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Karnataka launches a Grand Challenge for startups to tackle malnutrition


Karnataka’s Information Technology Department has launched a challenge among startups to come up with innovative solutions to tackle malnutrition and calorie-protein micronutrient deficiencies in children and adults.

Karnataka IT and BT Minister Priyank Kharge

This move has been taken with a vision of solving malnutrition and deficiencies through the testing of technology and scaling up of delivery systems.

IT and BT minister Priyank Kharge said this was the fourth grand challenge launched by the state under its startup policy to channelise innovations for social impact among startups.

He said,

We hope that at the end of two years we will have the required system, which will fill the vacuum in the Indian market for affordable and nutrient-rich food that will appeal to all age groups and genders at the bottom of the pyramid.

Priyank went on to say that the state government aims to use the vibrant startup ecosystem that exists in the state to drive innovation with the help of technology to find workable and scalable solutions to society’s challenges, while at the same time supporting the growth of startups.

“This fourth challenge has been formulated with the help of the Karnataka Comprehensive Nutrition Mission. The challenge aims to propel innovations in the area of effective delivery of low-cost, energy-dense, and nutrition-rich dietary supplements,” IT, BT and S&T principal secretary Gaurav Gupta said.

While KBITS is the funding agency, IKP Knowledge Park is the implementing partner for the challenge.

The Grand Challenges are launched to look for new technologies or innovations that can solve long-standing problems in the priority areas of urban development, agriculture, health, education, and nutrition.

This model of Grand Challenge is aimed at highlighting five new challenges every year, and invites ideas to solve them. The winning ideas will be awarded an initial grant, and will also be provided with funds for a pilot project.

The IT-BT cell has set aside Rs 50 crore in all to reward startups for their innovative ideas. The first challenge was launched in August 2016 with a call to build a tech-enabled system for monitoring sewage discharge in urban areas.

The second challenge was launched in October last year in the agri sector. It threw up a challenge to build a technology-enabled system to set out physiological or morphological parameters for early detection and warning of plant diseases and pest infestation in different crops.

The third grand challenge, meanwhile, was launched in November 2016, for building a system to ensure effective delivery of primary health services through meaningful, transparent, and democratic engagement of communities.

Priyank said the last date for Grand Challenge Four applications is May 31, and details can be viewed at www.impact-karnataka.org.

The minister said that his department had identified eight awardees under the first and second grand challenges. The first challenge winners were Lab4life Bioresearch Private Limited, Phoenix Robotix Private Limited, Agribasket Solutions Private Limited, and Greenvironment Innovation and Marketing Private Limited. The winners of the second challenge were AgNext Technologies Private Limited, University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwad), UAS (Bengaluru), and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). The winners picked up a cheque of Rs 10 lakh each from Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Three proposals under the third grand challenge were still being evaluated, Gupta said.

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