Sam Pitroda, advisor to the prime minister on public information infrastructure and innovation, Wednesday hailed biotechnology as being "pervasive" and said the sector has the capacity to be bigger than IT. "Biotech could be bigger than IT (information technology) in terms of export," he said. "(With biotech) we can expedite the process of development in pharmaceuticals, environment, processes and many other things," Pitroda said at an event marking the launch of the first phase of a plan developed by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), which aims to foster innovation and techno-entrepreneurship in Indian universities.
The initiative, in collaboration with the biotechnology industry, leverages the University Innovation Cluster (UIC) and Cluster Innovation Centre (CIC) model recommended by the National Innovation Council (NIC). The UIC model seeks to build an innovation network with multiple stakeholders and CICs, identify and forge partnerships with institutions of interest, further facilitating the innovation culture. Under the initiative, an innovation centre in biotechnology hosted in the university will be the nerve centre to manage the UIC activities. As part of the project, five Indian universities - Anna University, Chennai; Punjab University, Chandigarh; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore; University of Rajasthan, Jaipur and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad - have been chosen to participate in the first phase. "Each university is a leader in biotechnology, who has got the right connections with the industry. So, we will set up a pre-incubation centre there which will act as the nerve centre for budding student entrepreneurs," a member of the team said.
The cluster innovation centre in biotechnology will give students technology mentoring, along with mentoring in entrepreneurship development and support in new venture creation. "We call it a cluster because these universities will network with all other institutes and industries in the region," she said. The initiative, which intends to create a industry ready workforce, is mainly meant for selected post-masters and post-doctoral student entrepreneurs.