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Promoting innovation: Why govt needs to actively look at tech-solutions that can help fight COVID-19

Govt needs to extend support to start-ups like De Scalene and ready a nurturing ecosystem.

The Indian startup ecosystem is currently the third-largest following the US and China with 21 unicorns.
While there are many such innovations, government support still needs to walk many a miles to meet these.

Last week, Bengaluru-based start-up De Scalene launched a device in association with Medwin and Eureka Forbes called Shycocan. The company claims that the product can neutralise 99.9% of SARS CoV-2 in closed spaces. The team, famous for creating a cancer treatment system, re-engineered its approach to create Shycocan. De Scalene, however, is not the only company to do so; many have re-oriented their business to create products that can help during the pandemic. A classic example is those involved in 3D-printing—3D-printers were repurposed to create masks and PPEs. Nocca Robotics, a solar panel cleaning company, has launched a low-cost ventilator. Another start-up, Per Sapien, is reported to have come up with a disinfection solution that is based on charged nanoparticles of water that can oxidise the virus’s surface molecules, thereby neutralising it.

However, while there are many such innovations, government support still needs to walk many a miles to meet these. To be sure, the government has launched hackathons and innovation-germination competitions, but it needs to do more to support and promote local start-ups. A good way to start would be to allow them to list on the GeM platform and ensure that government procurement supports such technologies. Second, it needs to come up with standards for such devices. Although there is a flourishing medical device industry in India, most still require approvals from the FDA and EU to be considered worthy. The Indian government does not have standards that can compete with such bodies. Unless the government provides a nurturing ecosystem for start-ups, we cannot expect more innovations to come our way. Indeed, governments at all levels—states and even municipal bodies—need to actively look at tech-solutions that can help in the corona-fight.

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