AI and Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK), a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of India, inaugurated an 'Innovation Lab' at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru today during the first ARTPARK Innovation Summit 2022.
The lab will provide support to researchers and startups working in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics with the aim of helping them build products that are ready to go to market.
Its focus will be on three areas — digital and physical connectivity using 5G and drones, making healthcare services available at people’s doorsteps, and using AI for inclusive learning.
“In the age of AI, knowledge will be everywhere. Students won’t have to cram information anymore and can focus on applying it to create things. Similarly, healthcare should be available everywhere and not just in hospitals," said Umakant Soni, chief executive officer of ARTPARK.
Soni said startups struggle to take technology from labs to the market today, which is a key gap for the industry.
“Primarily, we are trying to create successful companies out of India which will solve problems, create jobs, and ultimately export to the world,” said Subhashis Banerjee, chief information officer of ARTPARK.
The lab has technical teams working in collaboration with multiple labs at IISC. It will also work with other technical institutes and bodies, including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, IIT Jodhpur, the University of Aalto in Finland, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).
“Our Indian academics have produced talent that now heads several leading tech companies. The next phase of growth requires that we encourage such talent to stay in India and convert their research into products and companies. Then only we will grow from a $3 trillion to $10 trillion economy,” Soni added.
To support startups and products incubated at the labs, ARTPARK has set aside a $100 million fund. “Once we convert the research that is happening into interesting products and companies, then we will support them with the $100 million venture fund over a period of 10 years,” said Soni. The fund will be backed by the government, private companies, and VCs.
Though the fund was announced last year, it is still pending clearance from SEBI. “We are waiting for final approval from SEBI. Hopefully, it will be formally launched by the end of this month. We have already started shortlisting companies working on connectivity, healthcare, and education,” he added.
One of the first products developed at the labs will be an autonomous drone ambulance, a scale model for which was unveiled at the Innovation Summit today. The drone can carry passengers to the hospital, the company said.
According to Soni, in future, these drones can also be used for transporting goods and other logistics purposes. “We are already getting letters of intent from companies that want to use it when it is ready,” he added. The drone is in concept stage right now. Its prototype will take 1.5 years to develop, while the commercial model may take 4 to 5 years.
“India has the potential to become a world leader by unlocking the full potential of its rural economy, futuristic technologies like 5G, AI & Robotics will help realize this at a much faster pace and create the next big wave of jobs,” said Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman at government think-tank NITI Aayog.
Niti Aayog is working with ARTPARK under the Niti Atal Innovation Mission to support startups that are solving grassroots-level problems for rural India.
Founded in 2020 by IISc, ARTPARK has received Rs 170 crore in funding from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Rs 60 crores from the Government of Karnataka.