December 5: Faculty members at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras developed at least 94 enterprises with a total valuation of over Rs 1,400 crore, ranging from a firm trying to make hybrid aerial vehicles to others working on turning garbage to crude oil and efficient water transport solutions.
IIT faculty members, according to officials, have established, coached, or advised over 240 firms in the last decade, with a combined worth of Rs 11,500 crore. In October of this year, 94 enterprises were directly created by IIT-Madras faculty members. Based on financing from angel investors or venture capital firms, these startups have a combined worth of around Rs 1,400 crore.
Data shared by the IIT Madras Incubation Cell (IITMIC), the number of faculty-founded startups rose sharply from 37 in April 2017 to 69 in June 2019 and 80 in 2020 before touching 94 by October 2021. These startups were incubated by the IIT Madras Incubation Cell, one of India's leading deep technology startup hubs. As many as 77 faculty members from various departments of the institute were involved in setting up startups.
According to the IITMIC, this statistic represents about 13% of the institute's overall faculty strength of around 600, which is on par with the greatest universities in the world. A startup is developing hybrid aerial vehicles, which will be capable of vertical takeoff and landing as well as long-distance flying to transport cargo and passengers, eventually leading to air taxi operations. Another is developing small launch vehicles for micro- and nanosatellites to be launched into space orbits. Among the prominent startups are one that aims to develop miniature gas turbines for decentralised power generation and another that aims to turn any type of trash into crude oil, from municipal solid waste to agricultural waste. Another company wants to build earth observation satellites with multi-sensor fusion and in-space edge computing.
Tamaswati Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer, IIT Madras Incubation Cell, said, "over 12 percent of institute faculty are co-founders in our incubated startups working across a breadth of globally critical domains. This underlines our ability to translate cutting-edge scientific innovations to the field." The highest numbers of associated startups or spin-outs are from the Departments of Electrical, Mechanical, and Civil Engineering, followed by Aeronautics and Applied Mechanics.
"Several faculty members are involved in more than one startup either as a founder or mentor," Ghosh said.
"Setting up a deep tech startup is a hard task, and the gestation time from idea to reaching the market can be as much as 4-5 years. Even getting from the Lab (post research stage) to an incubator can take 2-3 years. There is a 'valley of death' that a startup faces between the lab and the incubator and first investor. Most academicians find it difficult to make the jump from the lab to the incubator," said Raghuttama Rao, Chief Executive Officer, Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GDC).
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