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Guidelines for applicants for the PHD Incubator program at FITT – IIT Delhi

1        The PhD Incubator program

The role of entrepreneurship in the socio-economic development of the country cannot be overemphasized.   The recent major successes amongst the start-ups in the country have primarily been in several service/e-commerce businesses. On the contrary, there are relatively less technology-based start-ups which can truly claim to be working in contemporary deep technology domains.  It is being felt that there is a need for a viable support mechanism that can attract interested early stage career scientists/engineers who are interested in the innovation-driven entrepreneurial journey.  The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) which has a thriving program on techno-entrepreneurship is well positioned to manage through its Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT) such an initiative. Creation of new facilities in its upcoming research parks provides valuable infrastructure support towards such a program which is being christened as PHD START-UP INCUBATOR. 

The platform for harnessing deep technologies (PHD) incubator program at FITT – IIT Delhi is designed to support innovators and entrepreneurs to carry forward a promising deep technology idea and generate proof of concept to validate the idea. With the infrastructure, mentorship and funding support, the PHD incubator program is designed to help entrepreneurs working in deep technology domains to take the quantum leap towards commercialization. This program envisions to support deep technology ideas that may be high risk, but at the same time, have substantial market potential.

2      The host institution – IIT Delhi

IIT Delhi – a top-ranked HEI has gradually evolved from a knowledge institution to a Knowledge Enterprise – thanks to its active interfacing with business and community through its autonomous body FITT (est. 1992) which leverages the vast intellectual and infrastructural resources of IIT Delhi. In 1994, it adopted its IPR policy. About 700 patents have been filed and over 90 technologies have been licensed/transferred.

IIT Delhi provides a conducive environment for science and technology entrepreneurship and was amongst the earliest institutes to initiate an incubation program (1999-2000). FITT operates the Technology Business Incubation Unit (TBIU) on campus. TBIU has been instrumental in converting novel technological concepts/ideas into commercially viable opportunities. The IIT Delhi incubator program is inclusive and open to people outside of the IIT system as well.

The next frontier towards diffusion of the resultants from cutting-edge R&D at IIT Delhi is envisioned in the creation of world-class infrastructure having facilities to facilitate incubation and skills enhancement for design and development of advanced technologies. This is being realized through Incubation Centres’/ Research Parks’ Program.

3      IIT Delhi’s Technopark at Sonipat

The proposed program is envisaged to be primarily based out of IIT Delhi’s Sonipat Campus where an initial 250 Lakhs Sq. ft. facility – IIT Delhi TechnoPark has been created.  The TechnoPark is a planned and managed facility with a focus on research, innovation and product development where IIT Delhi, Industry and Govt. agencies collaborate to create advanced technological solutions.   The facility is having technical and commercial service providers, utility services, restaurants, ATM, convention center, parking, security, reception, internal transportation, recreation, and sports facilities.

The IIT Delhi’s Sonipat campus is also going to have a large Central Research Facility (CRF) where start-of-the-art analytical and high-end instrumentation shall provide scientific and technical services to researchers, start-ups and industries in the region.    It is also proposed to set up a full-fledged Cyber-Physical Factory at IIT Delhi Sonipat campus. The Cyber-Physical Factory will house the Discrete Manufacturing Cell and Hybrid Manufacturing facility with state of the art facilities.  

Besides incubation cubicles, the PHD Start-up Innovators will have seamless access to most services including meeting and conference rooms. The Techno Park also has a residential facility of 140 twin rooms.

4      The aim of the PHD Incubator program

 It is felt that the involvement of technically qualified professionals (preferably doctorates) can catalyze the creation of high technology ventures – the ones that boast of strong knowledge and IP quotient. It’s important to note that successful deep science/technology start-ups can enable a robust eco-system towards high technology design, development, and manufacture. Recent projects like Bullet Train, Hyperloop Transportation and need to develop solutions based on AI, IoT etc. are likely to throw open huge opportunities for intense technology start-ups.   The PHD incubator program by FITT, IIT Delhi aims to be a flagship support program for nurturing high technology start-ups in the country.

The primary aim is to provide a strong foundation to high-risk innovative projects in the deep tech domains to achieve and validate POC. The scheme execution would be designed in a manner to ensure only qualified and genuinely interested professionals can apply for the award that offers initial support to the tech entrepreneurs.  

5       Criteria for eligibility

5.1 In terms of proposals:

5.1.1 The eligible projects:

Concepts/ideas relating to deep technologies in all areas of Science and engineering and having strong translational/commercial prospects.

•     A product or process innovation with substantial market potential/disruption.

•     Having clear objectives in terms of validating their proof of concept.

•     Projects focused on generating the necessary scientific data needed for de-risking i.e., reducing uncertainties in the technology, which in turn will be helpful to demonstrate it to investors/ funding programs for startups.

5.1.2  The ineligible projects

Routine S&T projects lacking technological depth, novelty, or exploratory projects without technology commercialization plans. Projects with serious ethical or EHS risks. The funding should not be used to support PhD student research or any other academic work.  This should not be considered a research fellowship.

The project should not be having similar objectives as another project by the project leader/team members of the startup that has already received funding from another sources of grant-in-aid funding for innovation/entrepreneurship.

5.2            Criteria for the Project Leader

Towards addressing the need for high quality and intense science and technology ventures, the program focuses on experience in leading areas of science and technology. These innovators (preferably doctorates) would be the ones who are deeply interested to initiate innovation led deep technology start-ups. 

The Entrepreneur Project Leader/ Principal investigator / must be an Indian citizen and technically qualified to undertake the project. The Project Leader must have completed postgraduate training in sciences or engineering. The desirable qualification will be Ph.D./MD. The essential qualification is MTech/MBBS/ M Phil/ M Des / M Pharm and equivalents with undergraduate training in Science/ Engineering. Entrepreneurs with an MSc/B. Tech degree with at least 2 years of full-time entrepreneurship or R & D experience shall also be eligible.

The PHD incubator program is for bonafide innovators not engaged in other formal employment activities. The applicant needs to provide an undertaking that he/she plans to terminate his association with the current employer and take up the project full time in the event of grant approval. A resignation/ relieving/retirement letter will be needed as supporting document before final approval and release of the grant. In no way is this program designed to serve as a stop-gap arrangement in one’s career.

The Entrepreneur is required to formally register a company before or after joining the program if not already a startup. It is expected that the startup formation is completed within 6 months of joining the incubation program, failing which, they may be deemed ineligible for further support.

5.3Criteria for eligible startups

The company should be registered under the Indian Companies Act, 2013. The date of incorporation must be within the past 3 years from the date of application to the program to qualify as a startup for this program.

The cash in-flow in terms of funding/grants/revenue from sales or operations should not be exceeding ₹ 1 Cr. in any fiscal year since its incorporation. Majority stake (>51%) and control of the startup company should be held by resident Indian citizens.

The major shareholders/ promoters or directors (having >20% stake) should not be directors/promoters of ineligible companies. *This may be waved off only in case of bonafide serial investors.

6 Duration for incubation and funding support

The incubation and funding support will be provided over a period of 24 months in determined installments against milestones laid as per the objectives of the project. However, mentorship and networking opportunities will be provided even after completion of this incubation period.

The Entrepreneur/ startup is required to be physically incubated at the Sonipat Residential Incubator (SRI) at IIT Delhi’s extension campus for the entire duration of this program.

7 Support provided to startups in this program

7.1  The financial support

  1. Financial support up to ₹ 50 Lakhs will be provided as a grant in aid. In exceptional cases, additional funding can be considered.
  2. Free boarding and lodging for the project leader at the SRI. Other team members can avail accommodation at the facility on paid basis.

The funds will be released as per the progress made under predetermined milestones decided based on objectives of the project. The tentative release schedule will be:

InstallmentReleased at% of the total budget
1stSigning the agreements for IncubationMax 30%
2ndCompletion of 1st Milestone~ 25%
3rdCompletion of 2nd Milestone~20%
4thCompletion of 3rd Milestone~20%
5thSubmission of Final report/exit from the incubator~ 5%

 (the 5th/last tranche will be in form of reimbursement against actual expenditures)

The general guidelines for budget utilization are:

  1. A separate no-lien account is required to be opened for receiving this funding. This account should not be used for other purposes or other funding/revenue streams of the startup.
  2. The budget heads allowed under the scheme are
Budget headDescription
EquipmentMaximum 25% of the total project budget can be utilized for acquiring equipment not available at the incubator and not easily outsourceable. The startup will be required to present justifications for the equipment required to complete the project.
Human resourcesA maximum of 40% of total project cost can be utilized for salaries/hiring of manpower. There will be a cap on the maximum salary and no individual can draw a monthly salary of more than ₹ 50 thousand.
ConsumablesThe applicant can utilize this with flexibility if the items procured can be justified for their utility in the project.
ContingencyA maximum of 10% of the total budget, can be utilized for project related travel within India and miscellaneous bona fide expenses.
OutsourcingMaximum 20% of the total budget can be used for outsourcing like necessary equipment usage at paid facilities/consultancy work at industries/prototype designing and manufacturing from advanced manufacturing facilities, market research etc.
Patent filingThe applicant can use up to a maximum of 2 lakhs for their IPR filing costs.

 In very specific and justifiable cases, the budget can be re-appropriated with FITT’s permissions

7.2            The Incubation support

  1. Incubation space and support will be provided as per institute norms regarding the engagement and equity terms according to institute guidelines.
  2. The startup will be provided necessary space and facilities at the Sonipat residential incubator to complete the work. The incubation space will consist of a dedicated working area for the startup. They can also avail meeting rooms/internet connectivity and other common facilities available at the incubator.
  3. They will also be given some discount on charges payable at the CRF / IIT Delhi’s labs (as applicable)
  4. In addition, the applicant shall be provided free residential accommodation (one double room) at the Facility for a period of two years. They can also avail free mess service at the facility.

7.3            The mentoring support options

  1. The Entrepreneurs will get the technical advice and mentorship from the Institute’s faculties who can work as scientific advisors with the startups.
    1. The review, evaluation and monitoring process will dispense valuable comments and inputs to the startup from the network of experts from IIT Delhi, Industry and other institutions.
    1. The FITT will organize periodic events to provide learning, visibility and networking opportunities for the incubatees.
    1. Business mentorship programs and workshops will be held by FITT to help the startups improve their business plans and market outreach.
    1. FITT’s IP Cell can assist the incubatees with IP related services on need and availability basis.
    1. The innovators will be connected with FITT’s network of investors/VCs.

8      Application Procedure

  1. FITT will advertise a national call for application once a year (1st of January every year).
  2. The Call for Proposals will be advertised through the IIT Delhi website, web broadcast, intimation to major institutions, universities, incubators and social media platforms.
  3. The Call for Proposals will be open for a period of one month.
  4. The application template can be downloaded from the IIT Delhi website and the duly filled soft copies can be submitted by email to FITT.

(The applicants are requested to provide sufficient details within the mentioned word limits under each column to facilitate an informed and fair evaluation /review. Applicants are advised to provide self-contained proposals, with any other relevant supporting materials to be provided as separate attachments.)

  • Proposal submitted will be treated as final and any requests for changes will not be encouraged.
  • Any incidence of incorrect information provided in the application may lead to disqualification of the application.

9      Evaluation process

  1. First level selection shall be effected by a technical expert committee having representatives from academia, research and majorly industry The evaluation of the proposal will be based on technical innovation, feasibility; technology readiness level and preliminary technical data etc.  
  2. In the second round, the shortlisted candidates will be called for the presentation of their business plans along with technical details.   The selection committee shall have representation from industry, financial bodies, investors and FITT.   The evaluation of proposals will be done based on technical strength, entrepreneurial intent, the strength of IP, team and business plan. 

The evaluation process flow will be:

The criteria for evaluation will consist of weightages to the following:

  1. The technical advancements                                             ~25%
    1. Capabilities/expertise of team members                         ~25%
    1. Commercialization prospects/IP                                      ~30%
    1. The strength of business plan                                            ~20%

10 Due diligence, project monitoring, and progress reviews.

  1. FITT will be completing the due diligence process which involves:
  2. Reconfirming eligibility
  3. Legal, technical and financial due diligence
  4. Confirming that the applicant has access to resources and establishments/industry/partners required for project execution.
  5. Safety and EHS requirement are met.
  6. Budget justifications (usually by providing quotations); meeting budget caps and other requirements of PHD incubator
  7. Discussing with the innovator and finalizing milestones, payment schedule.
  8. FITT sign agreements with incubatees.
  9. Funds released into the no lien account created by the grantee for the project.
  10. Once the project gets started, FITT periodically monitors progress and reviews the project along with subject matter experts. Incubatees must submit periodic reports and utilization certificates in the prescribed format as asked, to FITT.

11   Submission of final reports and Exit from incubator

  1. Successful project completion in terms of project objectives is expected from the startup.
  2. On completion, the startup will be required to furnish reports mentioning following details
  3. Technical progress against each objective and milestone as laid out during the due diligence process.
  4. Details on the final deliverable of the project, TRL of the product.
  5. Progress in terms of commercialization, market readiness of the product, time to reach market, follow on funding generated etc.
  6. Detailed financial reports audited and certified by CA clearly mentioning all expenses under each budget head, bank statements stamped and verified by bank.
  7. The address where the company will be moving after the exit from incubator.
  8. Details on the support required and the plans and projections of the company for next 3 years.
  9. No dues certificate from the incubator.
  10. Any other detail as requested by FITT.

12. Contact

The office of Managing Director, FITT


Phone: +91-11-26857762