An Innovation Capital in the Making: Nikhil Agarwal

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NIKHIL AGARWAL,  CEO, Innovation Society ITE&C Department

Andhra Pradesh is leaving no stone unturned to establish itself as the innovation capital of India, and its Innovation and Startup Policy has been designed accordingly, tells Nikhil Agarwal, CEO, Innovation Society, ITE&C Department, to Sudheer Goutham of Elets News Network (ENN)

Can you give an outline of the Innovation and Startup Policy of Andhra Pradesh on which you want to make it big?

In order to encourage innovation, the AP Government has endorsed an Innovation and Startup Policy 2014-2020 that supports startups with innovation funds of Rs. 100 crore. The Government is targeting to incubate 500 startups by the end of December 2015, and 5,000 by 2020. The Government will reimburse to the incubators or the investors 15 per cent of the seed capital infused into a startup based out of the State. The idea is to create an ecosystem to produce an entrepreneur in every family and at least one homegrown billion-dollar technology startup.

Which are the specific areas that the State Government has focused in the policy?

We have identified five key areas, including shared infrastructure, accelerators/incubators, human capital, funding and good governance, which would support the State as part of its policy for innovation. These areas cover IT, electronics and all other sectors. At present, the Government has made about one million sqft of incubation infrastructure available in Vizag, Kakinada, Tirupati and Anantapur. It is creating another 3,00,000 sqft of additional space in the vicinity of the Vizag Startup Village. The physical infrastructures are being developed through the public-private-partnership (PPP) mode. Also, the new incubation infrastructure development fund will be set up under the innovation mission as a revolving fund.

‘Innovation capital’ means a huge talent pool. How does the Government plan to attract talent to the State?

Even if the talent and innovators are from outside Andhra Pradesh and are interested in moving into the State, they will be supported. Besides, huge talent, innovators and entrepreneurs will be from within the State. In the Government’s plan, students and universities in the State figure high. In the process, the Government has called upon the universities to change the curriculum in tune with the emerging technologies and requirements of the industry. The universities have also been asked to give merit to students who have successfully completed notified online courses as part of the State Government’s plan to boost human capital. Further, to encourage technopreneurs, the universities would be introducing the concept of Student-Entrepreneurs in Residence, wherein outstanding students, who wish to pursue entrepreneurship, can take break of one year after the first year to pursue entrepreneurship full time. This period, popularly known as gap-period, may be extended to two years, and these two years will not be counted in the time taken for completing graduation.

How are the universities in the State complementing the Innovation & Startup Policy?

All the universities in State may give five per cent grace marks and 20 per cent attendance every semester for student startup teams, which have at least one woman as a co-founder. Students’ startups from the very first year of college may be allowed to convert their projects as final-year project. These proposals may be implemented by the universities with immediate effect.

How will be the projects and startups be financially supported?

Besides the initial innovation fund of Rs. 100 crore, an amount of Rs. 1,000 crore will be mobilised as venture capital and that will offer shared infrastructure, accelerators/incubators, human capital and funding for startups. The VC Fund, however, will invest in startups directly and will be professionally managed like a PE/Venture Fund.

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