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Ministry Of Railways To Invest In Indian Startups Under Innovation Policy

Ministry Of Railways To Invest In Indian Startups Under Innovation Policy

With this move, the ministry aims to address quality, reliability and maintainability-related issues of the Indian Railways

The funding scheme will be on a cost sharing basis in equal proportion that is 50:50, between Indian Railways and startup or innovator

Under the policy, an innovator or startup will have an exclusive ownership of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) created in the project

The Ministry of Railways (MoR) will be investing up to INR 1.5 Cr in Indian startups under its Innovation Policy initiative. The ministry will be selecting startups that can create low-cost products and solutions for the Indian Railways network.

With this move, the ministry aims to address quality, reliability and maintainability-related issues of the Indian Railways. It further wants to leverage innovative technologies that are developed by Indian startups to improve operational efficiency and safety of the Indian Railways.

To address financial constraints of the shortlisted startups, the ministry will be investing in the initial stages, proof of concept and seed investment stages as well. 

The funding scheme will be on a cost sharing basis in equal proportion that is 50:50, between Indian Railways and startup or innovator. The maximum investment that startups and innovators can receive is INR1.5 Cr. 

To become eligible for the Innovation Policy, Indian startups need to be incorporated under the Companies Act 1956/2013, primarily a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) as defined in the MSME Act, 2006. Besides, individual innovators and research and development (R&D) institutions can also apply. 

The policy will be headed by the Efficiency & Research Directorate of Railway Board. 

Under the policy, an innovator or startup will have an exclusive ownership of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) created in the project. However, it can be extended to include any associates as joint owners only after obtaining prior approval from the Railway Board. 

Indian Railways will also retain Government Purpose Rights (GPRs) that will be exclusive, transferable, irrevocable license to use the IP (Intellectual Property) for internal consumption or manufacture.

Over the yers, Indian Railways have been showing interest in technology and Indian startup ecosystem. In the past, Indian Railways implemented technology to upscale operations as well as its online platform. 

In 2018, Indian Railways’ broadband services arm, RailTel Corporation had partnered with IIT-Roorkee to develop drones to automate rail track monitoring. The move was a part of TCOE (Telecom Centres of Excellence) initiative that was launched by telecom industry and Indian Railways. 

In July 2018, Indian Railways decided to use artificial intelligence and satellite technology to revamp IRCTC website. With this, the IRCTC portal intended to be simplified and personalised via AI to offer additional facilities including hotel and meal bookings.

Programmes To Back Indian Startups 

In recent times, the Indian government has rolled out various programmes to help startups in business ecosystem to adopt innovation and tech-led entrepreneurship.

Recently, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched the sixth edition of the Defence Indian Startup Challenge (DISC) under the iDEX programme. 

Under this challenge, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) aims to support Indian startups by offering financial assistance in the range of INR 1.5 Cr to INR 10 Cr. MoD would be backing startups that can offer software solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced imaging, sensor systems, big data analytics, autonomous unmanned systems and secured communication systems to the Indian military. 

Before this, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also launched a startup challenge, India WaterPitch-Pilot-Scale aiming to fund 100 startups in the water sector in March 2022.  

This startup challenge was launched by the Ministry Of Housing And Urban Affairs (MoHUA). It aimed to support Indian startups working in the water sector to adopt innovation and design, thus creating sustainable economic growth and employment opportunities. 

Under this initiative, selected startups will get financial assistance of INR 20 Lakh. Besides,  MoHUA would also be mentoring these startups along with investing. 

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