Across the globe, countries are facing stiff competition from the COVID-19 pandemic in ways they have not imagined in their worst nightmares. Modern Science and Technology are struggling with a global challenge in the mission to find a cure. Meanwhile, they are playing a crucial role in assessing the situation via developing monitoring devices, diagnostic tools, and information systems. In addition to making strategies that shall help countries, they help communities to administer and utilize resources to win this war. However, none of these innovations can take place without the monetary and financial support of government or institutes or organizations. Not only that, but these research activities also may not be always be carried out by one body and hence requires collaborations and partnerships across platforms. Thus acting as a converging point for scientists, researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs and admin bodies. And the objectivity does not only lie in finding solutions that cater to the probable ramification of the current pandemic but also are sustainable and have long terms benefits. This will help in dealing with future hurdles too.
Recently, Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, announced the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) inviting citizens to participate in its COVID-19 Competition challenge. The aim is to encourage ideas and projects that can help to augment efforts to mitigate the crisis. Winning ideas are promised to receive funding for their project. The NIF is looking for eight focus areas to guide people. These include contact-less devices to stop the spread, reduction of coronavirus transmission; sanitization solutions, PPEs, supply and distribution of essential items, rapid diagnostic devices, etc.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has recently decided to expand the scope of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to include funds spent on COVID-19 related activities as CSR. In this regard, the Social Impact Team at Invest India has created a repository of research funds, tech incubators, and start-ups focused on COVID-19 intervention that can be supported by CSR spending.
Meanwhile, C-CAMP has launched C-CAMP COVID-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator or C-CIDA on 26th March 2020 to help accelerate COVID-19 innovations stuck in last-mile issues. The initiative by C-CAMP has now been joined by multiple partners. These are UNHIE, Social Alpha, MedTechConnect, India Health Fund, Action COVID-19 Team, ACT, India’s biggest non-governmental funding mobilization effort in wake of the pandemic led by Indian startups and industry 91Springboard, etc. Just like NIF, C-CAMP covers innovations under screening (including mobile health technologies), diagnostics test kits, therapeutics, vaccines, containment, sterilization equipment, AI systems, etc.
Marico Innovation Foundation along with IKP Knowledge Park to plans to provide a ₹2 crores (USD 260467.60) fund to selected innovative and cost-effective solutions. These are expected to roll out by 21 April.
VCs like Sequoia India, Matrix Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, Kalaari Capital, Accel, Chiratae Ventures, Omidyar Network, and others have also collaborated to offer funding with zero interest. So far, the VCs committed ₹2.5 crores (USD 325531.50) to startups like IVR project, MyLab and Ventilator Splitter.
Other opportunities include the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) whose offer grant is up to ₹50 lakhs (USD 65106.30) per project, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), US–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) who will provide starting aid of ₹50 lakhs to₹1 crores (USD 65106.30 to USD 130212.60) and grant-in-aid of 10 lakhs(USD 13021.26)from National Research Development Corporation (NRDC).
There are few local groups which are helping the cause too like GRAVIS (GraminVikasVigyanSamiti) working to raise funds for producing PPEs.
No doubt that donations to facilitate the research keep pouring in yet most of them is to help execution in the last stage or when a prototype attains commercial value. While the emphasis is on making low-cost ventilators and oxygen therapy units. Develop antiviral coatings and digital triaging tools and risk stratifying systems, financial help can enable tech firms and startups to see the light. After all, it is out to battle against COVID-19, a fight for human civilizations. This can accelerate the development of a diverse, globally-engaged science, engineering, and technology-enabled workforce.