Last year Ericsson organised the IIT Innovation Awards to spur creativity among IIT students; this month the company took it to a larger scale by inviting minds across India and rewarding them.
“Ericsson Networked India is a new initiative that seeks to identify and reward young Indian minds who are using mobility, communication and technology to come up with ground-breaking and disruptive innovations,” says Chris Houghton, head of Region, Ericsson India. Networked India 2015, which was held this month, provided innovators a platform to showcase their projects. A high profile jury then chose top two projects based on various parameters. In an interaction with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, Houghton talks about the two winning projects and also shares how encouraging innovation means encouraging entrepreneurship. Excerpts:
What led to the Networked India 2015 initiative?
As a company that takes pride in its culture of innovation, we’re looking to promote innovation in India through initiatives like IIT Innovation Awards and Networked India. The IIT Innovation Awards that we launched last year saw a total of 67 projects submitted by IIT students. Considering this overwhelming response, we took our initiative to a much larger scale and launched Networked India 2015. We received 140 entries from students as well as entrepreneurs and startups.
Do such initiatives benefit Ericsson as a company?
The effects of digital technology are spreading far beyond the IT world, transforming other sectors and having a fundamental effect on every area of society. At Ericsson, it’s important to keep pace with the disruption in the sector and understand how companies will manifest with these changes. Ericsson has long envisioned the arrival of a networked society. In fact, we see ourselves as enablers of change. Networked India is a platform wherein real change-makers can come to the fore and get recognised and rewarded for their stories.
What kind of incentives are you offering to the winning projects?
It is not only the cash reward, we are also providing an excellent platform for innovators to come to the fore, helping to connect them with VCs, right stakeholders and aiding their success. But as far as money is concerned, the two winning projects of Networked India 2015—Arterial Pulse Analyzer and ImmunizeIndia—were given Rs 5 lakh each.
What are the kinds of projects you have received and what are the focus areas of these projects?
We received over 140 entries in a span of one month. Most of these projects were focused on technologies related to health-care, environment, transport and human rights. The top five projects included innovations like a WiFi trash bin (which gives a unique passcode for users in order to access the WiFi network every time they put the trash in the bin); Constapark (an on-demand parking app); Arterial Pulse Analyser (that can help clinicians in detecting cardiovascular diseases); Helping Faceless (an app to combat child trafficking); and ImmunizeIndia (a free SMS service to get vaccination reminders for your child).
Apart from innovation, are you also stirring entrepreneurship? How?
The entire concept behind initiatives like IIT Innovation Awards and Networked India is to encourage not only innovation but also entrepreneurship. For example, the unique proposition of IIT Innovations Awards was the fact that the IP for the project will remain with the students. Thus, this initiative promoted entrepreneurship beyond mere recognition; we also supported the innovation idea right through till incubation.
Likewise, we are providing a platform through Networked India for innovators to become entrepreneurs.
What is the status of the projects that won in last year’s IIT Innovation Awards?
One of the projects has already been prototyped and should go in for a commercial launch shortly.