Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash
Earlier this month, the Technology Development Board (TDB), a statutory body of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, issued a call for proposals from waste management companies with innovative and indigenous technologies. Any Indian company working in the area of municipal solid waste, plastic waste, construction and demolition (C&D) waste, agricultural waste, biomedical waste, E-Waste, industrial hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, battery waste, radioactive waste, and AI-based solutions, is eligible to apply.
Titled ‘Garbage Free Cities,’ it marks TDB’s big entry into the waste sector and comes at an opportune time when waste companies, big and small, are looking for financial support to scale up their innovations.
SolidWasteIndia’s Aafrin Kidwai spoke with Cdr Navneet Kaushik, Group Head (Projects) & Program Director (Start-Ups), TDB for more information.
Q1. How does the Technology Development Board (TDB) support technological innovation in India?
The TDB, by virtue of its mandate, is supporting the commercialization of indigenous and innovative technologies in India. In the current ecosystem, banks help with financing but are unable to provide any scientific or technical know-how regarding these projects. That’s where TDB comes in. Any private limited company, SME, or MSME, can approach us for 50 percent funding support to commercialize their project.
We also provide valuable feedback to companies regarding their technical and financial viability post evaluation of their projects for TDB funding. Often, companies not only approach us for financial support but also for the guidance we provide as part of the evaluation process.
Q2. What are some of the successful projects that TDB has supported in the past?
Since its inception, TDB has funded more than 350 companies across various sectors. The companies that we have funded are unique. Still, if you really ask me, to name some of the most notable companies we have supported over the years, then I would name Bharat Biotech International Limited, Shantha Biotechnics, Biocon India Limited, Reva Electric Car Company (which was later taken over by Mahindra), Tata Motors (for Indica), Zen Technologies and Su Kam Power System Limited.
I’ll also say that TDB has made a deep impact in the biotech sector. For instance, India’s first vaccine for Hepatitis B by Shantha Biotechnics was funded by us. The first liver transplant hospital (Rabindranath GE Medical now Global Hospitals). When the COVID pandemic began, we also funded MyLabs which made the first RTPCR kit in India
Q3. What prompted the TDB to launch the ‘Garbage Free Cities’ initiative?
This initiative is inspired by the Prime Minister’s Swacch Bharat Mission. We are aware that a lot of waste was created during the COVID pandemic. E-waste is also a growing problem, while with the growth of electric vehicles, EV battery waste is also going to be challenging. We have to think about the waste today – not after it becomes a problem later. Any technology that has to be supported today has to be seen through the prism of recyclability and sustainability and its impact on the environment.
Importantly, the focus of the government is on the waste sector and we felt the TDB has an important role to play in it. This is the right time to issue the call for proposals as there is a big push coming from all the relevant ministries in this sector.
Q4. What is the application process?
It’s a user-friendly online application process. Funding guidelines are available on the TDB’s website, along with the format of the loan application form.
The process is thorough with domain experts and financial experts evaluating the proposal in its entirety for commercialization. Considering that we are providing 50 percent of the funding for project cost and it’s in everyone’s interest that the evaluation is thorough. We monitor the application process closely and support our applicants throughout the process. For instance, if any details are missing in the application, we contact the applicants and try to help them out.
Q5. Could you tell us about your selection panel? Who does it include?
Our panel comprises technologists and scientists from the relevant field, as well as academicians from leading institutions like the IITs. We also have financial experts, senior bankers, and project specialists. Each project is evaluated by the relevant domain expert of the project.
The Technology Development Board (TDB) is a statutory body of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India,
Q6. What are some of the selection criteria?
Our selection process is very transparent. It is based on the financials, projections, and technology, of course. Each project is looked at individually by experts. There is no limit on how the TDB in any sector can fund projects. If a project is good and there is a novelty in the technology, it is given preference. As long as the technology is indigenous, innovative, and provides value, it stands a good chance.
We also closely evaluate the team and the company’s founder. We assess their domain knowledge and expertise. If the team is incomplete in any way, we advise them to hire people for it.
It typically takes 3-6 months to whet a company and disburse the loans, maybe even longer.
Q7. What kind of support does TDB provide to the selected companies?
We provide 50 percent project funding for selected projects. Mostly, we provide soft loans at the rate of 5 percent simple interest. Funding could also be in the form of a grant (though rare) or loans. In the case of loans, the company doesn’t have to return the money in the early stages while the interest accrues. After a year-long moratorium period post commencement of production, six-monthly installments have to be paid for a period of 4.5 years. There is also royalty of 0.5 percent of sale turnover for the duration of the project. There are also no charges for prepayment of the loan. Importantly, the TDB doesn’t charge a processing fee. The entire cost is borne by us, including the evaluation costs and site visits.
As per our mandate, we also give reasons for not funding a project, in terms of what is lacking or unviable. That is a very valuable experience and feedback for the companies. Also, during project execution, the monitoring committee makes on-site visits which provide a valuable opportunity for the companies to learn from the technical experts and exchange ideas.
Q8. How do you handle project failure?
Large amounts of uncertainty exist in every project, regardless of the sector. In fact, with any technology, the failure rate is high. It will be risky – but that’s what we are here for.
It’s difficult to see projects fail. My observation is that this often happens due to marketing issues. Projects don’t fail due to technology, rather it is their failure to enter the market, do fieldwork and get critical on-ground feedback. If the idea is good, but execution or financial management is poor, a company dissolves and the project is closed. We are there to help and support you, but you need to do your groundwork.
For detailed funding guidelines and proposal submission, please visit the TDB’s website- www.tdb.gov.in. The last date to submit the proposal for “Garbage Waste Cities” is July 3, 2022.