How Intel is helping build technology in India like no other company

How Intel is helping
build technology in India like no other companyAt a time when India is moving faster towards becoming a more technology-friendly country than ever before, the 'Digital India' dream doesn't seem too far from turning into a reality. However, a lot of work needs to be done on the ground for increased technology adoption, and lone efforts by the government or academia may not be enough to pull off this dream by the set target 2020. It's here that companies like Intel have stepped in and made their contribution relevant. They are assessing the current state of technology adoption in India, identifying the barriers coming in the way of technological advancement and arriving at solutions needed to accelerate the adoption of technology among Indians.

In doing so, Intel particularly is striving to take real solutions, which could solve pertinent problems being faced by Indians, to the market to see the impact it can make. It's also fostering an ecosystem of sorts to create awareness about technology, find ideas, nurture them and create customized solutions that can help the country. Here’s how:

Through IFDI challenges
The company is back with its Innovate for Digital India Challenge 2.0 this year with the aim to inspire grassroots innovation and harness local talent, by inviting makers across India to build solutions to accelerate India’s digitization and commercially develop their projects on Intel architecture.

In the pilot phase starting today, 20 entries from the submitted applications will be selected to pitch their conceptual prototype and business plan to an expert panel in Hyderabad. 10 shortlisted from here will receive a Rs 3 lakh grant per team to create minimum-viable products based on Intel Architecture in an 8-10 week accelerator program at the T-Hub incubator in Hyderabad starting November this year. Each top 10 team will be mentored by a panel of cross-industry experts, advised by design and user experience firms, and receive engineering support and product kits from Intel. After this journey, the top 10 teams will hit the Demo Day, where they will present their prototypes built on Intel architecture to a panel of technology experts, venture capitalists and industry experts. Based on the strength of the proof of concept, the top 3 teams will be identified and granted go-to-market support for 4-6 weeks with a grant of up to Rs 5 lakh. The top 3 teams will showcase their go-to-market solutions to a panel of experts at the grand finale, where a winning team will be selected and receive a grant of up to Rs 20 lakh.

The focus of this challenge will be on solutions that can integrate the IoT, Datacenter or Cloud to enable digital transformation experiences in the spaces of agriculture innovation, healthcare access, E-governance, Education, financial inclusion and sustainability - areas where India needs real solutions.

Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing & Market Development for Intel South Asia says - "As these solutions get prototyped, the help the participants would need would be to be connected with the right mentors, to get the right guidance, the right hardware platform, and the most critical part would be for them to get market access. A lot of innovations often die down because they do not get market access. With IFDI, the top projects will build prototypes; they will have access to mentors from industry and engineers from Intel.”

He adds – “Last year at the IFDI challenge, the top 3 teams took solutions outside India as well. It's that kind of success we want for our top 10 teams this year too."

In 2015, the debut of the IFDI Challenge had received over 1,900 entries. Six of the top 10 teams had achieved the mind-to-market philosophy, by taking their solutions not just to the Indian, but even the global market. The top 3 teams - Jayalaxmi Agrotech, Asha+ and T-Jay – which innovated in the fields of agriculture and healthcare, were provided access to equity investment of up to Rs 2 lakh each.

As Intel gets into another IFDI journey today, the company shared with us some of its learnings from last year that it will use to make this year’s IFDI program more robust - Now, entrepreneurs with existing prototypes will be the focus as against last year when the initiative was relatively broad-based, with only a few prototypes ready to be developed. Also, IFDI will expand the focus areas within which entrepreneurs can explore solution opportunities. The challenge has moved to a relatively virtual model, wherein the shortlisted participants will only be at T-Hub, India’s largest startup incubator, at the start and end of the challenge unlike last year, where the challenge was largely a residential program. Lastly, in a bid to provide quality mentoring as well as market access support to top projects, it will continue to collaborate with the government and industry for its participants to have access to the right advisors.

As Challenge 2.0 kickstarted today, Debjani Ghosh, MD for South Asia at Intel Corporation, told Business Insider - “This year, the partnership quality has grown because we have DST as one of our partners once again. They are helping shape this program and they will be funding top projects. MyGov is back on board and they have done a fabulous job by providing opportunities to people who are not in the big cities to be a part of IFDI and making this flagship program a national challenge.”

She further added – “We also have a new partner T-hub, an innovative powerhouse. They are doing great things to build innovation capabilities among startups and makers, and I am really excited with what we will be able to do with these kinds of partners.”

Through other ongoing initiatives to foster innovation
Besides the Challenge, Intel is accelerating hardware design & innovation through Intel India Maker Lab. Infact, from last year’s IFDI Challenge, 7 participants of the top 20 used the Maker Lab to develop their prototypes further. Currently, there are 17 startups utilizing the lab facilities for projects in the areas of education, sports, health, agriculture, BFSI and e-governance across IOT, Cloud, and client compute.

Furthermore, Intel is also focusing on innovation & research in association with government and academia. It recently collaborated with think tank Niti Aayog to establish tinkering laboratories and incubation centers for mini makers in 10 primary schools across the country. Intel’s 10 working Atal Tinkering Laboratories will serve as an exemplar for 490 ATLs to be launched by the government. It also collaborated with Department of Science & Technology of Government of India, and Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay to set up a new collaborative incubation program “Plugin” to support hardware and systems-based start-ups.

As for academia, for the last 15 years, the company has been consistently collaborating to focus on Intel Higher Education Program and Intel PhD Fellowship Program. Through skills development and capacity building programs, it has reached out to 3 lakh students for embedded and IOT skills; and set up 100 IOT centers across Indian academic institutions. Additionally, the company has been providing grants to about 20 top institutes, to help accelerate technology advancement among academia on the latest technology trends and developments.

So much about Intel’s work in the area of innovation and entrepreneurship. Watch out this space in the days to come because we will keep an eye on the top ideas that emerge from the IFDI challenge and highlight the solutions that could really make a difference in solving some of the biggest problems India is facing.