Dr Suchita Ninawe, director, DBT, New Delhi and nodal officer, SBIRI
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have occupied a significant place in the development and performance of biotech sector that is, as expected, technology and innovation driven. Technology innovation in biotechnology is highly risky and requires significant investment and careful nurturing. The Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) was launched by DBT in the year 2005 to support research and development (R&D) in SMEs in the biotech sector. SBIRI provides early stage funding to resolve financial constraints that hinder successful R&D in the biotech sector and also strengthens the academia-industry interaction, which is critical for accelerated product and process development.
The department through SBIRI took the challenge to spur and enable the private industry to espouse the path of innovation, attempt new ideas, take more risks on shared basis and get involved in late-stage-development too wherever the proof of principle has been generated. In this context, timely access to adequate funds and technical mentoring, the major bottlenecks faced by the biotech industry, are the focal points for SBIRI. These needs are still growing vis-a-vis the growing number of new start-up entities in biotech that are showing interest to put a step ahead on innovation path through the programs like SBIRI.
During these seven years since SBIRI launch, the department has been successful to a considerable extent in achieving the core objectives of its public-private-partnership (PPP) initiative. It has created an ecosystem for translation of innovations into commercially tenable products and processes by private sector and promoted PPP in technology development. Before SBIRI came into being as DBT's flagship initiative to foster innovation in the small and medium scale enterprises in Indian biotech landscape, unlocking the potential of these organizations in the biotech sector was not getting the attention it deserved. SBIRI is a mirror of coordinated efforts by the scientific community.
The scheme is operated through the Apex Committee of SBIRI (ACS) and the Technical Screening Committee (TSC). Representation of various concerned ministries and departments on ACS gives a sense of having a collective decision on each project supported. TSC comprises of eminent scientists drawn from institutions across the country. An initiative as unique as SBIRI would not have seen the light of the day without astute guidance from the very top and motivated efforts of many committed scientists who worked hard. The highest level of inter divisional involvement of DBT scientists made the SBIRI a symbol of unity for the purpose, that is highly significant in the government set up. The success of SBIRI is credited to all these individuals, private sector and public partners.
Strengthening the bonding with stakeholders