Our long-term vision is to continue serving as the bridge that connects Indian and European innovation ecosystems.
This is an exclusive interview conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Editor at CIO News.
In a joint conversation featuring Programme Partners of EU-India Innocenter, a growth accelerator and innovation hub, we bring you insights from both Rodrigo Olmedo, Director & CEO of uGlobally, and Varun Mallapragada, COO of MantraLaunchspace. The EU-India Innocenter programme is a consortium consisting of six esteemed organizations with extensive experience in program development in Europe and abroad. Noteworthy Indian representatives include Mantra Launchspace and 91springboard, while European partners encompass Civitta, German Entrepreneurship, DutchBasecamp, and uGlobally. This unique initiative has received vital support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.
How does the EU-India Innocenter contribute to innovation transfer and international collaboration, adding value to both Indian and European startup ecosystems?
(Rodrigo): The program’s focus is on guiding startups to identify potential market opportunities in India through productive collaborations. A significant part of our program includes workshops, training, and in-depth market insights specific to their industry sectors, aiming for sustainable growth. We assist startups in refining their offerings, such as value propositions and pricing models, to meet the unique demands of the dynamic Indian market.
We also engage expert mentors from India’s startup ecosystem to guide and coach our cohorts through the complexities of entering the Indian market. These mentors conduct sessions ranging from sector-specific insights led by industry leaders to in-depth discussions on regulations and compliance. Our mission is to facilitate the exchange of cutting-edge technologies, expertise, and resources, fostering a dynamic synergy between these two vibrant regions. This collaboration brings significant value to both sides: Indian startups gain access to high-impact technologies and market insights from Europe, while European startups tap into the world’s largest and steadily growing Indian market.
One concrete example is our week-long ‘in-country’ program, which focuses on market immersion, matchmaking sessions, roundtable discussions, and our flagship demo day called ‘Blue Carpet Night: Showcasing European Innovation.’ During this event, a carefully curated community of innovation stakeholders from both regions comes together to explore collaborative opportunities, delve into high-impact technologies, and exchange ideas and resources. This approach has led to numerous success stories, with startups entering strategic partnerships in India, hiring local talent and resources, and making substantial progress in terms of market expansion.
How do government bodies play a role in supporting the brand’s mission of innovation transfer and global collaboration?
(Rodrigo): Getting funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 framework developed by the Research & Innovation department marked the commencement of the EU-India Innocenter, and it has helped us understand ourselves better over the years. Our ecosystem partners also include Indian government-funded programmes like Invest India, Start-up India, KDEM (Karnataka Digital Economy Mission), and more, demonstrating a shared vision of leveraging innovation to strengthen ties among innovation stakeholders from the EU and India. They provide the necessary regulatory support, incentives, and resources to ensure a conducive environment for innovation transfer and global collaboration. As highlighted at the G20 Summit, India’s position as a global innovation hub is poised to get stronger in the coming years.
We work on facilitating a collaborative atmosphere that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Both markets are competitive, and competition is healthy for a market aiming for stable growth and development. Additionally, government bodies in both India and the EU recognize that startups are critical drivers of economic growth and employment. They actively engage with our initiatives, demonstrating their commitment to building innovation-driven international relationships. We are grateful for their support in reinforcing the significance of our mission with a nurturing ecosystem for startups looking to expand globally.
In what ways do you connect its stakeholders to fuel global partnerships?
(Rodrigo): EU-India Innocenter acts as a connective tissue, linking a diverse array of stakeholders from different regions, backgrounds, and industries. We create opportunities for startups, research institutions, investors, and businesses to come together in mutual interest. We identify the missing piece of the puzzle for both the startups and their stakeholders to make it a beneficial exchange for all the parties involved.
Our expert mentors specialize in the startups’ industry sectors, helping them understand priority markets, tap into their networks, collaborate on pilot opportunities, and provide strategic guidance. We facilitate key event participation, roundtable discussions, matchmaking sessions, demo days, in-country visits, and discussions with key players in both regions, fostering an environment where tech-driven innovation can thrive.
By bridging these connections, we ensure that tech innovation isn’t confined to a single region but can be harnessed globally, bringing value to both Indian and European stakeholders.
Could you share specific ways in which you think that startup diplomacy impacts strengthening international relations?
(Varun): Startup diplomacy plays a pivotal role in strengthening international relations by fostering cross-border collaboration, trust, and mutual growth. It serves as a catalyst for innovation diplomacy and promotes democratic growth across the world. The essence of startup diplomacy lies in creating a global network of innovators and problem solvers who are integral contributors to the development of economies.
When startups explore and enter competitive global markets in different countries, they bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to global challenges. This not only accelerates their individual growth but also contributes to a deeper understanding between nations. These diplomatic initiatives are crucial to building green and growth-oriented economies. They demonstrate that startups are not merely businesses but also essential actors in shaping the future. This form of diplomacy not only strengthens economic relations but also fosters a collaborative spirit, reinforcing stronger ties between countries as they collaborate to overcome shared challenges of climate issues, clean energy, achieving SDGs, etc.
Your in-country programme ‘Blue Carpet Night’ has received quite some traction. Can you share any success stories for European tech startups in your cohort who have made strategic partnerships in India?
(Varun): Certainly, ‘Blue Carpet Night’ has been a game-changer. One notable success story comes from Cast AI, an enterprise solution capable of reducing Kubernetes costs and automating DevOps, which initiated pilots with a leading Indian fintech company valued at $700 million and has now established a sustainable sales funnel in India. This achievement follows Cast AI’s successful participation in the Innocenter’s programme phases.
Another remarkable success story comes from Cheesecake Energy, a European startup specializing in green-tech energy. Through our program, they established strategic partnerships with influential entities, including an Indian FMCG giant, a globally renowned energy corporation, government-owned state universities, and development societies. This exemplifies the value of our platform.
Another noteworthy case is a healthtech startup called Kriba (previously known as Newborn Solutions) that utilized in-country visits to establish connections with Indian healthcare providers and government bodies, leading to collaborative projects and trials in key markets.
These success stories showcase our vision of catalyzing concrete, mutually beneficial partnerships that span continents and contribute to both local and international communities.
What is the long-term vision for the EU-India Innocenter in terms of enhancing innovation transfer and international collaboration?
(Varun): Our long-term vision is to continue serving as the bridge that connects Indian and European innovation ecosystems. We actively engage in policy discussions and recommendations and will remain a reliable catalyst for tech-driven innovation that addresses real-world issues. In the coming years, we plan to expand our reach, bringing more startups and stakeholders into our network and fostering a culture of open collaboration.
Moving forward, we are committed to supporting Indian startups eager to explore the EU market. We aim to create awareness of global markets, guide startups in navigating the complexities of the EU market, and provide valuable insights into regulatory frameworks and market trends. We aim to facilitate innovation transfer and international collaboration by expanding our ever-growing network of global and local startups, research institutions, investors, and businesses.
Our approach involves establishing sector-focused programs to address high-priority challenges, fostering deeper engagements between both regions, and leveraging cutting-edge technologies and innovative market-ready solutions. By doing so, we contribute to the development of growth-oriented, green economies through startup diplomacy, thus ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for both the EU and India. Our long-term vision remains centered on accelerating businesses through a simplified framework, enabling them to navigate and embrace global expansion successfully.
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