The science of tapping talent

The science of tapping talent

IISc’s Society for Innovation & Development incubates technology start-ups

In 1991, the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, set up Society for Innovation and Development to promote collaboration with industry. In 2005, the society set up Indian Scientific Innovation Company, a not-for-profit outfit, to incubate start-ups.

The incubator has about 6,000 sq ft of space, which is being increased to 10,000 sq ft. In 2015, five start-ups were incubated, but says CS Murali, Chairman, Entrepreneurship Cell, Society for Innovation and Development, the plan is to admit eight start-ups every year for incubation.

According to him, the incubator does not focus on any specific segment, but a large number of ventures admitted for incubation tends to be in healthcare (devices and diagnostics), energy and agriculture sectors.

A review team consisting of academicians, and industry and investment experts evaluates proposals on founding team capability and commitment, technology, customer benefits, competition and risks before admitting the ventures for incubation. The companies can stay in the incubator up to three years, according to Murali.

He says the ventures need not have an IISc connection for admission into the incubator, but the idea will be evaluated as long as it has some “deep science behind it.”

The start-up can either license IISc’s patent or have a faculty as a technical adviser so that IISc has a role to play. The SID gets funds from the Department of Electronics and Information Technology for investing in start-ups.

It has also got a funding commitment from a multinational company for ₹40 lakh a year for five years. Murali says the Centre’s guidelines on setting apart money from the profits for corporate social responsibility activities include technical incubators. The SID is in the process of raising more funds from both the Centre and the private sector.

According to Murali, the incubator invests anything from ₹10 lakh to ₹30 lakh for a stake varying from 5 per cent to 15 per cent, in the start-ups. The intellectual property, where needed, is licensed with no up-front fee. The incubator charges a royalty of 1-2 per cent on product sales.

Core team

Apart from Murali, who has wide experience in the corporate sector in the information technology field – Cognizant, IBM, TCS – and in the venture capital sector, the core team of the incubator includes CV Natraj, Head of R&D at Hindustan Unilever, and CN Ajit, who has experience in the communication industry (C-DoT). In addition, there are three alumni with prior experience as serial entrepreneurs who mentor companies.

Some of the start-ups incubated at the SID and that have made it big are Strand Lifesciences (bio-informatics) and Mymo Wireless Technologies (3G and 4G wireless technologies). “At IISc/SID, the start-ups are in diverse domains, involve building a product that usually requires manufacturing and have the potential for significant social impact,” says Murali.