Science minister says innovations not reaching the people

Union science minister Harsh Vardhan was speaking at the inauguration of the e BIRAC Innovators Conclave in Delhi which showcased 65 innovations supported BIRAC, a PSU under the Department of Biotechnology.

science Updated: Sep 22, 2017 18:24 IST
BIRAC, a public sector company under the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, is charged with strengthening the link between innovators and the industry.(Bloomberg via Getty Images)

At the BIRAC Innovators Conclave in Delhi, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan had an important question for the officials and innovators present: “How much of what we are able to do we are able to take to the people?”

The summit was accompanied by an innovation fair that was organised to showcase the work of 65 innovators who were supported by the BIRAC, a public sector company under the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology.

The BIRAC innovator awards were also announced acknowledging the work of organisations across India. Viravecs Labs from Bangalore won the prize under the Healthcare (Therapeutics) category. ATGC Biotech from Hyderabad won the prize in the Agriculture category. Tuscano Equipments from Chennai was recognised for their work in the area of healthcare device and diagnostics.

Vivira Process Technologies was recognised for their work in Industrial Biotechnology.(Product development) and from Bangalore won it in the industrial biotechnology (technology development) category.

Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly said that there is a need to do science that helps solves the problems of the people. BIRAC under its SPARSH program is currently accepting proposals under the theme ‘waste to value.”

While BIRAC supports innovation in the early stages of ideation and proof of concept, bringing it to the market for people to use these products is often the Achilles heel for most entrepreneurs.

“The challenge is to connect them to the market, the growth of the economy and society,” Vijay Raghavan, secretary of DBT, said, of innovations supported by the DBT.

BIRAC has in the past seeded 75 startups of which about 60% have been able to mobilize investment, and have attracted about 550 crore as investment, Renu Swarup, Managing Director of BIRAC said. Apart from waste to wealth, maternal and child health has been a major thrust area for the organisation.

BIRAC also announced a biotech equity fund of 150 crore. Swarup described it as a ‘gamechanger.’ However, as some of the speakers at the inauguration pointed out funding is a major hurdle for bringing innovations from proof of concept stage to the commercial production.

In India the budget for science and technology is a fraction of what it is in developed countries. “For atleast for 30-40 years we have been asking for improvements in budgets now even from my own government,” Harsh Vardhan said.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 18:24 IST