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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY The fearless personality to take up challenges form IIT Kanpur

Prof. Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, Professor-in-charge, Innovation & Incubation, IIT Kanpur and the Director at Foundation for Innovation & Research in Science and Technology (FIRST), a section-8 company promoted by IIT Kanpur. Kent Chair Professor Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Prof Bandyopadhyay is also a member of the National Startup Advisory Council, Govt of India.

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY said that after the tremendous success of the IT industry in the country there was a massive hope that the Biotechnology industry will follow the suit and which will bring betterment to the economy of India. He believes that there is not only a need for good theoretical knowledge but also access to very good and academic infrastructure which is lacking in many colleges nowadays. Well, innovation is all strata of the Indian Academic System. It is important to assure that the students are well trained and particularly they have an idea about a different kind of experimentation and innovation. With that in mind, Dr. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY and his team opened a sophisticated Biology laboratory as part of the incubator. This is an exclusive unit for the incubators.

Undoubtedly, Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY and his team have taken up this mission of training thirty students in batches for a couple of weeks or months. They have a batch of students coming from colleges outside the IIT ecosystem and they will know what they can do with their ideas. He states that BSC and MSC students can join the Biotech Bootcamp. He said that most of the colleges in Kanpur and many other places lack sophisticated infrastructure laboratory as it is expensive. The government of India has supported IIT Kanpur to setup Bio Bootcamp costing more than 10 crore rupees for the facility.

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY also said that the innovative ideas of the youth in this era are surprising and simply outstanding. These ideas are simply not coming from institutes of National importance rather ideas are coming from people who are outside of this ecosystem.

According to his theory, Indian students are pretty much chained to their study table all their life, so they know little less about the world around them. They stay within the Campuses of the IITs or NIITS or top graduate universities and don’t venture out or face the day to day realities of life. However, if you study about the local college and government universities and colleges their students come from different economic and social strata so they faced realities of life. Thus, they know where the problems are and they highlight those problems and come up with fantastic solutions that nobody can think of. He shared a small example, no one thinks what happens to the flowers offered in the temple, but there is someone who thought of it and formed his own company where they make flowers out of the flowers that are offered in the temple.

He also conveyed that he is really happy and pleasantly surprised with the innovations. Also, he has high hope and expectations from today’s youth imagination and identification of problems.  Well, Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY said that he expects people to come up with problem statements that are worth solving. In his opinion 70%of the work is done if the problem can be identified.

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY mentioned that in this pandemic the startup ecosystem has really stood up to deliver for the nation. He said that in March, April, and May 2020, there was clear despair in all the headlines regarding an adequate healthcare ecosystem. There was a lack of PPE Kits, ventilators, masks, and other diagnostic kits. Soon in June and July 2020 newspapers, it was found that India became the second-largest producer of PPE kits, there were many ventilation available which even the government can take and they had to open up exports.

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY said that in India diagnosis is developed and has the capacity of carrying out 50lakhs diagnosis a day. In the UK they have to wait for 2 to 3 weeks for diagnosis to be performed and at some point of time they depended on Italy

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY mentioned that when his incubator was intimately working with the incubated company to develop incubators, they were desperately in need of shifting something out of Singapore in an overnight notice this was the time when Singapore was also under lockdown. The Ministry of Electronics and Telecommunication, External Affairs Ministry, and Commerce Ministry collaborated and conveyed the message to Indian High Commission in Singapore to facilitate the transportation. They stood as a guarantee on behalf of Dr. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY and his team because they were lacking to pay the amount on such short notice. The shipment arrived at them overnight. Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY said that they hope to maintain the momentum and bring India to a remarkable place.

In his interview, he mentioned that last 12-15years government has nurtured that startup’s ecosystem so carefully that they have created networks and infrastructure. As the things are all ready, so it will be easy to meet the challenges. He said that all the pieces of puzzles are there only there is need of a brave young soul to arrange them in places.

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY said that Tech is not IT, IT is a subhead of Tech. He said that in the pandemic hardware and Biotech products saved, not IIT. He believes that along with the software and services there is a need for hardware. He also commented that right now there is a requirement for an Electronic health record platform that will not only affect Indian healthcare system but also the international healthcare system. It must be capable of keeping the data about the patient, geographical locations, age, gender, and medical history is launched properly, it can be a goldmine for all sort of medicine and healthcare domain. He quoted a line which he believes- “For India, I should not be an imitation, it should be innovation.”

Prof. AMITABHA BANDYOPADHYAY faced lots of challenges in his life which helped him to learn and standout where he is today. When he was in class 12, his father was ill and till 2nd year in college, he couldn’t perform well in his studies as he was one of the brilliant students in his town. In 3rd year he fought back his difficulties and came within Top10 rankings. During his Ph.D. he was guided by a fantastic mentor, he was very ambitious about research and he wanted to research on paper which his mentor asked not to do. However, he still did the research and the research didn’t work. Next, he attempted to work in a Bio-chemistry lab with an organism that the lab not familiar with. In this, he received support from his mentor. In the next two years, he published 7 papers which received huge appreciation. After this, he never had to look back. This situation taught him so much that he is not feared of taking up any kind of challenges that arises on his way.

In comparison to the other developed countries, human health care is not much advanced in India. In India, Cripsercas research is also taking place out of the diagnostic kit called Feluda which is developed IGIB Delhi. Prof. Debjoyti and his team are doing more innovation with the Cripsercas technology. Many use this technology in the lab, but lacking in disease research. The fundamental reason behind this is that for more of the disease research an essential component is to do prior experiments with mouse genetics. In the whole country, there is only one place where such experiments can be conducted that is in Stem NCBS Bangalore and also they are not into classic mouse genes like the knock–in–knock technology. They are primarily performing Cripsercas related work only. There is a need for bigger infrastructure for doing animal research and animal genetics without which it is not possible to jump to the research of human diseases. Secondly, the size of the science community in India is really very small. There are very few labs that are working on this and due to this less volume, the impact is not visible. With the ICCERS, IITs, and Central Universities efforts within the next 5-10years, there will huge development in this sector too.

He said Tech Talks is all about identifying good problems and here we invite practicing doctors, engineers, leaders of global industry, and progressive farmers to know about what they do and how they do them. Then we ask them to come up with four to five important problems that need immediate attention. These talks are attended heavily by students and faculty of IIT Kanpur. Well, some entrepreneurship journey starts from problem statements derived from the Tech Talks. This is sponsored by Capri Global one of their CSR partners. Also, they offer 2lakhs Rupees incentives for any good solution outlines in Tech Talks. After this, they work closely with them on how this solution will work, and in this way, they set up the team and brings the innovative product to the market.

“Tech for Tribal” is under the Tribal Affairs Ministry, financially supported by MSME and the execution home is right now in Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce Federation which is a government undertaken and SIICS is the implementation partner. Tech for Tribal is working with the tribal groups lacking in technology in every field. With the help of the new innovation, they want to help the Tribal’s of Chhattisgarh and India to get benefited. He said that this is one of the most interesting and important projects that he wants to make successful very soon.

Good innovators and Entrepreneurs must also be the role model of the students now without which students won’t think of it as a career option. With the government nurture of innovation for the past 10-15years, there are many startups. Some teachings and encouragement must be given to the students so that they can understand that entrepreneurs and innovation is also a good career option. He believes that other than school, home, and tuitions, students need to have an idea of the world outside. The schools must ensure students that once in a month they write an essay which is not dictated by the school or by parents, it should be all about their problems and trips they went. Thus, problems can be identified accordingly steps can be taken to keep these innovators and creativity within the student alive. He said “innovation never comes from thin air” there is a need for a clear understanding of every subject. He believes that students need to have a complete understanding of the subject to come up with an innovative solution at the international level. Some legal steps must be taken so that incubators can award the innovation that comes from a minor. He hopes that the new education policy will bring a paradigm shift.

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