The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras is hosting a housing incubator, ‘ASHA’, to identify and support new innovative housing technologies, bring down the cost of construction in India and support start-ups in scaling up their ideas.
The ‘Accelerator Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators’ is an initiative of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to provide incubation and acceleration support to potential future technologies that are not yet market-ready (pre-prototype applicants) or to the technologies that are market-ready (post-prototype applicants).
According to officials, the incubator has already supported a couple of start-ups including Tvasta, which constructed India’s first 3D-printed house as well as the first 3D-printed doffing unit used by COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers to safely remove PPEs.
The key objectives of ‘ASHA’ incubator include identification of technologies, providing technical support to innovative ideas, business support and mentoring on the financial viability of innovative ideas and infrastructure support.
“The key parameter would be the impact of the technologies identified and how many housing units are constructed through the technologies supported by ASHA. Business success would be the key focus of IIT Madras. Success will be measured in terms of scaling up and output in terms of millions of housing units constructed through ASHA-supported technologies,” said Meher Prasad, professor at IIT Madras’ Department of Civil Engineering.
Another firm supported by ASHA-IIT Madras is Slab Engineering that is engaged in 3D volumetric precast development. The company will be working with IIT Madras to refine its designs and to develop standards and specifications so that the adoption of its products can be enabled.
ASHA-India centres, which will also help in developing design guidelines, construction manuals and other necessary guidelines relevant for the effective use of such technologies in the region, have been set up at five institutions — four IITs (Madras, Kharagpur, Bombay and Roorkee) and CSIR-NEIST, Jorhat.
Shailesh Kr Agrawal, executive director, Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, said, “The Ministry under technology sub-mission of PMAY-U is running the ASHA initiative where upcoming Indian individuals or technology ventures in the housing sector are being nurtured in their start-up phase by providing all the support necessary to help entrepreneurs translating innovations into products and services that are commercially viable.”