Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise that is established by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India. The organization assists and empowers emerging Biotech enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development requirements. In this article, let us take a look at the programmes offered by the organization.
BIRAC strives to stimulate, foster and boost the strategic research and innovation capabilities of the Indian biotech industry, with emphasis given to startups and SMEs to create affordable products to meet the requirements of the society.
BIRAC works with a vision of
- Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship
- Promoting affordable innovation in key social sectors
- Enabling commercialization of discovery
- Empowering startups and small and medium enterprises
- Contributing through partners for the diffusion of innovation and capability enhancement
- Ensuring the global competitiveness of Indian enterprises
The following programmes are used as implementing strategies by the organisation to achieve the above-listed objectives.
Bio-NEST has been launched by BIRAC to advance biotech innovation ecosystem in the country. All enterprising ideas in the biotech sector need incubation support and also queries a platform to test their ideas, have access to high-end instrumentations, run their operations and locate it in a place where they connect with other mentors and startups. The programme provides assistance to setup bio-incubators as a separate entity or a part of the academia. Through this programme, BIRAC has encouraged 41 bio-incubators for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Bio-NEST comes with the following features.
- Provides incubation space to startups and entrepreneurs.
- Links industry and academia, thereby enabling interactions for efficient exchange of knowledge and facilitates both technical and business mentorship.
- Establishes an efficient governance model.
- Provides enabling services and required mentorship for IP and technology management, legal and contract, resource mobilisation and networking platform.
Biotechnology Ignition Grant Scheme (BIG)
BIG is a flagship programme of BIRAC that provides support to young startups and entrepreneurial individuals. This is considered to be the largest early-stage biotech funding programme in the country. Funding grant of up to INR 5 million is offered to build and refine the idea to proof-of-concept. The chief purpose of the BIG scheme is to
- Foster ideas
- Upscale and validate the proof of concept
- Encourage researchers to promote technology using startups
- Stimulate enterprise formation
The scheme grants up to INR 50 lakhs to successful BIG innovators to pursue research projects up to 18 months.
Students Innovations for Advancement of Research Exploration (SITARE)
BIRAC has joined hands with SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions), a non-profit organisation based at Ahmedabad to promote innovations in universities and college level. BIRAC has constituted two categories of awards for this purpose.
- BIRAC-SRISTI GYTI Awards: 15 entrepreneurial ideas from students at the university are selected from across the country every year and nurtured for two years in-situ with a grant of INR 15 lakhs.
- BIRAC-SRISTI Appreciation Awards: 100 young innovators are awarded INR 1 lakh every year to take their plans to the next level. The objective of this is to incorporate a sense of entrepreneurship among the students who are motivated to take their innovations to the commercial level.
MoU with SRISTI was signed in 2015, and the awards are managed by a Project Management Unit (PMU) at SRISTI, Ahmedabad.
Encouraging Youth for Undertaking Innovative Research through Vibrant Acceleration (E-YUVA)
To develop a culture of applied research and need-oriented (societal or industry) innovation among researchers and, provide professional mentoring and assistance, it is essential to focus on foster local ecosystems. BIRAC has developed a strategic action plan to nurture the culture of innovation and techno-entrepreneurship in Indian Universities and thus has implemented the University Innovation Cluster (UIC) model.
UICs serve as a centre to promote innovation culture at the University level. Besides creating networks and partnerships between stakeholders to strengthen the innovation ecosystem, UICs provide pre-incubation assistance to innovative ideas and innovators for effective translation into products.
Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI)
The Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) scheme is launched to enhance Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) efforts. The project has worked as an enabling platform for target organisations to reach their potential in terms of product and process development. SBIRI has given preference to early-stage funding for innovative high-risk research in small and medium companies that are led by innovators with science backgrounds to get them involved in the development of products and processes that feature high societal relevance.
Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP)
The Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP) is a government partnership with industries to support research in frontier futuristic technology sectors that have the major economic potential to make Indian industry globally competitive. It has focused on IP creation with ownership that is retained by the Indian industry and wherever relevant, it works by collaborating with scientists.
Promoting Academic Research Conversion to Enterprise (PACE)
Biotechnical research and development in India are carried out by academic institutions and in certain cases by industry. By using strong infrastructure and technical capability research/academic establishments, it focuses on problems that are required to research problems of national importance and societal relevance. In order to encourage/support academics to develop technology/product of societal/national importance and its subsequent validation by an industrial partner, BIRAC has launched PACE.
Social Innovation Immersion Program (SIIP)
SIIP is a social innovation fellowship/award program aimed to create a pool of biotech social innovators who identify needs and gaps within the communities and then bridge gaps either through innovative product development or services. The program is a platform that provides an opportunity for clinical and rural immersion for developing prototype through mini kick start grant, apart from monthly fellowship to young social innovators. The program is implemented by BIRAC SIIP partners and mentored through BIRAC SIIP knowledge partner.
SPARSH (Social Innovation programme for Products: Affordable & Relevant to Societal Health) is a programme that is initiated by BIRAC, aims at promoting the development of innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The scheme creates a pool of social innovators in the biotech arena that identifies specific needs and gaps in healthcare. The social innovators would be provided financial and technical support for developing market-based solutions that have the potential to bring cost-effective health care breakthroughs to vulnerable populations.
Sustainable Entrepreneurship And Enterprise Development Fund (SEED)
The basic idea of SEED fund is providing capital assistance to startups with new and meritorious ideas, innovations and technologies. The enables certain startups to graduate to a level where they raise investments from Angel/Venture capitalist, or reach a position to seek loans from commercial banks/financial institutions. Therefore the proposed seed support acts a bridge between promoters’ investment and Venture/Angel investment. This is not considered an investment scheme, but a support scheme to enable start-ups and incubators to attain sustainability.
Accelerating Entrepreneurs (AcE) Fund
The AcE Fund makes a maximum capital commitment of up to Rs. 30 crores or up to 30% of total aggregate capital commitment amount in each AcE daughter fund. The assistance to start-up swould be up to INR 7 crores against equity. The AcE daughter fund invests at least twice the amount contributed by BIRAC’s AcE Fund into Biotech/Life Sciences sector start-ups.