On October 31, Friday, Ericsson announced the launch of its Innovation Awards at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The Innovation Awards seek to recognise the spirit of innovation among students at the IITs. “With these awards, we aim to facilitate innovative projects from the engineering students from IITs and support some deserving ventures all the way through to their incubation phase at IIT-approved technology business incubators,” says Chris Houghton, Head of Region India at Ericsson. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Houghton adds that Ericsson—which is the largest holder of standard-essential patents for mobile communication with some 35,000 granted patents—will offer R10 lakh for the incubation of winning projects in order to encourage entrepreneurship in the country. Excerpts:
What was the idea behind launching the Ericsson Innovation Awards? How are these different from so many others?
By instituting these awards, we are seeking to encourage the culture of innovation within the IITs and to support these talented young minds to develop more innovative and relevant solutions for the benefit of the industry. As a company that takes pride in its culture of innovation, we’re looking to promote innovation in India through this partnership and other programmes that we plan to organise in India.
I must add that our commitment to innovation is unequivocal. With 35,000 granted patents, Ericsson is the largest holder of standard-essential patents for mobile communication and we annually invest $5 billion in R&D globally. India is one of the major R&D hubs for us and we feel that innovation is synonymous to progression and will catalyse economic development in the country.
The unique proposition of this initiative is the fact that the intellectual property for the project will remain with the students. Thus, this project promotes innovation beyond mere recognition in terms of the award, but supports the innovation idea right through till incubation.
In which all ways do the students stand to gain?
First, the winners will receive a funding of R10 lakh each for incubation of the project over a two-year period. Depending on the nature and importance of the projects, these may be further supported at any approved technology business incubators or Ericsson’s own R&D centre under the guidance of Ericsson research team to make them ready for commercial use. Second, the patents will remain with the students.
What are the key factors for deciding the winning projects?
We have invited project proposals in many areas from IIT students across Chennai, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Mumbai, Roorkee and Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The jury will shortlist up to 10 proposals on criteria such as degree of innovation, feasibility, usability, relevance, time-to-market and the impact on the masses. Each shortlisted proposal will be given an incentive by Ericsson to complete the initial prototype within three months. In the second round, the jury will select up to two innovation projects that will be supported for incubation.
Do such programmes support entrepreneurship?
Absolutely. India has time and again proved itself as a hotbed for innovation. To create growth that is both inclusive and sustainable, we need to nurture innovation and support entrepreneurship in India.
Are such initiatives also a step towards India turning into a knowledge powerhouse?
India has all the key ingredients for becoming a technology and knowledge powerhouse. The country has a strong talent pool and some of the best academic institutions in the world. A strong entrepreneurial ecosystem that is conducive to innovation will provide a strong impetus. Public and private sectors needs to come together to help nurture talent and innovation in the country.
Are you planning more such initiatives in India?
We will grow this programme, going forward.
Why have you partnered with only the IITs? There are so many other renowned technology institutes in India such as the BITS Pilani etc…
The IITs are a hotbed of talent and enjoy global repute. Therefore, I think we have made a good start with the IITs. As I said earlier, we will grow this programme.