With the launch of the “StartUps for Railways” policy, the Union Ministry of Railways intends to bring scale and efficiency to the domains of operation, maintenance, and infrastructure creation by involving a large and untapped startup ecosystem in the country.
The Indian Railways will invest more than Rs 50 crore annually to fund startups, Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Monday, adding that, unlike other such collaborations, the intellectual property rights (IPR) for innovations will remain with the innovator.
Under the Indian Railway Innovation Policy, the railways will invest in startups to get a head-start in procuring innovations directly from them with a promise of up to Rs 1.5 crore of seed money for innovative technological solutions for the national transporter.
”The policy is not just limited to the idea. The Indian Railways will follow it through to the product after proof of concept and scaling it up, doubling the grant support and finally adopting of successfully developed product/technology for regular use and even support for two to three years. The annual budget for the policy will be around Rs 40-50 crore and an additional fund for the divisional railway managers so that they can find on-field solutions to on-field problems. Also, the IPR will remain with the innovator,” the railway minister told the media while launching the policy formally.
The funding scheme has been fixed on a cost-sharing basis in equal proportions of 50:50 by the Indian Railways and an innovator.
”Great innovative solutions may churn and many technological challenges can be resolved if startups collaborate with Indian Railways. We have launched an innovation programme under Startup India today and undertook 11 common problems to resolve,” Vaishnaw said.
He said that throughout the entire developmental journey, railways’ field officers, RDSO, zonal, and railway board officers will continuously support and hand-hold the innovators.
The Indian Railway Innovation Policy will identify and enable Indian innovators to engage with the railways for developing cost-effective, implementable, scalable solutions and functional prototypes for the national transporter, he said.
Vaishnaw said that the selection through an open, transparent, and fair process which will entail innovators uploading their concepts with necessary proof on a dedicated portal, the Indian Railway Innovation Portal on the web address www.innovation.indianrailways.gov.in. In May, field units were asked to provide problem areas. In response to it, around 160 problem statements have been received till date. To start with, 11 problem statements have been identified to deal via the new innovation policy and uploaded on the website, the minister said. These include a broken rail detection systems, rail stress monitoring systems, track inspection technologies for accurate inspection, and superior elastometric pad for heavy haul freight wagons.
It also sought innovations for lightweight wagons for carrying commodities like salt, track cleaning machine, an app for post-training revision and self-service refresher courses, use of remote sensing, geomatics, GIS or bridge inspection, and development of analytical tools by using digital data for improving passenger services.
The eligible organisations or beneficiaries of the support will include any Indian companies incorporated under the Companies Act 1956/2013, primarily micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) as defined in the MSME Act, 2006, and individual innovators. The policy also encourages research and development institutions to apply for grant.