The Government of India is recognizing the need for encouraging startups at an early stage in schools and colleges and supporting them with various schemes and policies in order to create more jobs in the country. The Atal Innovation Mission under NITI Aayog is one of those schemes.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech 2015-16 announced the government's intention to establish Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) with an initial sum of Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore respectively.
While challenges remain to the success of the mission, with most incubators yet to produce even one unicorn startup. Nevertheless, the mission is trying hard to encourage an innovative mindset among the youth.
Here are top steps taken by the government to encourage small businesses and innovation at an early stage.
The Atal Innovation Mission
The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) is Government of India's endeavor to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Its objective is to serve as a platform for the promotion of innovation hubs, grand challenges, startup businesses and other activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
The Atal Innovation Mission has two core functions:
1. Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation wherein innovators will be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs.
2. Innovation promotion- to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated.
Following are the three platforms by Atal Innovation Mission to promote entrepreneurship in the country.
1. Atal Tinkering Labs
2. Atal Incubation Centres
3. Scale-up support to Established Incubators
Atal Tinkering Labs
Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) are established in school across India with a vision to 'Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators.'
The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity, and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.
AIM will provide grant-in-aid that includes a one-time establishment of Rs 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
Features of ATL
ATL is a workspace where young minds can give shape to their ideas through hands-on do-it-yourself mode, and learn innovation skills. They will get a chance to work with tools and equipment to understand the concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)
ATL will contain educational and learn 'do it yourself' kits and equipment on- science, electronics, robotics, open source microcontroller boards, computers and much more.
Schools (minimum Grade VI-X) managed by Government, local body or private trusts or society to set up ATL.
Here are some ATLs approved by the government: AES Sr Sec School, Kendriya Vidyalaya AFS Tughlakabad, Delhi Public School Mathura Road, Delhi Public School R K PURAM and many more.
Atal Incubation Centre (AIC)
Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) is set up to nurture innovative startup businesses in their pursuit to become scalable and sustainable enterprises.
The AICs will create incubation facilities across various parts of India with suitable physical infrastructure in terms of capital equipment and operating facilities, coupled with the availability of sectoral experts for mentoring startups, business planning support, access to seed capital, industry partners training and other relevant components required for encouraging innovative startups.
Moreover, AICs will be established in subject-specific areas such as manufacturing, transport, energy, health, education, agriculture, water, and sanitation, much more.
AIM will provide a grant-in-aid of up to Rs 10 crore for a maximum period of 5 years to cover the capital and operational expenditures to establish AIC.
Higher educational institutions, R&D institutes, corporate sector, alternative investment funds registered with SEBI, business accelerators, group of individuals, and individuals are eligible to apply.
The applicant would have to provide at least 10,000 sq ft of ready to use, built up space, for the exclusive use of the AIC.
Here are some approved AICs from the government: L M College of Pharmacy, Gujarat, Goa Institute of Management, Goa.
Scale-up Support to Established Incubation Centres (EIC)
The Government proposes to augment the capacity of the Established Incubation Centres (EICs) by providing scale-up support.
The objective of this scheme is to transform the startup ecosystem in the country by upgrading the Established Incubation Centers to world-class standards.Financial Support
Grant-in-support will be up to Rs 10 crore which will be provided in two (or more) annual installments to top performing Established Incubation Centres in India selected through this scheme.Duration
Grant-in-Aid will be provided for a duration of two years. The scheme will be in operation for a period of six years.
Here are some approved EICs by the government:
SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre IIT Kanpur, IAN Mentoring and Incubation Services, Delhi, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park IIT Kharagpur, Villgro Innovations Foundation, Chennai, IIT-Madras Rural Technology Business Incubator and many more.
Comment on EIC Scheme: The government has to remain cognizant of the fact that there can be a malicious intent of siphoning tax payer's money in lieu of grants by a few individuals.
Several co-working spaces which are sparsely populated and not encouraging any innovation have been applying for government grants worth Rs 10 crore. While some have received, many are yet in the pipeline.
With the grant money, the government has not put any stringent controls over the spending pattern - if the incubator's owner is siphoning the money for personal use or using it for encouraging innovation at the local level.
Government has to remain cognizant of this fact. Instead it could allow legitimate companies to work for free in incubators which have received government money on a first come first serve basis or based upon the area of the business registration.