BioVoice News June 2016 Issue 2 Volume 1 - Page 12

face to face researchers to get the funding support. Also, we might consider a program on agri-electronics which is very interesting. It will help in precision farming given the fact that government interest is majorly on agriculture. It will also help us to connect the soil health card scheme that the Prime Minister’s pet project. We are looking at developing diagnostic systems for the soil health. At the moment we are in talks with DIETY but in the longer run for the large scale demonstration projects, we might speak to the agriculture ministry as well. There have been many announcements on the international partnerships at the BIRAC Foundation Day. Can you please tell us about their importance? Australia has got great strengths in horticulture research. Therefore, BIRAC has tied up with Hort Innovation, Australia in which we have found the perfect ally to conduct cutting-edge research in the area of horticulture. This strategic partnership of close to 6 million AUD will undoubtedly promote the development of cost effective practices for crop harvesting. Partnership with the Nesta from United Kingdom is one of the biggest. Launched in November 2014, the Longitude Prize is a five-year challenge with a 10 million pounds prize fund. It aims to conserve antibiotics for future generations, revolutionizing global healthcare. We have together launched the Longitude Prize Discovery Awards. These are small seed grants to help individuals or teams to further develop their ideas to win the prize. DBT has been having one of the long standing partnerships with the Tekes, Finland. Tekes has been very strong on academia-industry partnerships. Through this collaboration, we want to give our entrepreneurs an access to their market. Network sharing platform will add value. What is the status of the university cluster programme that was launched few years back? The selected grantees are doing their research. I think it will take us a while to let you know whether the research has moved toward the outcome. If that is really translated into the entrepreneurship, the next step will be decided later. We are waiting for another year or so to pick up. If it picks up well, we can go ahead or else it will be learning experience to do something different. Like in case of incubators, we learnt what the gaps, strengths or challenges. We will arrive at the assessment shortly. What are the criteria for the workshops being undertaken by the BIRAC at various levels? The workshops we two are of two sets: One covers the regulatory aspects of biopharma, medical technology and other verticals. It doesn’t talk about the issues or hurdles but the regulatory need. If you have to generate data that is compliant to regulatory needs, we give the understanding about the procedure. The other kinds of workshops we do are 12 BioVoiceNews | June 2016 “ The current success ratio is merely 15-17%. But that doesn’t mean that the rest 83 to 85% of ideas are to be junked. We have limited funds in our kitty and thus we have to take only the best. But we do advise them to come back. hands on experience on technologies. These are need based and after we receive the feedback from the industry. For example, if they seek understanding on industrial processing, recombinant proteins, and certain cell line cultures etc., we then talk to academic institutes and facilitate that. We are in talks with many organizations to explore the chances of starting a teaching programme for technicians for operating various machines. Possibly this year we might do a workshop on this. It is about skilling and making people aware about new cutting edge technologies. Is BIRAC doing something for women entrepreneurs? We have a whole biotech park for women in Chennai. Totally for women, there are already plenty of them in the park. It has been supported by the incubation park there along with M S Swaminathan Foundation. While it was originally supported by DBT as Business Park, now we have supported it as the women entrepreneur incubator. It will have all the components of a regular incubation space. How do you look at the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs? Do the challenges at BIRAC look similar? The sustainability of their ideas is a major one and if we can help them to choose their idea and take it forward, Second challenge is the access to funding. While we are making all our efforts, government can go only this far. We are using various funding mechanisms. Some of them face the issues from current regulatory system that takes their product gestation period beyond their expectations. That makes their product expensive and thus is not so good. Access to the market is also a big challenge. We need to help them understand where the market is and how do they approach it. We are taking steps towards that. As far as BIRAC is concerned, there are huge challenges before it. BIRAC again is itself a startup and sustainability is even an issue for it. It has to make sure that that it doesn’t get complacent with its processes. There are key factors that contribute to BIRAC’s success and we have to ensure it continues its emphasis on them. It has to stay in its dynamic mode and sync with demands of ecosystem. We will have to keep changing and that is a challenge.