For hardware and deep-tech startups, the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge (QDIC) has become a coveted event that they look forward to every year. Having run the incubation programme over four iterations, Qualcomm has incubated 53 startups and has been instrumental in equipping the domestic startup ecosystem to enhance its design and manufacturing capabilities, especially in IoT. Over the years, it has enabled startups in their efforts to build products and solutions in smart infrastructure, biometric devices, medical technology and rural IoT domains.
In its fifth edition, Qualcomm Design in India Challenge (QDIC) has announced its selection of 12 startups for the 2020 cohort. This year, in addition to the IoT and smart infra related use cases, the challenge was also open to startups addressing 5G use cases and applications that use NavIC capability on mobile devices.
The 2020 cohort kicks off with an interaction opportunity with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)
On July 15, 2020, the 12 startups got a chance to connect directly with Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. All the 12 startup founders got an opportunity to present their solutions to the Secretary, who expressed his appreciation for the solutions.
At the interaction, Sudeepto Roy, Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QTL), gave an overview of QDIC highlights and updates over the last year.
“As per the MeitY Startup Hub and Qualcomm Technical Bi-Lateral Cooperation, we have been able to collaborate in a number of areas and engaged in a number of impactful initiatives.”
This included three IPR workshops at the Maker Village in Kochi, Delhi Electropreneur Park in New Delhi and T-Hub in IIIT-Hyderabad.” Sudeepto highlighted that four startups from IIT Madras Incubation and a late-stage startup from Maker Village, both of which are MeitY Startup Hubs (MSHs) made it to QDIC 2019. Sudeepto said, “We are very impressed with the quality of the startups and the enthusiasm of the startup founders’ part of the MSH and were a good match for the kind of work that we do.”
Sudeepto also highlighted that Qualcomm enabled the startups, those including the past alumni, to participate in various industry events of relevance to the startups. This included the India Mobile Congress, Smart Cities workshops in San Diego, New Delhi and Bengaluru, Qualcomm Innovation Forum in Bengaluru and Taipei festival.
In addition, Sudeepto also showcased the work of six alumni startups who have enhanced their solutions or built new solutions to enable the ecosystem to address the challenge brought about by COVID-19.
How QDIC-supported startups are stepping up their technological edge to help the country battle the current pandemic
He thanked both Ajai Garg, Senior Director, MeitY and Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney for their strategic guidance over the several years and shared that in line with the discussion they had last year about the potential to extend Qualcomm’s support beyond IPR and Business and Technology incubation, Qualcomm has launched the Innovation Commercialization Fund (ICF) with an initial fund size of INR 60 Lakhs for the 2020 program year. ICF is available to all QDIC alumni startups to incentivize our alumni to move from their early prototypes into actual commercialization.”
The MeitY Secretary in his address to the startup appreciated the startup’s ability to innovate and solve problems that have never been attempted before. “I believe that India has the capability to accomplish whatever goals we set for ourselves. But, one of the key questions that we need to ask ourselves is are we setting goals which are ambitious enough. And, sometimes, what I see around is that we are still in some ways only trying to catchup. But, today, this cohort has made me feel reassured and shown otherwise. it's amazing to see the quality of thinking, the quality of innovation and the level of ambition.”
In his address, Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney pointed out that one of the key ingredients for innovation is unsolved problems which a country like India has in plenty. “And, today, we have institutions, companies and thought leaders coming together to act on it. Here it is wonderful to see how Qualcomm has put this initiative together.”
Rajen Vagadia, VP and President- Qualcomm India & SAARC, in his closing remarks, shared, “Over the last five years, we have seen the quality of startups becoming super advanced. The startups are working to make the solutions fit for India, which is great because then massification for the global market becomes easy. In addition, while they are all working on innovative technologies, I believe the moment 5G connectivity is made available, it would make the solutions that the startups are working on exponentially relevant to the market.”
Meet the 12 startups which made it to QDIC 2020 cohort:
Founded by Geethanjali Radhakrishnan, Adiuvo Diagnostics has developed a patented multispectral imaging technique, combined with AI-enabled engines to aid reagentless rapid diagnosis that can be applied in a range of diseases - from infections to cancer. ‘Illuminate’ is one such novel screening device that can non-invasively detect and classify pathogens on wounds along with automated measurements in under two minutes and address and thereby make the cost of treatment affordable, ensure that the first-line treatment is accurate and eventually reduce amputation rates.
Founded by Tanuj Jhunjhunwala and Vineet Upadhyay in 2015, Planys is a marine robotics startup that is creating a paradigm shift in underwater inspection and data collection. With the capability to dive deep underwater while being remotely controlled and stream live data to the operators, the underwater drones developed by Planys are today used for underwater inspection, survey and reconnaissance across various industries such as oil and gas, power, shipping and civil infrastructure. Planys is partnering with Qualcomm to develop a disruptive platform for facilitating the internet of underwater things (IoUT).
Founded by Runal Dahiwade, Nityanand Prabhutendolkar and Miraj Vora, Peppermint is a year-old tech startup based in Pune. The startup has developed an intelligent floor cleaning and sanitising robots for cleaning automation at workspaces and public spaces. It paves the way forward for autonomous industrial floor cleaning as well as for hospitals, airports and large real estate spaces like malls.
Founded in 2019, Manoj Sanker and Pratyusha, NemoCare aims to end all preventable neonatal and maternal deaths in the developing world by building innovative, affordable, accessible and highly accurate, monitoring solutions. The startup uses unobtrusive, wireless wearable sensors and networks, analytical algorithms and Big Data as tools to provide continuous, high-resolution monitoring and preventive care for patients in the hospital and home setting. One of its flagship products is a newborn distress management product - Nemocare Raksha.
Founded by Venkatesh Prasanna and Shubha Prasanna, Embedsense Solutions develops high-impact industrial IoT products and solutions. The startup manufactures innovative industrial grade wireless sensors and offers a comprehensive suite of machine-monitoring IoT software solutions that cover all machine types in a manufacturing setup. As part of QDIC, EmbedSense Solutions is developing an IoT-based structural health monitoring (SHM) solution that will transform the maintenance of public transportation infrastructure in India by making passive structures “smarter.”
Founded by Lalit Gautam, Rahul Gundala and Varun Pandit, Sensegrass is an AgriTech startup that is developing a soil intelligence system for fertiliser management and detecting crop diseases to improve soil efficiency and crop yield by leveraging its patented first-of-its-kind IoT and AI Algorithm for soil precision.
Hachidori Robotics provides smart, safe and reliable autonomous mobile robot (AMR) solutions for factories and warehouses backed by their disruptive indoor navigation technology. Its founders are Janakiram Annam and Ramanathan Venkataraman. Hachidori’s AMR, unlike the existing solutions, doesn’t require expensive infrastructure for deployment and can be deployed in live factories and warehouses without any interruptions to operations and at a third of the cost of imported autonomous intelligent vehicles.
Peer Robotics is a collaborative mobile robotics company that is bridging the gap between how humans and robots work together. Peer Robotics’ platforms are capable of learning from humans in real-time, providing flexible and adaptable solutions for manufacturing, warehousing, and healthcare sectors. The startup was founded in 2019 by Rishabh Agarwal and Tanya Raghuvanshi.
Vacus Tech is a wireless indoor positioning and tracking technology company offering a patented technology for accurate accountability of assets and people. Founded by Venugopal Kapre, Pratik Magar, Bala Chitoor and Sudhir Sarma in 2017, the startup believes that its technology is one of the most advanced, yet simple to use across industry segments including data centres, smart buildings, hospitals, warehouses, manufacturing, logistics etc.
Founded by Ashfaq Ashraf and Anas D, Bagmo is a healthtech startup that is developing a blood bag monitoring system to monitor the storage condition of blood bags during transit and storage. The startup believes the solution, which is at an advanced stage in prototype development, will help increase the availability of blood in rural India. Another product in late-stage validation is a connected temperature logger that can be used for healthcare cold chain logistics.
An agriculture data science company, Prakshep provides surveillance and control services to enterprises in the Indian agriculture ecosystem. As part of QDIC, the startup will be working on bringing further enhancements and capabilities to enable autonomous guidance in agri machines. The startup was founded in 2016 by Avijeet Kumar Singh, Prithviraj Sen Sharma, and Sameer Kumar. The founders come with strong expertise in building and scaling data-intensive business solutions.
Fitness tech startup Wellnesys Technologies was founded in 2018 by Muralidhar Somisetty, Sankar Dasiga, Vinod Ajjarapu and Pranav Kanuparthi. The startup is developing Yogifi - an intelligent and interactive yoga system. The product provides a digital and immersive yoga experience through seamless integration with third-party wearables for vitals correlation, assistance for reminders and voice commands.
QDIC 2020 to go virtual
These shortlisted 12 startups will receive the initial grant of Rs 1.6 lakh each at the start of incubation period (an additional Rs 1.6 lakh post the mid-cycle review in incubation period), patent filing incentives, and access to the Innovation Commercialization Fund (ICF), which Qualcomm has initiated this year. In addition, they will get to participate in relevant industry events and accelerator workshops.
Given the challenges in the current scenario, the program will take the virtual route as much as possible. In fact, the QDIC program roadshows and jury pitch were also held virtually. Another change to the program is that the startups will now be leveraging one of the four Qualcomm development platforms for their prototypes, thereby shortening the development time.
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