In our previous column, Confederation of Indian Industries’ (CII) principal advisor Prof. Y.S. Rajan, briefly spoke about a few “doors” that young entrepreneurial minds can knock on for growth opportunities. Continuing with that series about organizational initiatives to foster entrepreneurship, we uncover an open innovation network, initiated by the central government, which would interest anyone with “a big idea”.
Technopreneurship Promotion program (TePP) has helped many an innovative mind. Last month at the Delhiwood 2009 expo held at Pragati Maidan, Vinayaka Pandi proudly displayed his split-type wood cutter customised for carpenters; one that combines a sophisticated design with an affordable price tag. P. Karuppaiah speed up tedious coconut harvesting by mounting a hydraulic jack to his old tractor. With this innovation, two people alone can harvest as many as 600 trees, while only 160 trees could be harvested manually. Khimji Bhai Kanadia in Gujarat created another agricultural innovation-the Kittanal, a small soil-filling device which has proven to be a boon for labourers in plant nurseries and forestry departments as it significantly increases their daily wages.
Other enthralling innovations are the soap-less washing machine, silk made out of banana fibres, the arecanut-peeling machine and a fertiliser made out of leather industry waste. Each of these products was a seed of an idea in the mind of a creative genius in some corner of the country. Brought alive and moulded to marketable precision by the Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T) through TePP, these innovators would otherwise not have gained this recognition and success as entrepreneurs. As India’s largest network program, TePP has nearly 30 outreach centres making itself easily accessible to independent innovators. TePP provides grants, technical guidance and mentoring support to independent innovators to become technology-based entrepreneurs (technopreneurs). These technopreneurs have diverse backgrounds – engineers, scientists, artisans, housewives, students and even farmers.
Dr. A. S. Rao, Advisor to the Ministry of S&T and orchestrator of this program shares his unconventional wisdom as he explains TePP’s value proposition, “TePP provides an opportunity to innovators to fail. Picking winners is not an objective- the market does it. TePP advocates a new philosophy – failure is not a sin. We share dreams of innovators and celebrate their success.”
TePP was conceived a decade ago after IIM professor Anil Gupta’s research study of grass-root innovation potential further highlighted the imminent need to open a window of opportunity to independent innovators. Until May 2008, TePP was a joint program of two Govt. departments under the Ministry of S&T. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) pooled resources, thus backing it up with 100 man-years of experience in new product development(NPD).
|An illustrative example is SMALL WONDER-LYZER, a technology breakthrough invention for biotechnologists developed by innovator Dr. Parikshit Bansal of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER). The device is primarily meant for carrying out dialysis of desalting of proteins, i.e. removal of salts from proteins, usually after the initial step of salt precipitation, which is a widely used, low-cost method for protein purification. The technology breakthrough in the invention lies in the remarkably simple mechanism of sample loading and removal, which none of the existing commercially available devices is able to offer worldwide. Unlike existing devices, the present device does not involve use of any threads, clamps or syringes during use.|
|The innovator obtained a US patent and floated a start-up firm to take up manufacturing in Chandigarh.|
Besides this distinction, TePP is unique for other reasons, Rao says. “It is the only program which funds the innovator account directly without any repayment obligation as a grant. Second, it gives all rights to innovators on intellectual property ownership and technology commercialization. And it is exclusively meant for a non IT, non software entrepreneur or inventor”.
Eligibility criteria for TePP programme are simple and uncomplicated. The most important condition is that the idea must have a commercial implication; not pure play research or patenting. TePP support is provided in two distinct phases- innovation incubation in phase-I where maximum support is INR 15 lakhs (US$30,00) for which any Indian citizen with an original idea or invention is eligible. The second phase focuses on enterprise incubation and has a ceiling of INR 45 lakhs (US$ 90,000). Phase-II has a seamless scale-up support and supplementary TePP Fund, applicable for candidates that have completed phase-I. Since the time of its inception, 263 innovations have been supported by TePP. It is positioned as pre-seed fund for start-ups. Owners of start-up companies too can apply provided their turnover does not exceed INR 30 lacs per annum.
|TePP provides an opportunity to innovators to fail. Picking winners is not an objective- the market does it. TePP advocates a new philosophy – failure is not a sin. We share dreams of innovators and celebrate their success. |
-- A. S. Rao
Having personally handled over 60 NPD projects himself, Dr. Rao notes the evolving structure of TePP. He adds, “Three years back we took a decision to convert it into a network program. Now there are 28 TePP outreach centres. But TePP will not grow in one direction. Soon TePP Network will become TePP Open Innovation Network. There will be multiple inflows and outflows from the innovation funnel”.
The TePP innovation funnel articulates the process of upgrading innovators to entrepreneurs. As illustrated in this funnel (representing the period 2007-08), TePP cumulatively accessed around 7500 ideas, evaluated 1650 proposals and supported 240 innovations in the period 2007-08.
|The Role of Network Partners|
|Spark||The idea spark comes form the innovator. The network accessed about 800 ideas in 2007-08 by publicity/ advertisements and road shows.|
|Shapers||The ideas need to be refined and 18 TUCs have mentored the innovators by carrying out counseling and initial screening. 200 complete proposals emerged from the 800 ideas.|
|Sponsors||These 200 proposals were distributed among DSIR & TIFAC officials and they became sponsors of innovators in the Ministry of Science and Technology.|
|Sounding Board||15 external experts of TePP Screening Committee evaluated these 200 proposals and recommended 50 for approval.|
|Specialists||Technical experts evaluated the 200 proposals. TePP experts not only assess proposals but also get involved in the implementation. For direct interaction with innovators, names and addresses of 93 Technology Angels is posted on DSIR website.|
written by G.Prakash, July 04, 2009
written by A.S.Rao, April 03, 2009
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