IT-company funding an incubator programme for assistive technology start-ups
- BIRAC-Social Alpha Quest for Assistive Technologies – supported by Mphasis
- Mphasis, Ltd.
- Country of Implementation
- Asia & Pacific
- South Asia
- Start Year
- First published
“This fund has been critical to provide an affordable solution and to scale despite the pandemic.” Aman Srivastav, Founder, Thinkerbell Labs
In 2019 Mphasis, a major IT provider based in Bengaluru, India, teamed up with Social Alpha, an investing company for start-ups, to create a joint programme. Fourteen start-ups working on assistive technologies and innovative solutions for persons with disabilities, such as a Braille lab and an electric wheelchair for Indian terrain, were selected. Each of the 14 received free incubation support, direct funding by Mphasis, and mentorship. Mphasis invested approximately $350,000 in this programme.
India lacks a vibrant market of assistive technologies and funding support for early-stage technologies.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
“BIRAC-Social Alpha Quest for Assistive Technologies – supported by Mphasis” is the full name of the incubator programme, where Mphasis has teamed up with Social Alpha, a start-up financier, and BIRAC, a publicly funded research centre. The Quest chose 14 participants from over 100 applications based on their (1) business model, (2) innovation, (3) product-market fit, (4) socio-economic impact, and (5) focus on accessibility. In addition to grant funding from Mphasis, each start-up has been offered free incubation support from Social Alpha for the next two years, and each is also supported by a portfolio manager who provides supports for strategy and execution. The programme has helped the start-ups to connect with manufacturers and distribution channels, as well as with hospitals for clinical trials; and to highlight products through physical events and digital promotions. It also provided grants to facilitate their journey to market. The selected innovations include slip-proof crutches, electric wheelchairs for Indian terrain, and a tool for screening autism, among others.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Mphasis supported Social Alpha with $337,250, with each winning innovation receiving a grant of up to $27,000. Many products have already found distributors, onboarded new partners, won awards, and entered the market with a large customer base. Over the next few years Mphasis will continue to support similar programmes, such as the Social Alpha Assistive Technology Fellowship programme, a course designed for innovators to learn accessibility, inclusion, and Universal Design.