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View from India: Nano electronics will be integral to daily life

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Karnataka is a top performer among all Indian states when it comes to start-ups.

“The state is home to about two million IT professionals and its capital city Bengaluru forms a base for over 50 per cent of India’s multinationals, along with strategic-analytic firms,” according to Champa E, general manager -IT at the Karnataka Innovation & Technology Society (KITS), part of the state government’s Department of IT, BT and S&T.

“Many of them outsource services, which has given rise to several start-ups,” she said at Bengaluru India Nano 2022. “The ideas emerging from these start-ups have attracted venture capitalists (VCs) and angel investors.”

There are other factors that have made Karnataka a favourable destination for start-ups. The state’s start-up policy launched in 2015, offers a roadmap for building an ecosystem, complete with incubation, go-to-market products and attracting VC funding. The Government of Karnataka (GoK) has established start-up incubation centres in engineering colleges in several parts of the state. Many of these educational institutions have partnered with multinational companies to build skills and encourage entrepreneurial spirit among students. For instance, in the aerospace and defence vertical, students are exposed to high-end aero engineering designs from Dassault Systemes.

The Grand Challenges Karnataka (GCK) programme, a GoK endeavour, has been conceptualised by KITS in association with IKP Knowledge Park. GoK has initiated Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) under the Urban Development Department (UDD) for executing urban transport projects. The GCK programme in association with DULT is interesting because of its focus on mobility, which is something everyone requires. After all, we all crisscross traffic zones, don’t we? Start-ups and innovators are invited to create sustainable intelligent solutions for public transport. The criterion is to develop contactless enforcement solutions to identify violations in use of cycle lanes. An app or online tool should be developed for the government authorities to capture the accident information on-site with minimal manual inputs. Intelligent Grievance Redressal System for Public Transport using AI/ML is part of the agenda.

Karnataka’s high-tech city Bengaluru has a digitally savvy economy. Naturally when digital services are being rolled out, it becomes an opportunity for start-ups to customise services that work on Android and Tab, among other digital platforms. Various funds have been rolled out for start-ups, while the city’s co-working spaces give scope for networking. Technical and managerial institutes like the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) incubate and foster fledgling start-ups in areas like fintech, life sciences, healthcare and ed-tech, among others.

Many such initiatives integrate nanotechnology. To think of it, Nano electronics is integral for daily life. Nano materials may be used in small projects, prototyped before going big. To execute prototyping, it’s necessary to strengthen the infrastructure and ease out the glitches in the supply chain in order to ensure smooth manufacturing. All this requires funding. Probably it could give rise to new funding models.

Globally, the nano world has taken strides. “Various global establishments are encouraging nano engineering to develop products for societal use. Investments in nano should scale up to meet the upcoming demand from semiconductors, the electronics sector and its components. Nano materials will be integrated into almost every sector,” added Dr Sangeeta Semwal, Nanotechnology Initiatives Division, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), New Delhi.

MeitY has taken several initiatives to promote research and innovation in nanoelectronics by establishing Nanoelectronics Centres at premier institutes. The R&D community is exploring various possibilities at the nanofabrication facilities through MeitY’s Indian Nanoelectronics Users Programme (INUP). The programme is being implemented at Centre of Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN) at IISc and IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Bombay.

These centres don’t just publish papers but also encourage technology transfers for products to become mainstream, and many such products have been patented. Such efforts could help domestic nano-based products to compete in the global market.

Nano’s great advantage is that it requires less labour and is inexpensive. A modest amount of materials will suffice to take the technology forward. Nanotechnology has diverse applications as the products coming out of it consume less energy and their size can be scaled down. Given this premise, it’s no surprise that nanotechnology has impacted science and technology and even changed the way researchers think. Quite like the way personal computers have changed our perspective. Let’s hope nanotechnology become part of the next wave of innovative solutions for societal issues.

Going ahead, the next round of jobs will be created by Nano, AI, ML and NextGen technology. This is an opportunity to create unique investor models. And for that, it may not be enough to just generate ideas, one may need to go beyond that to grab the eyeballs of financiers.

“The United Nations has projected that 600 million jobs will be required to execute NextGen technology for economic growth. Our approach to start-ups is that of empowerment. The idea is to empower start-ups to bring in NextGen technology, make them responsible for it and scale them to become category leaders in specific segments by leveraging frontier technologies,” observed Ganesh Thyagarajan, McLaren Strategic Ventures.

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