Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a non-profit public sector enterprise, set up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India as an Interface Agency to strengthen and empower the emerging Biotech enterprise to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs. BIRAC is an industry-academia interface and implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives, be it providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to the biotech firms and make them globally competitive. In its Five years of existence, BIRAC has initiated several schemes, networks and platforms that help to bridge the existing gaps in the industry-academia Innovation research and facilitate novel, high quality affordable products development through cutting edge technologies. BIRAC has initiated partnerships with several national and global partners to collaborate and deliver the salient features of its mandate.
The main objectives of BIRAC are:
- Foster innovation and entrepreneurship
- Promote affordable innovation in key social sector.
- Empowerment of start-ups & small and medium enterprises
- Contribute through partners for capability enhancement and diffusion of innovation
- Enable commercialization of discovery
- Ensure global competitiveness of Indian enterprises
BIRAC aims to fulfill its objectives through its various schemes and programmes for researchers, academia, entrepreneurs, start-ups, small industrial units, companies etc.
SCHEMES/GRANTS UNDER BIRAC
INCUBATION SUPPORT SCHEME
Bio-Incubators Nurturing Entrepreneurship for Scaling Technologies (Bio-Nest) scheme was launched by BIRAC to assist the biotech innovation startups in the country. Unlike start ups in the IT sector, enterprising ideas in the biotech sector need incubation support of a different kind where they need a landing space to test their ideas, run their operations, have access to high end instrumentations and locate in a place where they connect with other start ups and mentors. Bio-NEST program provides support to establish bio-incubators either as a standalone entity or as a part of the academia. This scheme allows harnessing of the entrepreneurial potential of startups by providing access to infrastructure as well as mentoring and networking platforms that the start-ups could use during their fledgling days.
EARLY STAGE SUPPORT SCHEME
BIG (Bio-Technology Ignition Grant)
BIG is the flagship program of BIRAC, which provides the right admixture of fuel and support to young startups and entrepreneurial individuals. BIG is the largest early stage biotech funding program in India that supports high level innovation in the biotech sector and is not meant for basic research projects. This scheme is designed to stimulate commercialization of research discoveries by providing very early stage grants for the development and maturation of those discoveries into marketable product or intellectual property (IP). In other words to, it helps in bridging the gap between discovery and invention. The grant-in-aid is up-to Rs 50 lakhs for a maximum period of 18 months, to best in class innovative ideas to build and refine idea to proof-of-concept. The funding to the BIG Innovator by the BIG Partner will always be in the form of Grant-in-Aid. Funding may also be used for conducting limited market research, patenting costs, working capital during the period, travel, salary etc.
SITARE (Students Innovations for Advancement of Research Explorations)
Students Innovations for Translation & Advancement of Research Explorations (SITARE) Scheme is aimed at supporting innovative student projects in the area of biotechnology. The scheme’s mandate is to promote and encourage young students for embracing translational research to develop innovative products and technologies addressing unmet needs. The scheme also provides an opportunity for orientation, training and mentoring through residential workshops etc.
Residential workshops called as Biotech Innovation Ignition School (BIIS) for undergraduate students are organized to provide hands-on-technical training and mentorship for problem identification in 3-4 weeks duration. he mandate of Biotech Innovation Ignition School (BIIS) is to provide an exposure and orientation for entrepreneurial journey through hands-on-technical training, interactive sessions with experts, access to bioincubation centre etc. This to promote grass root innovations and nurture ideas with societal impact, pioneered by undergraduate students, especially from Tier II/III cities. There are 30-40 students per workshop, out of which 10 students are selected and provided a grant support of up to INR 1 lakh each to encourage their inquisitiveness and sustained efforts.
E-YUVA (Encouraging Youth for Undertaking Innovative Research through Vibrant Acceleration)
E-Yuva scheme aims to promote a culture of applied research and need-oriented (societal or industry) entrepreneurial innovation among young students and researchers. The scheme is implemented through E-YUVA Centres (EYCs) to inculcate entrepreneurial culture through fellowship, pre-incubation and mentoring support. EYCs are housed within the University/Institute set up and mentored by a BIRAC Bio-NEST supported bio-incubator.
LATE STAGE SUPPORT SCHEMES
BIPP (Biotechnology Industry Partnership Program)
BIPP is a government partnership with Industries for support on a cost sharing basis for path-breaking research in frontier futuristic technology areas having major economic potential and making the Indian industry globally competitive. It is focused on IP creation with ownership retained by Indian industry and wherever relevant, by collaborating scientists. This scheme is a support for high risk, accelerated technology development especially in futuristic technologies. Only accelerated technology development through transformational change are to be supported.
SBIRI (Small Business Innovation Research Initiative)
The Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) scheme of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology was launched to boost Public-Private- Partnership (PPP) efforts in the country. It has facilitated innovation, risk taking by small and medium companies and bringing together the private industry, public institutions and the government under one roof to promote the research and innovation in the Indian Biotech Sector. The projects supported under the scheme have resulted in prominent outcomes in the form of some products which have already come to the market and some promising research leads seeing ray of hope for commercialization.
RESEARCH GRANT SCHEME
PACE (Promoting Academic Research Conversion to Enterprise)
BIRAC has launched PACE to encourage academia to develop technology/product (up to PoC stage) of societal/ national importance and its subsequent validation by an industrial partner. Biotechnological research and development in India is largely carried out by academic institutions (universities/research organizations) and to some extent by industry (mostly large companies). By virtue of their strong infrastructure & technical capability academic/ research establishments are mandated to research on variety of problems of national importance and societal relevance. Also, unlike industry, research by academia is not governed by commercial gains alone thus allowing them to work on problems involving even high degree of risk.
SOCIAL INNOVATION SCHEMES
SIIP (Social Innovation Immersion Program)
SIIP is BIRAC’s social Innovation fellowship/award program aimed at creating a pool of biotech “Social Innovators” who can identify needs & gaps within communities and then can help bridge the gaps either through an innovative product development or services. The immersion program is a unique social Innovation platform which provides the opportunity for clinical and rural immersion and also funding support for developing the prototype through mini kick start grant apart from the monthly fellowship to young social Innovators. The program has already developed clusters across the nation on three thematic areas “Maternal and Child Health” “Ageing and Health” and “Waste to value”.
SPARSH (Social Innovation programme for Products: Affordable & Relevant to Societal Health)
This programme aims at promoting the development of innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The scheme tackles major social issues and offer new ideas for widespread change. The scheme aims to invest in ideas and innovations that improve health care of all Indians and encourage affordable product development in the social sector. The scheme intends to create a pool of social innovators in the biotech arena who will identify the specific needs and gaps in healthcare. The social innovators will be provided financial and technical support for developing market-based solutions that have potential to bring cost effective health care breakthroughs to vulnerable populations in particular.
EQUITY FUNDING SCHEMES
SEED Fund (Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Fund)
The basic idea of SEED Fund is providing Capital assistance to startups with new and meritorious ideas, innovations and technologies. This would enable some of these start-ups to graduate to a level where they will be able to raise investments from angel/Venture capitalist or they will reach a position to seek loans from commercial banks /financial institutions. Thus the proposed seed support is positioned to act as a bridge between promoters’ investment and Venture/Angel investment. This is not an investment scheme, but, rather a support scheme to enable start-ups and incubator to attain sustainability.
LEAP Fund (Launching Entrepreneurial Driven Affordable Products)
BIRAC LEAP Fund is meant to provide capital assistance to startups with new and meritorious ideas, innovations and technologies. The LEAP Fund is to provide funding support of up to Rs 1 crore per startup. BioNEST Bio-incubators (LEAP fund partners) will be given up to Rs 5 crore funds/ partner for investing in potential Startup against equity and equity linked instruments. This would enable potential start-ups to pilot/ commercialize their products/ technologies. Thus the proposed funding support is positioned to act as a catalyst in bringing technologies/ products forward towards piloting/ commercialization and reducing their gestation to commercialization.
ACE FUND (Accelerating Entrepreneurs Fund)
Biotechnology Innovation Fund – ACE (Accelerating Entrepreneurs) Fund is an equity “Fund of Fund” exclusively for Biotech Start-ups. AcE daughter funds are SEBI registered private funds to invest equity in start-ups for providing the risk capital to undertake innovation, research and product development. This fund shall foster R&D and innovation in Biotechnology domains (including areas such as healthcare, pharma, medical devices, agriculture, sanitation to name a few).The ACE Fund shall make a maximum capital commitment of up to Rs 30 crores or up to 30% of the total aggregate capital commitment amount in each ACE daughter Fund. The assistance to a start-up will be up to INR 7 crores against equity.
PRODUCT COMMERCIALIZATION SCHEME
PCP Fund (Product Commercialization Program Fund)
BIRAC is promoting product/technology development by Indian Start-ups in different areas of biotechnology through various funding schemes such as BIG, BIPP, SBIRI, PACE, IIPME, SPARSH, through various partnerships programmes like Grand Challenges India, National Biopharma Mission, WISH or as innovation awards like TiE Winer. BIRAC supported technologies are continuously monitored and measured for technology maturation on a BIRAC-TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale of 1 to 9. The existing BIRAC schemes support product development, extensive validation up to pre-commercialization. Once the technology/product has been successfully validated and is market ready, there are additional financial requirements for preparing the ground for market launch, test-validation in targeted markets and large scale commercialization, which are not covered under the existing funding programmes. To deal with the situation, BIRAC has launched the Product Commercialization Program Fund (PCP Fund) under the BIRAC Product Commercialization Program (PCP).
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