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Indian Government launches programme to support deep tech innovation and commercialisation in critical areas

The Indian Government has launched a series of challenges with the aim of harnessing innovation from companies, primarily Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and startups as well as individual innovators, for solving problems, improving the lives of citizens and generating employment.

The aim is to incentivise innovation in areas critical to India’s growth, such as health, housing, hygiene, energy and water and to address the second ‘Commercialisation Valley of Death’, in which innovators are unable to access resources for piloting, testing, and market creation by helping new deep-tech products find markets and early customers in the context of India.

The Atal New India Challenges have been launched under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of the NITI Aayog, the premier policy thinktank of the Government of India. AIM is part of the Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

Applicants showing capability, intent, and potential to productise technologies will be awarded grants up to Rs. 10 million (US$150,000). The grant support will be supplemented by mentoring, go-to-market strategies by leading incubators, accelerators and experts, technical support and any other kind of support as needed at various stages of commercialisation.

The programme is open to Indian companies registered under the Companies Act 1956/2013, primarily a MSME as defined in the MSMED Act, 2006. It is also open to Start-Ups, as defined by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Government or private R&D organisations (other than a Railway R&D organisation), academic institutions, academicians, or even individual innovators are encouraged to apply, provided they partner with entities with appropriate manufacturing capabilities. 

Grants under the programme will be awarded in up to 3 tranches within 12-18 months, contingent on achieving milestones. Up to a total of 50 grants in fiscal year 2018-19 may be given out. The grants will not be mutually exclusive and several grants may be given in a focus area, based on the Selection Committee’s perception of potential. 

Seventeen focus areas have been identified. The challenges are being issued after rigorous consultations and discussions with the partner ministries, namely the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, Housing and Urban Affairs, Agriculture and Family Welfare, Drinking Water & Sanitation and the Railway Board.

The focus areas are:

  1. Climate-smart agriculture: Deploy products, technologies and processes (supply chains) to promote and commercialise climate-resilient agricultural practices, species, and processes
  2. Fog vision system for road and rail: Increase deployment of technologies to reduce accidents in low visibility conditions - vehicle-attached, or improvements in street lighting infrastructure, or improved reflectors for higher pedestrian visibility, etc. 
  3. Prevention of Rail failure using emerging technologies: Advanced technology solutions to predict and prevent rail failures viz. automated track monitoring systems, rail track health, signalling and switching technologies etc.
  4. Predictive maintenance of Rolling Stock: Solutions to monitor the health and safety of key components of the coaches, freight cars, locomotives which includes bearing and wheels to reduce catastrophic failures leading to improved safety and operating cost
  5. Alternate fuel-based transportation: Deployment of technologies/products in transportation, using alternate source of power to reduce carbon emissions - including systems to integrate with existing transportation infrastructure
  6. Smart Mobility:  Use of alternate transportation mechanisms for newly urbanising regions / smart cities  
  7. Electric Mobility: Technologies / innovations to increase share of electric vehicles in all modes of transportation
  8. Safe transport: Technologies / innovations to reduce accidents and fatalities, with special focus on two-wheelers / pedestrians
  9. Instant Portable Water Quality Testing: Develop systems, products, technologies, or protocols to identify nature and/or concentration of biological/chemical contaminants in any given water sample
  10. Affordable Desalination / Recycling Technology: Deploy technologies or products to recycle water at household- and community-levels, Create products/processes/technologies for low-energy consumption desalination
  11. Waste management recycling / reuse: Deployment of technologies for waste management, e.g. solid, e-waste etc.
  12. Garbage composition devices: Portable / handheld scanner / device that can distinguish the composition of garbage collected from households as wet or dry
  13. Quality of compost: Portable / handheld device that can quickly determine the quality of compost (also whether the compost heap meets Fertilizer Control Order Standards)
  14. Decentralised composting: Economical, efficient, modular, aesthetic, environment friendly and occupying minimum space arrangements / equipment / plants for decentralised composting
  15. Mixing blades for composting: Efficient mixing blades for small scale / household composting material
  16. Waste in public spaces: Efficient, simple and economical methods of sweeping and sucking the littered waste in public places including narrow streets
  17. Dissuading public littering: Efficient, simple and economical methods of identifying persons littering, raising alarm so as to dissuade the public from littering

The initiative was launched in the presence of Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Shri SS Ahluwalia, Minister of State, Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog and Shri Ramanathan Ramanan, Mission Director, AIM. 

Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog, Dr Rajiv Kumar highlighted the need to ensure inclusive and innovative solutions. He said, “India has accelerated its growth potential by leveraging technology in various spheres. This initiative will focus our efforts towards solving problems in core areas, which would have a direct impact on improving lives of our citizens and will also generate employment. The topics placed in different phases are aligned with India’s needs and through the support of innovation, we are ready to make a giant leap towards a New India.” 

Applications are being accepted under the programme at http://aim.gov.in/atal-new-india-challenge.php and the last date for applications is June 10, 2018. 

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