Startups incubated from the various Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and developed by IIT alumni are bringing innovative ideas to the fore to fight COVID-19.
It is a well-known fact that academia-industry collaboration is necessary to translate the classroom education into commercial products. Thus, creation of startups inside the IIT system has provided an excellent platform to build an academic-industry collaboration platform within the campus
India’s IITs are well reputed for producing the crème de la crème of innovators and ideators, renowned in the world. Almost every child of India dreams of making it to an IIT, which promises, the best of training and R&D in science, engineering, and technology.
The institutions that count alumni such as Sundar Pichai, N.R. Narayana Murthy, and Sachin Bansal, were under criticism for brain drain during the 90s. At times, they are also accused of snobbery.
However, with the current pandemic upsetting daily lives and the economy of the nation, many startups incubated in the various IITs of the country are bringing fresh ideas to the fore. Also, current students and alumni of these institutes are proactively trying to tackle the problems caused by the pandemic.
Filling India’s need for ventilators in critical care, a startup called Nocca Robotics has created an ICU-grade ventilator customised for COVID-19 patients. The IIT Kanpur-incubated startup has been able to bring down the price of each ventilator to around INR 1.5 lakhs; imported ventilators cost a whopping INR 8-25 lakhs a piece. Shipment for the ventilators are expected to start in the next week.
Read more: Six Startups Helping India Fight COVID-19
“IIT Kanpur and Nocca Robotics have signed an agreement with defence public sector company Bharat Dynamics for manufacturing the ventilators on a not-for-profit basis for India initially which is expected to be available for about Rs 1.5 lakh per unit,” Co-founder, Amitabha Bandyopadhyaya told ET.
Co-founded in 2017 by IIT Kanpur graduates, Nocca Robotics is currently being mentored by global industry leaders. The startup’s signature product Nocca S100 is a robot that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and deep learning, to eliminate the need of water for cleaning solar plants, while boosting power generation and ensuring peak production.
Another IIT incubated startup helping fill the gap for ventilators in the face of COVID-19 is Aerobiosys Innovations. This IIT-Hyderabad incubated startup has created a low-cost portable ventilator called Jeevan Lite, that can perform both invasive and non-invasive ventilation for paediatric and adult patients.
The healthcare startup was founded with the aim of solving problems in conventional ventilators for patients in critical and acute care as well as emergency individuals needing preferential ventilation for respective lungs. They claim to have spent more than 400 hours to understand the problem by interacting with patients, stakeholders in hospitals, and healthcare professionals across the country.
Co-founder Rajesh Thangavel told Bio Spectrum, “We are estimating to serve about 1 lakh people in the first three months. We plan to produce at least 50-70 units of our devices per day.”
Recently, Bengaluru-based incubator, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), has nominated the healthcare startup as a deployment-ready COVID-19 innovation.
PerSapien has created a human-shaped robot called Airlens Minus Corona that disinfects public spaces. It can sanitize up to 10 sq. km a day using water and electricity. Airlens was born after discovering that there was no user-friendly effective solution to protect people from air pollution. The startup was established in 2017 by IIT Ropar graduate, Yogesh Agarwal, Dabayan Saha of IIT Kharagpur, and Dr. Shashi Ranjan of National University of Singapore.
The startup also has a mini robot called the Minus Corona UV Bot that sterilises corridors, wards, ICUs and patient rooms using 254 nm wavelength ultraviolet light. The remotely operated robot only costs INR 25,000 in contrast to a similar robot developed by Denmark-based UVD Robots, which is being sold at about $80K to $90K.
Kolkata’s Don Bosco School, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, and certain facilities in West Bengal’s Hooghly District are currently using it.
Log 9 Materials
Log 9 Materials is collaborating with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to deploy their project CoronaOven. Their project is a UV disinfection chamber that sterilizes objects contaminated by the Corona virus. It claims to kill the virus in less than ten minutes on any surface. The nanotechnology startup that specialises in Graphene was incubated at IIT-Roorkee before shifting to Bengaluru.
The French company, SSI Group, has recently bought CoronaOven samples to place at the Élysée Palace. The project recently got the CE mark certification and is receiving queries from many European countries. Some institutional buyers from Canada have also shown interest.
Founder and CEO, Akshay Singhal, told Express Healthcare, “We at Log 9 are determined to ensure that a life-saving yet cost-effective solution like CoronaOven should reach far and wide and benefit maximum number of front-end Corona warriors and the humanity at large; this is why we have now decided to export the product to international buyers and communities.”
From IIT-Guwahati comes a Hyderabad-based startup Marut Dronetech that is using IoT, AI, Data Analytics, and ML-backed drones to fight the COVID-19 battle. Their Marut COVID19 drones, which spray disinfectant in contaminated areas, are being used at the Mukarampur area of Karimnagar District, Telangana and have covered eight districts across Telangana. The drones are also being used to deliver medicines and collect blood samples, without human contact.
“Drones can be particularly used for disinfectant spraying, monitoring the public for crowd control, and medicine delivery. They can complement disease-control measures undertaken by the government and make the fight against COVID-19 effective, efficient, fast, safe, and less labour intensive,” Co-founder Prem Kumar Vislawath told Business Insider.
An Academia-Industry Collaboration
Apart from these startups, all IITs are in some way or other proactively lending a hand in dealing with the challenges that COVID-19 is posing. IIT Delhi has come up with low-cost COVID-19 tests, approved by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). IIT Bombay has produced digital stethoscopes that can scan patients remotely.
An IIT Delhi startup Nanosafe Solutions has launched NSafe, an antimicrobial and washable face mask that can be reused up to 50 launderings, thus reducing the cost of use. IIT Delhi researchers have also developed affordable PPE coveralls with adequate levels of breathability.
As Prof. Vinay Sharma, Prof. Rohit Sharma, and Prof. Biplab Sarkar write in The Financial Express, “It is a well-known fact that academia-industry collaboration is necessary to translate the classroom education into commercial products. Thus, creation of startups inside the IIT system has provided an excellent platform to build an academic-industry collaboration platform within the campus.”