AIT, or Academia Industry Training, was conceptualised 5 years ago on a blank sheet of paper.
Today it is a cross-border program, across 5 organisations in Switzerland and India. Working together with the governments, accelerators, incubators and universities, AIT has empowered 87 researchers, out of which today more than 40 are active entrepreneurs. With an annual budget of about half a million USD, it has created startups which have raised much more than that, over the years.
AIT, in its very essence, is like a startup: a startup that had its humble beginnings as a concept note on an empty piece of paper. It then went on to fill a pressing gap, an unmet need in the existing infrastructure. It became the bridge between Academia and Industry, for the researchers who wanted to become entrepreneurs. For some of them, AIT was able to show them the ground-realities and challenges of starting up, and for others, it helped them cross the bridge.
In its fifth edition in 2018, AIT brought together 20 deeptech research startups from Switzerland and India. They went through a weeklong intense training camp in Bangalore and Mumbai. In this one week, the participants met at least 10 industry experts and visited 3 industrial locations each.
Through years of successful brand-building and delivering results, AIT has become a recognised brand for research startups across India and Switzerland. While it is still funded by the governments of the two nations, the platform has become quite successful in its ability to attract the best of the innovators and the industries. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as the word has spread among researchers, it brings together a great quality of startups. Secondly, because of the quality of these innovators, the leading industry players of India, like the Tata group, Reliance, Manipal Hospital, etc. also look forward to connecting with them to solve problems they face in their industry.
This ability to connect the best of innovators and industry players was a chicken and egg problem in the beginning days of AIT. A startup must be able to relate to this stage. It was the relentless efforts of organisers, Venturelab, SINE, and swissnex India, to build the AIT program with great focus on quality and content that lead to it being recognised as a brand in itself. As the organizer of this year’s AIT program, I thank all these partners once again, and also the funding partners SERI, DST, and the Leading House ZHAW.
AIT camp is intense. To begin with, if you have been selected from the big pool of applicants, you arrive in Bangalore for a week-long CAMP. You engage in sessions and workshops meant to push your thinking to next level of entrepreneurship such as intercultural intelligence, contextual storytelling, etc. The week then catches momentum with you pitching in front of industrial experts and mentors*. You then also visit the industries and get a grounded feedback for what it takes to build factories or hospitals or products that serve that ecosystem. The week ends in your final presentation to jury, which will score you based on how well were you able to capture your learnings.
If you are excited to know more about what happens in AIT, here is a snapshot of this year’s India camp:
1:1 mentor connects
The finalists from the India camp then fly to Switzerland, where all the 20 participants also gather to go through another week-long training and industry immersion within the European business ecosystem. The unlearning that the Swiss participants had to do, to be able to make sense of the inherent chaos in Indian market, is now taken up by Indian participants as well.
Finally 4 out of these 20 win the AIT Innovation grant (10,000 CHF for 2 Swiss participants each and INR 10 lakhs for 2 Indian participants each), which is just the tip of the iceberg! AIT opens up opportunities for building your startup credibility and applying to various swissnex India programs for market validation and market entry in India and other programs offered by SINE.
See you on the other side 🙂
– Suraj Chawla (Organizer, AIT 5th Edition)
Manager – Innovation and Entrepreneurship, swissnex India