With a view to promoting research and development (R&D) in the private sector for modernization of the rail network in the country, as also to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, the Indian Railways have launched an innovative policy to partner with startups.
Considering the major constraint in the form of capital inadequacy in the startup ecosystem, primarily in the seed and “proof of concept” developmental stage, this policy aims to provide necessary seed fund support, of up to Rs 1.5 crore (on matching contribution basis), to startups showing capability, intent, and promise to produce functional prototypes, based on new innovative concepts, for potential use on Indian Railways.
The policy provides for an enabling framework to encourage Indian innovators, startups, entrepreneurs, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), R&D institutions, and technology developers to engage with the Indian Railways in the development of innovative technological solutions for the railways.
Financial support to entrepreneurs or innovators, as project grant on matching contribution basis, has also been provided for in the policy.
The process of selection of innovation partners will be executed online in an open, fair, and transparent manner through a dedicated portal, which is likely to be activated by the end of April 2022.
The intellectual property created in the course of product/technology development will be owned by the innovators/startups and this will provide them leverage and flexibility for engaging with stakeholders during commercialisation of their products or technologies.
Various Central government initiatives like Startup India, Atal Innovation Mission, Make in India – Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, Innovations for Defence Excellence, and so on – provide an enabling framework for motivating and encouraging Indian entrepreneurs and innovators to come forward for the development of innovative technologies, products, and technological solutions to address the needs of various sectors in the country.
The policy will encourage startups to partner with the Railways for working together to create knowledge (intellectual property) and innovative products for the Indian Railways, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
It would create an enabling platform for all stakeholders to contribute to the development technique of Indian Railways.
The Railways would support, through seed funding, at the proof-of-concept stage. This would be followed by a limited assured order. Besides, knowledge creation within the country makes the entire proposition economically viable and suitable for exporting the content as well.
This would also help develop cost-effective, implementable, scalable solutions, functional prototypes, and innovative products for addressing quality-, reliability-, and maintainability-related issues of the Indian Railways and improving the same through specified use of the developed products and innovative solutions by the Railways, the official said.
By leveraging new innovative technologies, developed by entrepreneurs and startups for improving operational efficiency and safety in the rail sector, the Railways will be promoting an “innovation culture” in the country for co-creation and co-innovation in the sector.
India is witnessing an exponential growth in the technology sector. Products and industry solutions, developed by industry and entrepreneurs using emerging and evolving next-generation technology tools like the Internet of Things, big data analytics, cloud computing, drones, MEMS, composites, and shape memory alloys, are now being widely used by various sectors in the country.
With the objective of harnessing technological, economical and operational benefits offered by next-generation innovative and emerging technologies, and also promote startup culture in the country, the Indian Railways intends to engage with entrepreneurs, technology developers, and innovators, through startups, to get low-cost user-friendly reliable products and solutions for use on the Indian Railways network.