TUHIN RAHARIA, an IIT Delhi graudate who developed an electrode that is userfriendly, cost effective and cuts out harmful side effects, working in his lab
THE favourite maxim of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, a company that grew out of Harvard University was 'Move fast and break things'. And when the university gave him space to do exactly that, the result was a 104 billion dollar company, when valued at the time of its 2012 IPO. World over, universities are fast moving from just creators of knowledge to being value generators from that knowledge.
Technology Transfer Offices, Entrepreneurship Cells, Science and Technology Parks Initiative, Technology and Business Incubators, the university spaces for promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship goes by many names. But they all aim for the same. To provide time, space, resources and help to budding entrepreneurs to turn their ideas to reality. Poyni Bhatt, Chief Operating Officer, SINE, IIT Bombay says a mature incubator would offer services, which are a blend of technical, business and financial support. With 130+ such institutions, India has earnestly begun the journey.
“By design incubators and STEPs are conceived to take research from the labs to the market”
Are they making a difference?
Stanford University is called the cradle of Silicon Valley. It gave birth to companies like Google and Yahoo. Top US universities have been at the forefront of commercializing the technologies their research has produced. Facebook is one of the high profile corporations to emerge out of a university system. India is yet to boast of a large-scale innovation that could trace its roots to a university. As Dr Anita Gupta, Director at NSTEDB, a government body that funds incubators says, "By design incubator takes forward research from parent institute to marketplace. Barring IITs and NITs, there are many institutes that still do not have an inherent research base, which caters to industrial requirement.” So most institutions are yet to make a mark. The fact that not more than 40 institutions out of 130 we contacted responded show that nearly 70 percent of the operational innovation centres in the country have very little output to display.
Associations that help budding entrepreneurs
Name of the association
Honey Bee Network, IIM Ahmedabad (SRISTI, GIAN, NIF)
National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) (Wadhwani Foundation)
Indian STEP's and Business Incubator's Association (ISBA), Techno Park
Rural Innovations Network
Incubator Network Asia (InfoDev) - World Bank
Considering the fact that most incubators and STEPs came about in a decade, and entrepreneurship is still not being considered as a viable career option, the success of the 40 that at least have made a start must be lauded. Their performance too is varied. Institutions like IIM Ahmedabad, Amity Nodia, NIT Surathkal, IIT Delhi, have been in the forefront of this innovation warfare. They are active, they have many success stories and their support is acknowledged. We also found hidden gems like the Krishna College of Engineering at Gaziabad, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar, and Banaras Hindu University that have done good work.
Great innovations that came out of universities
Can you imagine life before Google? Google was an innovation that came out of the the research of two students at Stanford, Sergei Brin and Larry Page, wrote out the core algorithm while working towards their PhD at the university. The rest as they say is history.
The first modern three-point seatbelt that is found in most vehicles today was developed by Roger Griswold and Hugh DeHaven at the Aviation Safety and Research Facility at Cornell University in New York. It changed the face of motoring in the world.
Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that the spreadsheet is a pretty essential part of everyday business. It was Prof. Dan Bricklin of Harvard Business School who first came up with the idea. Along with MIT alumni Bob Frankston he developed the first spreadsheet on a rented MIT computer. They called it VisiCalc.
Insulin for diabetes treatment
The work of Frederick Banting and Chas Best at University of Toronto, Canada led to this innovation. The duo figured out that insulin could be extracted from pancreas samples and administered.
The technology that runs many flat screen TVs today was innovated by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Donald Bitzer, H. Gene Slottow, and graduate student Robert Willson.
Polio was once a disease that affected a large number of young children, but a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk in 1955 at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine changed all that using infected monkey tissue.
African-American nuclear scientist and mathematician J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. proved to be a serious pioneer in the development of nuclear technology in the US. While working at the University of Chicago, Wilkins would help to design and develop nuclear reactors.
Vitamin D fortification
Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harry Steenbock was responsible for innovating a method of fortifying food with vitamin D, virtually eliminating rickets in the US.
LASER cataract surgery
Patricia Bath is responsible for developing the first instrument used to remove a cataract-affected lens. Her work took place at the UCLA, USA
Pioneering work that set the stage for later developments in ultrasound technology was done by Karl Theodore Dussik at the University of Vienna in 1942. The first ultrasound image Dussik got was a cerebral ventricle. Later, in 1958 Ian Donald of Glasgow University helped further the technology and made it useful for imaging bone structure, unborn babies, and tumours.
But the focus of this edition is not the performance or efficiency of incubators. It is about celebrating the success of entrepreneurs. So we looked at over 40 case studies of companies that are incubated at universities. From a company that deals with strategic products (ideaForge) to a firm that produces hyper realty mannequins (Dirtyhands), from a firm that has created super efficient electrodes (Kentellus) to one that focuses on a new DNA diagnostic kits (DSR Genome), college entrepreneurs are blazing a new trail.
May their tribe increase!
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