“This is the first Park set up for women entrepreneurs in the area of Biotechnology and serves as a good hub for women entrepreneurs,”
– Dr Sudha Nair, CEO, Golden Jubilee Biotechnology Park for Women Society, Chennai
Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women Society was set up with the goal of providing opportunities to qualified women to take up to a career of remunerative self employment through biotechnological enterprises. The park was was established with support from Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, and the Government of Tamil Nadu. Dr Sudha Nair is the CEO of the Golden Jubilee Biotechnology Park for Women Society, Chennai. In an exclusive interview to ABLE’s newsletter, eN-ABLE , Dr Sudha Nair gives insights into the ecosystem of Golden Jubilee Biotechnology Park.
Dr Sudha Nair majored in Botany and was awarded a doctorate in Microbial Biotechnology in the year 1990. She served at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation for close to 20 years in various capacities and stepped down in 2011 as a Senior Director. She has been associated with the Park from its inception. She serves on several National and International Boards, as a trustee in Independent Organizations and NGO’s and is a member of the Task Forces of Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology. She is a member for the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development and a former Executive Board member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, Asia Pacific Region. She has been conferred with national awards for her scientific work like Young National Women Bioscientist Award in 2001 besides many other honors.
This is the second part of the interview with Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women Society. The first part of the interview was with new chairman of Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women, Dr PM Murali.
Part 2: Excerpts from the Interview ...
eN-ABLE: Could you describe the salient features of this BioIncubator?
Dr Sudha Nair: Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women Society is a unique venture set up with a mission to provide opportunities to qualified women to take up to a career of remunerative self employment through biotechnological enterprises. The park was set up with financial support, in form of grant, from Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India, New Delhi and technical support from M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in the 20 acres land allotted by the Govt of Tamil Nadu and was implemented by TIDCO. It became operational in 2001 and the target groups are young women students, women scientists, budding women entrepreneurs, established women entrepreneurs and women scientists who want to return from abroad.
The infrastructure includes shed modules of 1000 sq ft x 20 in 1.2 acres; land modules in 9.2 acres; a new incubation facility housed in 5000 sq ft area, supported by BIRAC which, is available as a plug in facility for the incubates and another 2.8 acres available for expansion. While the shed modules need to be fully furnished by the woman entrepreneur, the new incubation facility provides a complete wet –lab facility consisting of equipments for microbial/molecular/cell culture, bio-processing and analytics. They also have access to office space and other amenities like business rooms / training hall etc. One of the strongest vertical is training and the young scientific team at the Park plays a large role in interacting with a lot of interns from various colleges in the city and outside. A unique initiative is a MoU with Spinco Biotech to help in the training component in the analytical part under their CSR activity.
Over the years, the Park has developed into a good ecosystem supporting start-up and first generation women entrepreneurs. The services provided include access to common instrumentation facility, escort services in terms of financial closures, facilitating technology transfers, access to networks/ mentor groups, advisory on IP protection and training and capacity building. From the inception the Park has had close to 38 entrepreneurs associated and currently there are three startups and with the incubation centre opening up over the next couple of years it could accommodate close to 18 incubatees. Current resident companies are from very diverse sectors thereby making the Park a unique learning centre. This is the first Park set up for women entrepreneurs in the area of Biotechnology and continues to be the only one at the National and Global level serving as a good hub for women entrepreneurs and through its various activities nurturing and inculcating entrepreneurship among girls and women.
eN-ABLE: What are the equipment and technologies provided for research?
Dr Sudha Nair: The 5000 sq ft incubation centre provides a complete wet–lab facility consisting of equipments for microbial/molecular/cell culture, bio-processing and analytics. The Park also facilitates access to instrumentation in other R&D organizations, Incubators etc.
eN-ABLE: How many startups and entrepreneurs can this incubator house?
Dr Sudha Nair: The 5000 sq ft incubation facility can accommodate 18 incubatees at a time. Start-ups can occupy the shed modules too. Given that there are 20 modules and two modules can be allotted to one entrepreneur at a given point of time we can have up to 10 startups. Currently the park has two such starts ups and five first generation entrepreneurs whose companies are nearly 5 years old.
eN-ABLE: On what basis are the applicants short-listed for selection into the incubator?
Dr Sudha Nair: Interested applicants apply through web with a short proposal or call in at the park management. Preliminary discussions are held with them and the criteria on which assessments are made is explained to them. Once the formal application is sent, the applicant is requested to give a presentation to the scientific advisory committee consisting of members from the academia and industry.
The criteria include: technical aspects and what stage they are at, commercial viability, business and marketing strategy, team composition and expertise, the role of the woman as the applicant, availability and kind of funding and compatibility with the infrastructure and space available in the Bioincubator. Most of the women are encouraged to work on the inputs given and requested to get back within a time frame before they actually start at the incubator. A lot of handholding is done at this stage and facilitation. These are the areas normally many women look for support. The Park being set up exclusively for women and lot of time is spent with the women at this phase.
eN-ABLE: What kind of R&D does the incubator encourage?
Dr Sudha Nair: The focus areas include Agri related value chains; food and nutraceuticals; cosmeceuticals; medical biotechnology and health care; bio processing and quality control and analytical. The units fall both under service and manufacturing sectors.
eN-ABLE: What is the current status of this BioIncubator? Can the incubator house more startups?
Dr Sudha Nair: The Park itself an incubator as it houses mostly first generation start ups. Currently, we have three start-ups in the shed modules and one incubatee in the incubation centre. As stated earlier the new incubation facility can house 18 incubatees and this should be accomplished in the next 12-18 months.
eN-ABLE: What is the nature of agreements that the Incubator has with the incubatees?
Dr Sudha Nair: The selected companies are allowed to incubate for an initial period of three years with and renewing the contract every year review. Every three months a review is held by the scientific committee to help them in monitoring. This is for the incubatees occupying the incubation center. The first-generation entrepreneurs also have to renew their contract every year and currently can stay at the Park for 7-10 years. There are other clauses put in place to protect the mandate of the Park.
eN-ABLE: What is financial assistance provided to its incubatees? Does the Incubator mediate external financial investors to participate?
Dr Sudha Nair: The Park does not give financial assistance but hope that in the near future it should be able to do this, as this is one of the requests of the startups. Having stated this, the Park has been very successful in facilitating linkages with banks and other funding sources. A few of the start ups have also been able to get other sources of funds especially from venture capital. The Park also facilitates the startups to apply for funds from the BIG etc.
eN-ABLE: Is there any support from the alumni of the Institute?
Dr Sudha Nair: Yes, a lot of mentoring, as resource persons at training etc.