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The acronym SPARSH stands for Social innovation programme for Products: Affordable and Relevant to Social Health, is a programme authorised by BIRAC under the sponsorship of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. This scheme assists various social problems and offers new ideas for wide-scale change. In addition to this, the scheme aims to invest ideas and innovations that improve the health care of every Indian citizen and provides cheap product development in social sectors. In this article, let us look at the features of this innovative programme.


Given below are the primary goals of the scheme:

  • To identify and provide support to highly advanced innovations for affordable product development that brings significant social impact and addresses challenges of inclusive growth.
  • To provide support for the funding of biotech product innovations that can be scaled.
  • To create and foster a pool of social innovators in biotech and provide a platform to share best practises and comprehend business models in social innovation and network.

Focus of SPARSH

SPARSH fosters innovation solutions in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) sectors that focus on

  • Treatment of post‐partum haemorrhage.
  • Maternal and neonatal screening for metabolic disorders, infections like sepsis, infectious diseases like HPV, HIV, Hepatitis and Malaria.
  • Monitoring physiological parameters such as HB count, neonatal blood pressure, infant care and childbirth.
  • Treatment and monitoring of fetal growth and restrictions.
  • Food and Nutrition: Innovative projects in food and nutrition that make an impact on the nutritional intake of expectant mothers and children who incorporate bio-fortification or deriving valuable secondary products that are supported under MCH.
  • Delivery models using approved and commercialised MCH products that include telemedicine initiatives for mother and child.


The components of SPARSH is divided into two, namely:

  • Affordable Product Development
    • The idea to Proof of Concept (PoC)
    • Proof of Concept to Validation
    • Innovative Pilot Scale Delivery models
  • Social Innovation Immersion Programme

Affordable Product Development

The idea to Proof of Concept: Proposals that are invited for taking an idea to PoC, would be at an ideation or budding stage, aiming to bridge significant challenges in the socially relevant area.

Funding Support: A grant-in-aid assistance of up to Rs. 50 lakhs for a span of up to 18 months would be provided.

Eligibility: This category is eligible for the following sectors:

  • Biotechnology Indian startups that are incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, having a minimum of 51% Indian Ownership and less than three years old from the date of advertisement/Indian entrepreneurs.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) that is incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008, less than three years old from the date of advertisement and having a minimum half of the individuals who have subscribed for LLP document, whose partners have to be Indian citizens.
  • Indian Academic Scientists, PhDs, Researchers, Medical Degree Holders, Biomedical Engineering graduates who are willing to incubate in a business incubator.
  • Proprietorship concern that is set up by an Indian citizen under the certificate/license that is issued by municipal authorities/under Shop and Establishment Act or relevant prominence.
  • No DSIR certification is required.

Access to innovative pilot-scale delivery models: Proposals are invited for the implementation of delivery models for innovative healthcare products and services that are relevant to social innovation and services. These products show positive social impact, the sustainability of the operations and potential for scale-up in the near to medium term.

Social Innovation Immersion Program (SIIP)

SIIP aims to create a pool of biotech social innovators who identify needs and gaps within the communities and bridge gaps through innovative product development or services. The program enables partners (academic technology centres, business incubators and related organisations) to offer a whole host of business, technical and market mentoring to the fellow workers.

Application Process

Step 1: The call for Letter of Intent (LoI) would be announced twice a year on a thematic area with high societal impact for Affordable Product Development and once a year for SIIP.

Step 2: The LoI would be submitted online through registration at BIRAC website.

Step 3: Eligible LoIs would be scrutinised online by the SPARSH Technical Advisory Group (STAG-1).

Step 4: Submission of the full proposal by the shortlisted applicants.

Step 5: Full proposal would be reviewed online by subject experts.

Step 6: Mentoring and Evaluation (M&E) Induction Program would be organised for shortlisted applicants from Category A. All applicants receive mentorship on grant writing skills, proposal technicalities, documentation skills, financial requirements and technical aspects.

Step 7: Site visits are organised for applicants in Category B and C.

Step 8: Revised proposal submission would be made by the applicants.

Step 9: Advanced evaluation and recommendation are carried out by STAG-2 concerning the revised proposal, the reports of the lead discussants and the BIRAC facilitators for the shortlisted component I proposals.

Step 10: STAG-2 evaluates and recommends the SIIP applicants through a presentation.

Step 11: BIRAC processes the sanction of the fund after financial, legal concurrence, due approval etc.

Documents Required

The following are the required documents to ensure the eligibility for Sparsh.

Companies (For-profit/not for profit)

  • Legal status-certificate of incorporation
  • DSIR certificate or application applied for DSIR
  • Custom duty/income tax exemption for DSIR units should not be uploaded for documenting eligibility
  • The shareholding pattern in the prescribed format
  • A pdf that states the year of establishment, manufacturing, trading, imports and marketing and R&D activities
  • Copy of Section 25 license

Partnership Firms/SocietyTrust/NGO/Foundation/Association

  • Legal status-registration certificate under Society Act, State/Central Act or any other relevant certificate of registration
  • Partnership Deed or Trust Deed
  • DSIR/SIRO recognition
  • Income tax exemption certificate
  • Document mentioning the names, citizenship and address of the partners, trustees, members of the governing body, directors
  • Pan Card copy of the establishment as proof of legal identity
  • Bye-laws of the entity
  • A pdf stating the organization involved in social innovation or S&T activities must have active participation in India. The members have to submit an illustration of their active programs in the country and their accomplishments when required.

Sole Proprietorship

  • Legal status-registration certificate (for registered units)
  • Name, citizenship and addresses of the proprietor
  • Certificate/registration document that is issued by the sales tax/professional tax authorities.
  • Certificate/license that is issued by the municipal authorities under Shop and Establishment Act or other relevant statutes.
  • Registration/licensing document that is issued by the Central Government or State Government Authority/Department.
  • Importer Exporter Code (IEC) that is issued by the Office of Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) etc

Limited Liability Partnership

  • LLP agreement
  • The DPIN and incorporation document of the designated partners.
  • Specific production, manufacturing, sale, distribution or business licenses issued by local authorities.

Institution/Universities/Public Research Organization

  • Establishment certificate of the founding document that mentions the year of establishment
  • NAAC/AICTE/UGC or any equivalent recognition certificate.