Funding for Real Innovation in India! UNAVAILABLE

If you look carefully at the blue fish in the water below, you can discern INDIA written faintly on the body. Well it is not a fish but India’s first indigenous designed Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). I have a story about it for you.

I first met Ammar in Delhi after he reached me through the India Brand Equity Foundation. I travelled to the Delhi College of Engineering campus and met the larger team of 8 students.  You should have been there with me to see the kick ass energy this team has. They have gone ahead and built a 4th generation AUV that has been the only Indian participant at the prestigious annual competition hosted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centre, San Diego.

They have not won yet. They lost to the Israelis and the Americans. One reason – the US team has the support of an entire fab for the circuitry right inside the university. The DCE team was building it themselves on a circuit board using a solder.

The kind of applications for such a thing is amazing. It can travel 2km on its own. Can identify objects. Follow a path intelligently. And all onboard, right from the power to the brain. Applications range from security to fish patterns. In any other country, they would have received funding, or would have been kidnapped by the armed forces months ago. In our case, this team is struggling to raise a fund of just Rs. 20 lakhs to buy equipment.

They footed my bill at the College Canteen! So I got them over to meet a couple of international angel investors who were speechless after the meeting about how they were able to see something like this without an NDA. It would be very difficult for the team to raise professional funding as the IP is university controlled. The Dean of Research, Dr. R.K. Sinha is wonderful and has got the Institute to be more outward looking but for those benefits to reach innovators within will still take years after the IITs first get their act in place!

So what happens in the meanwhile? Ammar and his eight muskeeteers will graduate in a year and get picked up by some software company. VCs will continue funding social community startups. Angels will never get to know.

I wonder how we could change it. We have adopted the AUV DCE team as our mascot. I am speaking to every friend, every one I know to get these guys 20 lakhs over one year. If any of you can help, and it is not only money that they need but equipment in kind and mentors, please get in touch with Ammar and the team at auv@dce.edu/9873999040 or me at sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com.

At One Billion Minds, we are trying to see if team like this need not go a begging.

17 Responses to “Funding for Real Innovation in India! UNAVAILABLE”

  1. FreeLoader says:

    A whole lot of Robotics Is happening in India, though most follow no sharing model and living under a rock situation –

    Somehow IURS did do AUV’s long time back , so how are these guys the first ???.

    As for other stuff mentioned in the comments like UAV@ideaforge , there is nothing great about it . Ive seen students on RoboticsIndia do same kind of robots for a fraction of a cost.why these guys get the news is cause of IIT/DCE (its the mindset of Indians i think). Also DRDO has huge range of UAV’s … why they collaborated … maybe media attention :) .

    And as for Fab for circuitry, India is cheapest place to get it done , for very little money people are willing to not only do a Fr4 PCB but also mount it for you !!! these guys should have visited Lajpat Rai.

    The only problem in India is of high end sensors and chips, But most US Shops deliver to India in under 5 days. And with such huge budgets as these guys i dont think it would be a problem.

    Anyhow Such People should start collaborating more on relevant forums.

  2. Ammar says:

    @ VelaSwami: Thank you sir. It means a lot to us.

  3. VelaSwami says:

    Guys, great work! I don’t know if my efforts will result into anything – I just wanted to let you know that I believe in you guys and I am going to try and raise funds.

    Wishes.

  4. I am always skeptical about claims of â…“ or 1/5 of the cost when all you have is only a PoC (I am sorry, but thats what I will call it at this stage). The story of Simputer is well known. Now real laptops from HP, Acer etc are available at around 15k.
    What is the innovation here?
    It can go to a larger distance because of better radio design…it can can go deeper because of better design and sealing..it is much more intelligent in identifying the path

    If answer to any of the above questions is in yes, the first thing we should do is protect the IP by patent. Otherwise, copying something and saying we can make it cheaper sounds chinese to me.

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