Giving wings to talent – how IIT Bombay is supporting made-in-India Covid-19 solutions

The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected every sector in society and the way of battling the virus varies between governments, industries and academia. What everyone seems to agree upon is the need to support R&D initiatives - nationally and...

The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected every sector in society and the way of battling the virus varies between governments, industries and academia. What everyone seems to agree upon is the need to support R&D initiatives – nationally and internationally – targeting both the immediate health crisis and long-term socio-economic consequences.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay is a premier public technical and research university located in Powai, Mumbai, India. Being based in Mumbai, the financial powerhouse of India, has its own advantages both in terms of proximity to the industry and access to investors and capital. In 2018, IIT Bombay was one of the first six institutes to be awarded the Institute of Eminence status. In these challenging times, inventors at IIT Bombay have delivered a series of Covid-19 related innovations. Below we would like to share some inspiring examples with you.

In these challenging times, inventors via the business incubator Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) at IIT Bombay, have delivered a series of Covid-19 related innovations. Below we would like to share some inspiring examples with you.

Diagnosed via bluetooth

The start-up company Ayu Devices, has developed a device called AyuSynk. The device is capable of receiving and enhancing lung sounds through a bluetooth functionality, which allows doctors to diagnose patients from a safe distance. The device has already been put into use at some hospitals in Mumbai.

Anti-bacterial coating

To help containing the spread of Covid-19, IIT Bombay has developed a wash-resistant anti-bacterial coating for textiles, which could be an important measure to suppress the spread of the virus in hospitals. Two patents have been filed regarding the technology.

“There has been an urgent need for personal protective equipment including two- and three-ply masks, N95 masks and gowns for healthcare workers. One approach is to enhance the functionality of two and three-ply masks with antibacterial and antiviral properties”


Rinti Banerjee, the Madhuri Sinha chair professor at IIT-B’s department of biosciences and bioengineering, in an interview with Hindustan Times

Supporting the food supply

Furthermore, the company EmerTech Innovations has started a collaboration with Sahyadri Farms, which is the largest farmer collective in India, to deliver and maintain the regular food supply by home deliveries directly to citizens in Nashik, Pune and Mumbai. As the outbreak of Covid-19 has strained people’s access to good markets and grocery shopping there is a need to maintain regular food supplies for India’s 1 billion population.

One out of many vegetable stands in Lodhi Colony, Delhi. Photo: Emma Nilsson

IIT Bombay’s unique way of promoting high-impact entrepreneurship

IIT Bombay has a unique position when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. It is one of the first educational institutes in India where professors have been successful entrepreneurs, hence leading to a strong trickle-down effect for the students. Over the past five decades, IIT Bombay alone has seen many of its alumni start and successfully run companies, and with the ‘Start-up India’ campaign in the backdrop, the emergence of campus-based startups has significantly increased. According to a senior official at IIT Bombay, one in four undergraduate students are interested in either starting a company or joining a startup.

Faculty members from IIT Bombay regularly undertake industry-sponsored research and consultancy projects. These projects are funded by various national agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Electronics, Department of Space, Aeronautical Development Agency and Department of Atomic Energy. Typically, in one year, there are about 400 on-going sponsored projects. The sponsored research has ushered in intense research activity leading to the formation of active research groups and has helped in the creation of modern research facilities in key areas.

While all the premier Indian technology institutes have a growing focus on entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay went a step ahead and launched the Desai Sethi Centre for Entrepreneurship (DSCE) to foster technology innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit among students. DSCE offers a three-year course, which allows students to get a minor in entrepreneurship along with their engineering degree, and a basic program on entrepreneurship for six months. The course also gives students an opportunity to do an internship with a private equity (PE) investor or venture capitalist (VC) in the second year, create a prototype and write a business plan. The center was established with the help of donations from a private company founded by an IIT Bombay alumnus, which is another illustrative example of the importance of private funding in building and strengthening the university’s innovation ecosystem.

Photo: IIT Bombay.

Another attempt to channel efforts to battle the virus has been initiated by
Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India – by setting up the Centre for Augmenting WAR With Covid-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH). CAWACH recently launched a call to support innovations in the areas of diagnostics, medical devices, and informatics including bio-informatics and information management systems. The total amount of funding will be between ₹50 lakhs – ₹2.0 crore (630 000 SEK – 2.5 million SEK). The nationwide call closed on April 20th and over 800 applications were received and are now being processed by CAWACH. We will follow the outcome of the call with great excitement.

The main implementing agency of the CAWACH initiative is SINE. SINE is the bridge between academia and industry and helps connecting actors, competencies and processes within the innovation ecosystem. IIT Bombay’s involvement in CAWACH places its students and researchers at a center stage of India’s Covid-19 battle. We expect to see more life-saving innovations from IIT Bombay in the months to come. 

We would certainly recommend researchers and innovators from Sweden visiting India stop off at IIT-Bombay to meet some of the many eminent researchers working at the university and learn more about how the innovation ecosystem at IIT Bombay has been designed to support students and researchers to excel in innovation. However, until things get back to normal, you can follow them here – @iitbombay and @SINEIITB.

Greetings from the OSI Team

Fanny von Heland, Leena Kukreja, Mini Nair & Emma Nilsson