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Tamil Selvan Chandru

Senior Adviser - Newton Fund India

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

12th October 2016 Delhi, India

India’s tech start-up acceleration and supporting success

The UK Science and Innovation Network is running interactive workshops to support Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in India through a series of workshops across 4-cities who have confirmed interest in this area. These cities are Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Pune. The aim of this workshop is to share the best practices from established TBI managers, projects, ecosystems, real life approaches to challenges from the UK with Indian stakeholders. The UK delegates from Cambridge CleanTech and Basildon Borough Council will run the workshop.

One of our delegates is Martin Garratt, Chief Executive of Cambridge CleanTech, who I spoke to recently. And this is what I asked him:

Question: What we can learn from the UK experience in India?

Answer: “Incubation should be about helping marginal ventures to fail as fast and painlessly as possible, and good ones to pivot and accelerate as fast as possible,” says David Gill, CEO of St Johns Innovation Centre in Cambridge, England. St Johns Innovation Centre is the first innovation centre in Europe to focus on supporting knowledge-based businesses and the oldest such business incubator in the United Kingdom.

Question: What lessons can be learnt from the development of such technology business incubators and how can such lessons be applied in India?

Answer: Anyone can build a new office block and stick a new sign on it saying ‘Technology Business Incubator’ but what are the fundamentals of management and the all-important related business support services that lead to a successful incubator and how can these be applied in other locations.

The business model for the incubator should be closely aligned to the needs and desires of the potential occupiers or tenants, so quite simply ask the tenants about their aspirations and business needs. The occupancy terms should not be too rigid and should allow for ‘easy in and easy out’ options and related to this, the type of available space might range from hot-desks, to a joint use open plan hatchery areas and to flexible self-contained offices. Lots of meeting spaces are necessary as the incubator is really a means of facilitating focused serendipity. Location is likely to be where entrepreneurs can find other people like themselves and some social life, so out of town business parks do not tend to work.

If the building and the office space is considered the ‘hardware’, then the ‘software’ of business support services are what really turns the office block into a technology business incubator. Again use the magic wand technique to ask the tenants the top 3 essentials that would help their business to prosper and then, build this into the business support services programme. This could be anything from coaching and mentoring, to access to finance and from Cam-Jelly workshops to meet the buyer events and all of the above and more. Remember it’s not an a la carte menu but a table d’ hote, based closely on tenant needs and this is as relevant in India as it is in the UK or elsewhere for that matter.

There are a lot of good examples of tech incubators in the UK and one such example is SETSquared. The SETSquared partnership consists of universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. They have over a decade of experience in operating a highly successful university business incubator for high-tech, high growth start-ups from research labs, from students and from the entrepreneurial communities in and around the towns and cities of the partnership universities. This is an excellent model which can be translated to India by adjusting to its needs.

The Indian government has entrusted the task of setting up of incubation centres under PM Modi’s flagship ‘Start-Up India’ initiative to reputed institutions. In view of this, role of incubation centres in academic/research institutes have assumed a lot of significance, as they provide an enabling environment to deal with the difficulties in the process of entrepreneurship and reduce the new venture failure rate substantially.

Talking about innovation and entrepreneurship in India and UK, our flagship event India-UK TECH Summit 2016 happening on 7-9 November 2016 in New Delhi has a dedicated Innovation and Entrepreneurship Summit along with other concurrent summits on technology, education, design, intellectual property.

As a follow up to TECH Summit, our series of TBI workshops will reach out to cities outside Delhi. To know more about the workshop and how to participate, you can find details in this flyer.

About Tamil Selvan Chandru

Tamil Selvan Chandru is the Science and Innovation Adviser based in British High Commission, New Delhi. He facilitates UK-India collaboration on Innovation through missions, visits and events in coordination with…

Tamil Selvan Chandru is the Science and Innovation Adviser based in British High Commission, New Delhi. He facilitates UK-India collaboration on Innovation through missions, visits and events in coordination with partners from both governments. He monitors and reports on developments in the area of innovation in India to bring useful insights to UK decision makers.

Previously, he was with European Business and Technology Centre where he developed in-depth knowledge of key clean technologies to deliver consultancy assignments to EU-based companies and researchers wanting to enter the Indian market, hereby closely cooperating with the EU Member States stakeholders. Tamil has over 5 years of experience in engineering and management profession working in France, UK, Singapore and India. He graduated his Masters in Electronics and Mechanical Engineering from Ecole Polytechnique de Tours and his MBA from University of Paris XII.

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