Emerging Entrepreneurs

Turning science into commerce

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on January 20, 2018


Pune-based Venture Center focuses on start-ups leveraging science

It calls itself the largest science-based business incubator in the country. Based in Pune, the Venture Center is a technology business incubator hosted by the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory. It is spread over 20,000 sq ft on a 10-acre NCL Innovation Park.

According to V Premnath, Director, Venture Center, the incubator is focussed on science-based and inventive enterprises. It emphasises start-ups that leverage knowledge in the biological, chemical and material sciences and engineering fields. At present, nearly 65 per cent of the ventures at the incubator are working on the biotech and biomed sectors. The incubator is located on the NCL Innovation Park.

At present, 41 companies are being incubated at the centre, which also supports three associate incubatees and 29 pre-incubatees. Every year, it admits between five and 10 start-ups for incubation and three associate and 50 pre-incubatees are inducted, according to Premnath.

According to him, the centre emphasises start-ups that leverage knowledge in the biological, chemical, material sciences and engineering fields. “Currently, 65+ per cent of our incubatees are working on the biotech and biomed sectors,” he says. Its focus areas are healthcare, energy, environment and general engineering.

Selection procedures

The Venture Center does not have fixed period that the companies undergoing incubation are allowed to stay. This, according to Premnath, is because of the diversity of the nature of companies.

For example, some that leverage computer science can exit early, but others that need to get regulatory approvals may need more time before they can exit. The firms that undergo incubation are encouraged to propose their milestones.

The incubator uses different criteria for selecting the ventures for incubation. These include knowledge, quality of business plan and team, ethical and EHS considerations. Companies leveraging research and technology capabilities of publicly funded research and academic institutions are given preference.

According to Premnath, several investors and mentors regularly visit the incubator. Venture Center runs a meet the investor series where venture capital funds, angel investors, government funding agencies and international charities participate. The incubator also engages with mentors for business strategy and planning, technology and IP strategy, fund raising market and user insights.

Unlike most other incubators, Venture Center does not take equity stake in start-ups for the various services it provides. It only takes equity stake in the start-ups it actively helps to create via its Lab2Mkt programmes and those in which it seed invests. The Venture Center operates two seed funds, one supported by the Technology Development Board (ticket size up to ₹25 lakh) and another supported by NSTEDB (ticket size up to ₹50 lakh).

The prominent start-ups incubated at Venture Center include Noble Exchange, Tridiagonal Solutions and Biopore Surgicals.

Exciting times ahead

On the start-up scene, Premnath says that these are exciting times and there is considerable excitement among young people to become entrepreneurs. Role models are emerging, the funding situation is good although patchy and heterogeneous and the Centre has created a buzz with its StartUp India initiative. There is considerable hope and confidence around start-ups.

“That said, we wish the start-up ecosystem was richer and more supportive for domains such as energy, environment engineering and advanced materials,” he says.

Published on April 18, 2016

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