SSIP has formed committees at the State-level in which leaders and experts in finance, incubation, designing, marketing, etc., are involved to help universities in creating a broad roadmap, says Anju Sharma, Principal Secretary, Higher & Technical Education, and Chairperson, SSIP Implementation Committee, Gujarat, in a conversation with Hemangini Kanth Rajput and Dipen Pradhan of Elets News Network (ENN).
Tell us about the journey behind Gujarat’s achievement in becoming the country’s first State to implement Student Startup and Innovation Policy (SSIP) aimed at harnessing students’ innovation?
An organised effort to support student startups started early in Gujarat. Generally, students across academia are creative enough to solve problems. The only thing required was providing a platform so that they can utilise their skills and abilities to solve problems — and create innovation and enterprises.
About seven years ago, small co-working facilities with preincubation activities to support student innovation had already begun in universities and campuses of Gujarat. On an average, every year around 100 plus student startup came as a spin-off from these activities and experiment and support system. It further led to some of the universities to create their own strategy providing impetus to the students.
In 2014-15, we observed a critical mass happening. It received a further boost with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Startup India”. AICTE had been taking a keen notice of experiment happening in these universities to support startup and innovation in Gujarat.
Thus, in 2016, it drafted a National Student Startup Policy. Meanwhile, the Department of Higher & Technical Education took a giant- step to support this innovation and startup system across universities and formed Student Startup & Innovation Policy with worth Rs 200 crore support to create innovation and startup infrastructure, incentive, PoC, development of Prototype, Patent filing, Ecosystem building, etc.
As Gujarat had always been an entrepreneurial State, there was an advantage of having the highest amount of incubators, with around 15, in the State granted by different Central Government agencies.
Moreover, with the existence of quality academic education institutions, precedence of risk taking ability along with incubators, investors, mentors, designers in the State —and with existence of all these together led to amalgamation of a movement that eventually created SSIP to support need of the student startups.
“Interestingly, some of the universities used to help the student innovation at their own budget. With SSIP in place, it showed them a direction.”
Since the implementation of the SSIP policy in Gujarat, how has been the response from State universities and colleges?
Interestingly, some of the universities used to help the student innovation at their own budget. With SSIP in place, it showed them a direction: where to move, by when and how. Initially, we received applications from around 20-odd universities for SSIP grant. Around 100 colleges applied in the first phase. On September 26, 2017, State Chief Minister Vijaybhai Rupani distributed grants to 11 universities and 12 colleges. On the other hand, many universities have filed proposals outlining “what they have done” and “what they want to do”. Our core goal is to ensure that these colleges and universities become incubation ready and systematic innovation supporting organisations by next five years. Proposal for receiving grants have been not only from technological university but also from Agriculture, Social Sciences, Liberal Arts Universities. Similarly, the institutions which have come forward are from Management, Commerce, Social Sciences, Agriculture background etc.
Colleges and universities have responded very well. Those who used to already have the student startup ecosystem are gearing-up to the next-level. Those, who have not yet started, are trying to take it forward in every aggression for supporting their startup. Our idea is to help supporting 1,000 Patent filing from the State university and witnessing such participation. There’s been an outstanding response.
On what basis will the university be eligible to receive grant and support of the SSIP?
Our criteria of selecting university depends upon “what they have done” and “what they want to do”, highlighting a clarity on the roadmap. In the evaluation process, proposal submitted by these universities matter. The proposal should have structured data-sets that will be evaluated by the committee at State-level. Criterias that are looked into are “Active Student Participation” (ASP). The university should have at least 2,000 ASPs with five-year Action Plan Milestone, and minimum of 200 ASPs for academic institutions with Action Plan Milestone for three years, to become eligible for SSIP grant. The Action Plan should contain all the parameters mentioning their target on the number of student sensitisation, innovative projects, patent filing teams it would support for prototyping, workshops and conferences, etc. We also ask their significant initiative in the past and its impact. Finally, they propose a ‘Budget Plan’. These are some of the important indicators after which a number of screenings are conducted to award them SSIP support and grant.
Incubation centres play a major role in fostering SSIP. How is the Department of Education, Gujarat, mobilising incubators to join this innovative policy?
One of the crux of the SSIP Policy is to ensure that university supporting the student innovation and startup should have an incubation centre, or incubation setup ready in the next five-year plan. SSIP starts just before the incubation. The support system will ensure a strong pipeline to incubation, if the university wants to setup an incubator. Simultaneously, SSIP also provides insights to the universities while trying to setup an incubator. Furthermore, we are trying to create a network of incubators. SSIP has formed committees at the State-level where leaders and experts in finance, incubation, designing, marketing. etc., have been involved. The committee helps universities to create a broad roadmap and in capacity building. We are also trying to connect universities with these incubators, so that at least one to three incubators each would handhold three to four universities.