The figures are alarming! India has anywhere between 4-8 crore disabled individuals, which is one in 12 households. Many disabled kids don’t attend school and disabled adults don’t go to work owing to their impairments.
Due to low literacy levels, social stigma and lack of opportunities, many face exclusion from society. Rising to the situation, three organisations have joined hands to identify and fund innovations start-ups that are developing Assistive Technology to improve the quality of life for disabled individuals.
The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) – a Government of India enterprise, Social Alpha – an initiative to strengthen the science and technology startup ecosystem and Mphasis – a Bengaluru-based IT services company, form this trio. Together, they’ve launched the BIRAC-Social Alpha Quest for Assistive Technologies.
They will identify 10 worthy innovations and give each a fund of Rs 20 lakh. The innovators will also be enrolled for a three-month programme. Here, they will get to work with select implementation agencies and be provided with all the assistance needed to develop and market their product.
“We aim to identify, handhold and deploy Assistive Technology solutions for the disabled. This partnership could prove instrumental in building a pipeline of innovative and affordable solutions. I hope it will encourage national and international players to join hands and develop Assistive Technology for disabled,” says Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary – Department of Biotechnology & BIRAC Chairperson.
“Technology-driven solutions can steer the change for societal well-being of disabled and impact billions of lives,” adds Dr Mohd. Aslam, MD, BIRAC.
Ruing a lack of affordable quality solutions for catering to and empowering disabled persons is Manoj Kumar. The CEO and Co-founder of Social Alpha, and Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts, says, “On one hand, a large population of disabled people don’t have access to Assistive Technology. On the other hand, there are innovators who have the right prototypes but are struggling with end-user acceptance, design for manufacturing and market access. This programme will validate product-market fit, help with clinical trials and bridge the gap in distribution and service channels.” The Social Alpha has already incubated four companies in this sector: Bionoc Yatra, Blee Technologies, Innaumation and Tactopus.