Three startup teams from Swinburne’s Innovation Precinct travelled to India’s top engineering institute to participate in an incubator program to take their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.
I-NCUBATE is an intensive program at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The program helps researchers and entrepreneurs validate whether their technological ideas could become scalable and sustainable businesses. In the program, participants interact with potential customers, produce a product that can be tested in the marketplace, and receive mentoring to formulate a business model.
The Swinburne startups that took part cover a diverse range of ideas and industries:
- Cathease Catheter Forceps: Dr Andrew Dyall, an emergency medicine physician and Swinburne PhD student, has designed forceps to reduce infection caused when inserting urinary catheters.
- Low-cost, environmentally-friendly apartments: Swinburne graduate Andrew Steed wants to use prefabricated Hempcrete panels to build dwellings that can be constructed in a fraction of the time of typical buildings.
- Bond coating for turbine engines: Swinburne researcher Andrew Ang and PhD student Ashok Meghwal are developing a new thermal coating to improve turbine engine performance in jet engines.
Dr Andrew Dyall says the I-NCUBATE program helped him to understand the entrepreneurial spirit in India and make valuable connections.
“I got a real feel for the kinds of products that are useful to the Indian market in a relatively low-resource environment, and I spoke with a number of doctors about setting up a trial. My key takeaways are to be open, curious and really listen to potential customers,” he says.
Product Design Engineering graduate Andrew Steed, says the program equipped him with the skills to progress his idea and start conducting interviews with potential customers.
“The biggest reason startups fail is because they don’t listen to their customers and understand their needs,” says Andrew.
“The program gave me a better understanding of what’s next. The program didn’t give me the answers – it gave me the questions to ask.”
For PhD student Ashok Meghwal, the project management and customer liaison skills he learnt will enable him to progress his team’s idea into domestic and international markets.
“I’m from a technology background so I’ve never learnt much about managing a project and interacting with customers – that was the most important thing for me. We need to learn what the customer wants and needs and model our product in that way,” he says.
Research, innovation and commercialisation
Executive Director of Swinburne's Innovation Precinct Dr John Morrison travelled to India with the teams and believes the program fosters an entrepreneurial mind-set.
“It’s an essential pit-stop on the journey of transforming an idea into something bigger. India is a fascinating, highly-segmented market, and it has been a huge learning experience for the teams,” says Dr Morrison.
Last year Swinburne and IIT Madras established a jointly funded research centre to explore and link the research, innovation and commercialisation capabilities of the two institutions.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Development) Professor Aleksandar Subic says the partnership with IIT Madras enlarges Swinburne’s international research innovation and commercialisation ecosystem.
“We want to produce research with impact and be an innovative enterprise. Joint research centres and global partnerships enable Swinburne to do that.
“This partnership is helping us to transform industry and positively impact lives and communities across the world. IIT Madras brings a scale to projects that is impossible in Australia,” says Professor Subic.