Bringing innovation to the MSMEs: The New India Challenge

Here’s a new initiative that provides a platform for generating innovative ideas for smaller outfits.

Bringing innovation to the MSMEs The New India Challenge

The Modi government has launched a fresh initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country by widening the scope of participation by India’s startups and MSME sector. The programme, launched under the aegis of NITI Aayog’s flagship initiative, the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), seeks to harness the capabilities of domestic entrepreneurs in applied research and innovation.

The idea, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said at the launch, was to make India’s startups and the MSME sector more innovative, resilient, tech-driven, and R&D-oriented. 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will oversee the initiative, which has been formally named the Aatmanirbhar Bharat ARISE - Atal New India Challenge. ISRO will be assisted by four ministries - that of defence, food processing, health and family welfare, and housing and urban. Various departments under these ministries will also be involved.

Related: Government Initiatives To Help MSMEs Fight The Economic Repercussions Of COVID-19

The Atal New India Challenge programme map

To begin with, Indian startups and MSMEs will be given financial support under the programme to develop applied research-based innovations to meet the various challenges faced by the various sectors of industry. 

For instance, the challenge before the food processing ministry is how to effectively utilise and monetise waste in the commercial food processing sector. Similarly, the health ministry is looking for an innovation that will analyse historical data and curves to predict the early breakout of epidemics.

Altogether, 15 sectors have been identified where innovations can be used to overcome unique challenges. Entrepreneurs who submit feasible innovations will be given grants-in-aid of up to Rs 50 lakh for nine months to a year to develop a minimum usable prototype.

The central government and its various ministries or departments will potentially become the first buyers of the new products and technology. 

Related: Initiatives By The Indian Government To Boost Startups In India

Innovation policy

The Atal New India Challenge programme is in keeping with the Modi government’s vision of an atmanirbhar (self-reliant) India with Indian startups innovating and developing products and solutions focused on specific problem statements.

In August 2020, after the government banned 59 Chinese apps that violated India’s data privacy laws, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology launched the ‘Aatmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge’. It also launched another programme - named CHUNAUTI - aimed at encouraging startups to develop solutions to address the challenges cropping up after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Similarly, the Defence India Startup Challenge, a programme launched by the defence ministry, seeks to leverage the potential and capabilities of startups and MSMEs to meet the needs of the armed forces.

Last word

These challenges are part of AIM, or the Atal Innovation Mission, to promote a culture of innovation in the country. Given the go-ahead in 2016, AIM was designed to provide a platform for generating innovative ideas. It was also supposed to enable opportunities for different stakeholders across sectors to collaborate. The Atal New India Challenge programme brings this idea to the MSMEs and startups. Lessons From Failure: 5 Things That Make Or Break Startups. 




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