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Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a not-for-profit Section 8, Schedule B, Public Sector Enterprise, set up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India as an Interface Agency to strengthen and empower the emerging Biotech enterprise to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs.

BIRAC - An Industry-Academia Interface

BIRAC is an industry-academia interface and implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives, be it providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to the biotech firms and make them globally competitive. In its Eight years of existence, BIRAC has initiated several schemes, networks and platforms that help to bridge the existing gaps in the industry-academia Innovation research and facilitate novel, high quality affordable products development through cutting edge technologies. BIRAC has initiated partnerships with several national and global partners to collaborate and deliver the salient features of its mandate.

Vision

“To stimulate, foster and enhance the strategic research and innovation capabilities of the Indian biotech industry, particularly start-ups and SME’s, for creation of affordable products addressing the needs of the largest section of society”

Key Strategies

  • Foster innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Promote affordable innovation in key social sectors
  • Empowerment of start-ups & small and medium enterprises
  • Contribute through partners for capability enhancement and diffusion of innovation
  • Enable commercialization of discovery
  • Ensure global competitiveness of Indian enterprises

BIRAC's Programmes

Incubation

Bioincubators Nurturing Entrepreneurship for Scaling Technologies (Bio-NEST)

Bio-NEST was launched by BIRAC with a vision that focused on fostering the biotech innovation ecosystem in the country. Unlike startups in the IT sector, enterprising ideas in the biotech sector need incubation support of a different kind where they need a landing space to test their ideas, run their operations, have access to high end instrumentations and locate in a place where they connect with other startups and mentors. Bio-NEST program provides support to establish bio-incubators either as a standalone entity or as a part of the academia.

Ideation to Early Stage

Biotechnology Ignition Grant Scheme (BIG) 

BIG is flagship programme of BIRAC, which provides the right admixture of fuel and support to young startups and entrepreneurial individuals. BIG is the largest early stage biotech funding programme in India. The purpose of BIG Scheme is to:

  • Foster generation of ideas with commercialisation potential
  • Upscale and validate of proof of concept
  • Encourage researchers to take technology closer to market through a start up
  • Stimulate enterprise formation

As part of this scheme, successful BIG Innovators receive up to INR 50 lakh (USD 70,000 approx) for research projects with commercialization potential with duration of up to 18 months.

Students Innovations for Translation & Advancement of Research Explorations (SITARE)

SITARE Scheme is aimed at supporting innovative student projects in the area of biotechnology. The scheme’s mandate is to promote and encourage young students for embracing translational research (defined under Section 4) to develop innovative products and technologies addressing unmet needs. SITARE-GYTI Award Grant is not a usual research fellowship. The scheme also provides an opportunity for orientation, training and mentoring through residential workshops etc.

The scheme has two components:

  • SITARE-Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award Grant (SITARE-GYTI): 15 innovative student projects will receive funding support of upto INR 15 lakhs each.  SITARE-GYTI encourages postgraduate and doctoral students to undertake projects with commercial potential leading to creation of biotech startups. The fund recipients are recognized as BIRAC’s SITARE-GYTI beneficiaries.
  • SITARE-Appreciation Grant: Residential workshops called as Biotech Innovation Ignition School (BIIS) for undergraduate students are organized to provide hands-on-technical training and mentorship for problem identification in 3-4 weeks duration. Out of 30-40 students per workshop, 10 students are selected and provided a grant support of up to INR 1 lakh each to encourage their inquisitiveness and sustained efforts. The recipients are recognized as BIRAC’s SITARE-Appreciation beneficiaries. In a year, 3 such workshops are conducted.

Encouraging Youth for Undertaking Innovative Research through Vibrant Acceleration (E-YUVA)

E-Yuva Scheme aims to promote a culture of applied research and need-oriented (societal or industry) entrepreneurial innovation among young students and researchers.

The scheme is implemented through E-YUVA Centres (EYCs) to inculcate entrepreneurial culture through fellowship, pre-incubation and mentoring support. EYCs are housed within the University / Institute set up and mentored by a BIRAC BioNEST supported bio-incubator.

BIRAC supported EYCs encompass the following:

  • Pre-incubation space (3000 sq. ft. or more)
  • Manage fellowships for students as per categories mentioned above
  • Conduct Entrepreneurial Awareness Workshops for students

The scheme provides support for students under following two categories:

  • BIRAC’s Innovation Fellows (for post graduates and above)
  • BIRAC’s E-Yuva Fellows (for under graduate students)

Ideation to Late Stage

The programme Intensifying the Impact of Industrial Innovation (i4) has been initiated to support biotechnological product / technology development by strengthening R&D capabilities of start-ups / companies / LLPs. The programme provides impetus for pulling the translational ideas past PoC and taking them further along the innovation chain for validation, scale-up, demonstration and pre-commercialization of products and technologies. The programme is operated through two schemes:

  • Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP)
  • Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI)

Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP)

BIPP is a government partnership with Industries for support on a cost sharing basis for path-breaking research in frontier futuristic technology areas having major economic potential and making the Indian industry globally competitive. It is focused on IP creation with ownership retained by Indian industry and wherever relevant, by collaborating scientists.

BIPP supports the development of appropriate technologies in the context of recognized national priorities. Proposals are invited under 7 broad themes: 

  • Drugs including drug delivery
  • Vaccines and clinical trials
  • Biosimilars and stem cells
  • Devices and diagnostics
  • Agriculture
  • Industrial biotechnology including secondary agriculture 
  • Bioinformatics and facilities that virtually cover every aspect of biotechnology

BIPP is an Advanced Technology Scheme only for high risk, transformational technology/ process development. It is for high risk futuristic technologies and mainly for viability gap funding. The uniqueness of this scheme is that it is for "Break through research" which enables product and process development and is patentable, with IP ownership rights resting with industry.

Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI)

The SBIRI Scheme of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology was launched in 2005 to boost Public-Private- Partnership (PPP) efforts in the country. SBIRI was the first of its kind, early stage, innovation focused PPP initiative in the area of Biotechnology. Launching of SBIRI has worked as an enabling platform for the target organizations to realize their potential in terms of product and process development and taking them to the market. It has facilitated innovation, risk taking by small and medium companies and bringing together the private industry, public institutions and the government under one roof to promote the research and innovation in the Indian Biotech Sector. The projects supported under the scheme have resulted in prominent outcomes in the form of some products which have already come to the market and some promising research leads seeing ray of hope for commercialization.

As a unique institutional mechanism, SBIRI has consistently prioritized early stage funding for high risk innovative research in small and medium companies led by innovators with science backgrounds to get them involved in development of products and processes which have high societal relevance.

The SBIRI aims to

  • strengthen those existing private industrial units whose product development is based on in-house innovative R&D
  • encourage other smaller businesses to increase their R&D capabilities and capacity
  • create opportunities for starting new technology-based or knowledge-based businesses by science entrepreneurs
  • stimulate technological innovation

The SBIRI objectives

  • to provide support for early stage, pre-proof-of-concept research in biotechnology by industry,
  • to support new indigenous technologies particularly those related to societal needs in the healthcare, food and nutrition, agriculture and other sectors,
  • to nurture and mentor innovative and emerging technologies/entrepreneurs, to assist new enterprises to forge appropriate linkages with academia and government

The proposals can be submitted

  • Solely by a Company incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 or
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 or
  • Joint Ventures either in the form of Company/ LLP by any of the above entities jointly with other private or public partner(s) (Universities or Institutes)

Translation Research

Promoting Academic Research Conversion to Enterprise (PACE)

Biotechnological research and development in India is largely carried out by academic institutions (universities/research organizations) and to some extent by industry (mostly large companies). By virtue of their strong infrastructure & technical capability academic/ research establishments are mandated to research on variety of problems of national importance and societal relevance. Also, unlike industry, research by academia is not governed by commercial gains alone thus allowing them to work on problems involving even high degree of risk.

To encourage/support academia to develop technology/product (up to PoC stage) of societal/ national importance and its subsequent validation by an industrial partner, BIRAC has launched PACE (Promoting Academic Research Conversion to Enterprise).

The scheme has two components:

  •  The objective of Academic Innovation Research (AIR) Scheme is to promote development of Proof-of-concept (PoC) for a process/product by academia with or without the involvement of industry
  • Contract Research Scheme (CRS) aims at validation of a process or prototype (developed by the academia) by the industrial partner.

Social Innovation

Social Innovation Immersion Program (SIIP)

SIIP is BIRAC’s social Innovation fellowship / award program aimed at creating a pool of biotech “Social Innovators” who can identify needs & gaps within communities and then can help bridge the gaps either through an innovative product development or services.

The immersion program is a unique social Innovation platform which provides the opportunity for clinical and rural immersion and also funding support for developing the prototype through mini kick start grant apart from the monthly fellowship to young social Innovators.

The program has already developed clusters across the nation on three thematic areas “Maternal and Child Health” “Ageing and Health” and “Waste to Value”.

Most of the Social Innovators who are mentored through the program are successful in raising the follow-on funding or starting their own enterprise. The program is implemented through BIRAC SIIP partners and mentored through BIRAC SIIP Knowledge partner.

Social Innovation Programme for Products: Affordable & Relevant to Societal Health (SPARSH)

SPARSH programme is initiated by BIRAC under the aegis of Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. The programme aims at promoting the development of innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The scheme tackles major social issues and offer new ideas for widespread change. The scheme aims to invest in ideas and innovations that improve health care of all Indians and encourage affordable product development in the social sector.

The scheme intends to create a pool of social innovators in the biotech arena who will identify the specific needs and gaps in healthcare. The social innovators will be provided financial and technical support for developing market-based solutions that have potential to bring cost effective health care breakthroughs to vulnerable populations in particular.

SPARSH Objectives:

  • Identify and provide support to cutting edge innovations towards affordable product development that can bring significant social impact and address challenges of inclusive growth
  • Provide support in form of impact funding of biotech product innovations (with social goals) that can be scaled
  • Create and foster a pool of social innovators in the field of biotech and provide a platform to share the best practices, understand intricacies of business models in social innovation and network

Equity Funding

Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Fund (SEED Fund)

Bio-incubation allows harnessing of the entrepreneurial potential of startups by providing access to infrastructure, mentoring as well as networking platforms that the startups could use during their fledgling days. It helps the young entities to survive by providing them specialised support services during the critical period of a business venture i.e. the start-up phase.

While the Bioincubators are able to support the "Space, Services and Knowledge" requirements of startups, wide gap exists in financial support required by a technology driven start up in the initial phase. BIRAC's initiative, SEED Fund primarily aims to address this need through the Incubators.

The basic idea of SEED Fund is providing capital assistance to startups with new and meritorious ideas, innovations and technologies. This would enable some of these start-ups to graduate to a level where they will be able to raise investments from Angel / Venture capitalist or they will reach a position to seek loans from commercial banks / financial institutions. Thus the proposed seed support is positioned to act as a bridge between promoters' investment and Venture / Angel investment. This is not an investment scheme, but, rather a support scheme to enable start-ups and incubator to attain sustainability.

Launching Entrepreneurial Driven Affordable Products (LEAP Fund)

While the Bioincubators are able to support the “Space, Services and Knowledge” requirements of startups, wide gap exists in financial support required by a technology driven start up in the initial phase. BIRAC’s initiative, LEAP Fund primarily aims to address this need through the Incubators.

The LEAP Fund is to provide funding support of up to Rs. 1 crore per startup. BioNEST Bioincubators (LEAP fund partners) will be given up to Rs. 5 crore fund / partner for investing in potential startup against equity and equity linked instruments. This would enable potential startups to pilot / commercialize their products / technologies. Thus the proposed funding support is positioned to act as a catalyst in bringing technologies / products forward towards piloting/ commercialization and reducing their gestation to commercialization.

Accelerating Entrepreneurs Fund (AcE Fund)

Biotech start up journey, especially for first time entrepreneurs, is full of hurdles, both technological as well as business related such as business plan and market entry strategies, navigating regulatory hurdles, connecting and pitching to VCs and networking with future stakeholders. There is a greater realisation within the biotech community regarding the importance of focused mentorship which can help accelerate nascent biotech start up. BIRAC is therefore envisaging designing and implementing an equity based fund for supporting entrepreneurs in the valley of death.

Biotechnology Innovation Fund – AcE Fund is an equity "Fund of Fund" exclusively for Biotech Start-ups. AcE daughter funds are Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) registered private funds to invest equity in start-ups for providing the risk capital to undertake innovation, research and product development.

Strategic Research Funding

Banana Bio-Fortification

Queensland University of Technology, Australia has developed bio-fortified banana under the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program to alleviate vitamin A and iron deficiency in Uganda. They have also developed technologies related to Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) and Fusarium Wilt resistance in banana. QUT is willing to share these technologies with India.  An agreement was signed between BIRAC on the behalf of Government of India and QUT, Australia for “Development and Transfer of Technology from Queensland University of Technology, Australia to India for Bio fortification and Disease Resistance in Banana” on 24th August, 2012.

Under this Banana Bio-Fortification Project, it is proposed to utilize the experience and achievements of Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia for the development, validation and transfer of specific traits in two Indian banana varieties cv. Grand Nain and Rasthali.

Product Commercialization Program (PCP)

Product Commercialization Program Fund (PCP Fund)

BIRAC is promoting product/technology development by Indian Start-ups in different areas of biotechnology through various funding schemes such as BIG, BIPP, SBIRI, PACE, IIPME, SPARSH, through various partnerships programmes like Grand Challenges India, National Biopharma Mission, WISH or as innovation awards like TiE Winer. BIRAC supported technologies are continuously monitored and measured for technology maturation on a BIRAC-TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale of 1 to 9. The existing BIRAC schemes support product development, extensive validation up to pre-commercialization. Once the technology / product has been successfully validated (>=TRL 7) and is market ready, there are additional financial requirements for preparing the ground for market launch, test-validation in targeted markets and large scale commercialization, which are not covered under the existing funding programmes. To deal with the situation, BIRAC has launched the Product Commercialization Program Fund (PCP Fund) under the BIRAC Product Commercialization Program (PCP).

Regional Centres

BIRAC Regional Innovation Centre (BRIC)

The Biotechnology Industrial Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), in partnership with IKP Knowledge Park (IKP), set up the BIRAC Regional Innovation Centre (BRIC) in 2013 to further BIRAC's mandate of building a deeper understanding of the capacity and gaps in innovation, commercialisation and technology absorption ecosystems, and developing targeted programmes to fulfil its broad vision of stimulating, fostering and enhancing biotech innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.

BRIC’s mandates are to:

  • Map Regional Life Sciences Innovation Systems to understand the networks and gaps among the various stakeholders promoting innovation in a region and recommend policy interventions
  • Build IP awareness and provide IP services to start-ups and innovators
  • Promote entrepreneurship in academia and help build an entrepreneurial culture

BRIC started by focusing on four life sciences clusters in southern India around Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Chennai-Vellore and Thiruvananthapuram-Kochi regions. In the second phase, other life sciences clusters such as Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Bhopal, Indore, Bhubaneshwar and Visakhapatnam will also be covered.

The focus is largely to map innovations related to biopharmaceuticals, medical technology and healthcare (hereafter termed as Biopharma cluster). The activities were first launched in Hyderabad and later taken to the other three clusters.

BIRAC Regional Entrepreneurship Centre (BREC)

BIRAC in partnership with Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) has set up the BIRAC Regional Entrepreneurship Centre (BREC) with an objective of encouraging the spirit of bio-entrepreneurship, facilitating the creation of life science start-ups and mentoring startups to increase their chances of success.

The surge of innovation-led bio-entrepreneurship across India has laid the foundations of a biotech startup nation and it is imperative to build on this towards amplifying entrepreneurship related activities, which can bridge the identified gaps such as:

  • Expanding entrepreneurship related awareness in colleges, universities and research institutions
  • Providing focused mentorship to start ups and entrepreneurial individuals including academics
  • Providing access to networks

The aim of BREC would be to foster and facilitate bio-entrepreneurship including imparting bio-entrepreneurs necessary knowledge and skills for transforming innovative biotech ideas into successful & sustainable ventures, which create national and global impact. 

Objectives of BREC:

  • Create and inculcate a spirit of bio-entrepreneurship
  • Facilitate and catalyze the journey of biotech ideas of bio-entrepreneurs towards commercialization
  • Enable and empower bio-entrepreneurs through business and technology advice and mentorship covering all aspects of business such as Finance, Legal, IP, HR, Business model, Business plans, Go-to Market strategy and others

Activities of BREC are divided into five main verticals:

  • National Life Science Entrepreneurship Awareness Programme
  • BIRAC C-CAMP National Life Science Entrepreneurship Challenge Programme
  • Entrepreneurship Development Boot Camp Programme
  • Meet the Investors Series Programme – Dragon’s Den
  • Entrepreneurship Development Workshops

BIRAC Regional Bioinnovation Center (BRBC)

BIRAC Regional Bioinnovation Center (BRBC) is a joint initiative of BIRAC and Venture Center.  BRBC aims to fill up some key innovation ecosystem gaps for biotech/biomed startups.  Through its diverse initiatives, BRBC aims to significantly impact the translation of high quality innovative ideas across diverse ecosystems into viable and sustainable business enterprises.

BRBC Initiatives:

  • Venture Mentoring Service
  • Venture Base Camps
  • Regulatory Information and Facilitation Center
  • BioIncubation Practice School

Useful Links

Source: Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

 



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