21/benefits-to-start-ups-under-the-startup-india-action-plan/
Author: Saumya Kakar