IIT Kharagpur has been among the firsts to build industrial parks within an academic setup, in the country. While the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Park (STEP) was set up within and in the vicinity of the IIT Kharagpur campus, a Research Park has also been built in Kolkata to set up industrial laboratories involving researchers from IIT Kharagpur. STEP is aimed at encouraging and nurturing students to launch their startups through incubation facilities.
Recently Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur in the context of mobile application development by Indian companies, has been vocal about start-up ecosystem in technical institutions. While keeping his faith on STEP IIT Kharagpur he can lead the initiative through seed funding and incubation facility.
Prof. Siddhartha Das, the newly appointed Managing Director of Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Park, shares his insights regarding STEP towards this end.
- How STEP has been providing incubation support to startups?
The Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Park at IIT Kharagpur sprawls over 20,000 sq.ft. of incubation space which is made available to startups for incubation. While fully constructed laboratory facilities are available, mobile laboratories for conducting experiments have been developed too. Further the Park is equipped with conference space for brainstorming and collaboration.
Apart from space for R&D and operations, STEP performs few critical functions which are essential for startups:
i) Seed Funding
ii) Intellectual Property and other techno-legal requirements
iii) Business operations Advisory
i) Seed Funding – Seed funding is one of the most important aspects of a start-up and for a company incubated at STEP, the following seed loans are provided: (a) Technology Business Incubator (TBI) Seed Loan, (b) Technology Incubation and Entrepreneurship Training Society (TIETS) Seed Loan, (c) Technology Development Board (TDB) Seed Loan and (d) Technology Incubation & Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE) Seed Loan.
The seed loan amount ranges from ₹ 2 – 25 Lakh per start-up depending on the budget for the technology commercialization and business operations.
ii) Intellectual Property and Techno-legal requirements – Offering support in acquiring intellectual property rights is another important function of STEP. The unit collaborates with the law school of IIT Kharagpur, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, towards conducting seminars and workshops round the year and educating entrepreneurs in techno-legal matters. Further, the IPR office of the Institute facilitates filing of IP and registration.
iii) Marketing and Business Operations – Now, probably the most important part of a business is marketing because that is what introduces the product to the world. STEP has been seeking expertise from one of the top most business schools in India as ranked by MHRD’s NIRF – Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSOM). Not only its presence on the campus, but VGSOM is known for its innovative practices, focus on research and industrial consultancy, educational outreach, which make it just the right partner for STEP to enrich the marketing experience of the startups incubated at the Park. The faculty experts from VGSOM conduct lectures, seminars and discussion forums to train startups towards managing business operations efficiently and marketing of the products developed by them.
- Who can apply for incubating their startup ideas under STEP?
A key factor for STEP is its inclusiveness. The unit is open to any technology-based start-up with the legal status to register and operate in India irrespective of whether they are associated with the Institute or not. It enables STEP to not only invite the 750+ faculty or 60000+ alumni worldwide or the current students, but also any Indian with the ambition to innovate new technologies. Furthermore, STEP is in the process of starting collaboration with MSMEs across the eastern region for entrepreneurship development. To promote technical advisory and networking it is also collaborating with various chambers of commerce and capital rich industries.
- Will there be any special drive for developing mobile applications?
Our Director Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari has affirmed that the incubation facilities at various technical institutions in India are capable of leading such drives. STEP IIT Kharagpur, indeed can emerge as a beacon because of our existing system of incubation through infrastructure, operational support and seed funding. STEP can boast of a decent record in terms of incubation. The total no. of companies incubated till date are 200 out of which 183 companies have graduated and 17 are being mentored.
In the current situation, it is quite important that useful mobile applications and services are designed and operated in India. The Director has already mentioned planning for a drive to call for submission of proposals for mobile application development which can be sponsored by the Institute. If the technologies developed are market worthy or for the B2B industry, then STEP would certainly step into the process to incubate them into startups for future use by India.