AIT, or Academia Industry Training, was conceptualised 6 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 sixth edition in 2019-2020, AIT brought together 20 deeptech/medtech and sustainable tech research startups from Switzerland and India for a weeklong intense training camp in Bangalore and Mumbai. In this one week, the participants had access to multiple industry experts and visited relevant industrial locations.
Through years of successful brand-building and delivering results, AIT has become a recognised brand for research startups across India and Switzerland. AIT is funded by the Swiss and the Indian governments; the platform has become successful in attracting the best of innovators and industries. There are two reasons for this: 1. Word-of-mouth among researchers has led to best-in-class startups in the program, and 2. The quality of the innovators has led to leading industry players of India, like the Namdharis, MS Ramaiah Hospitals, Sustainable technology bodies like TERI and key Medtech players to 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 key problem in the early 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 led 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.
The AIT camp is intense. To begin with, following selection from a large pool of applicants, you arrive in Bombay and then to Bangalore for a week-long CAMP. You engage in sessions and workshops meant to push your thinking to the next level of entrepreneurship: intercultural intelligence, contextual storytelling, pitching your venture, etc. The week then gains momentum with you, along with good peer-to-peer feedback, pitching in front of industrial experts and mentors. You then visit the industries and get a grounded feedback on what it takes to build factories or hospitals or products that serve that ecosystem. The week ends in your final presentation to the jury, which will score you based on how well the learnings were captured and for progress in the business plan.
If you are excited to know more about what happens in AIT, here is a snapshot of this year’s India camp:
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 🙂
– Aparna Kumaraswamy (Organizer, AIT)
Manager – Innovation and Entrepreneurship, swissnex India