John Hoffmire: What is the Venture Center?
Mugdha: Venture Center is India’s award-winning, leading technology business incubator for science and technology startups. We offer entrepreneurs and startups the widest suite of incubation programs, services, resources, and facilities. With over 75 resident startups at any given time, we are one of India’s largest science business incubators. We support startups developing intellectual property intensive technologies, products, and services in the areas of biotech, healthcare, pharma, agriculture, and clean tech.

John:  What is the Center’s main focus? 
Mugdha: Venture Center’s main focus is to nucleate and nurture technology and knowledge-based enterprises for India by leveraging the scientific and engineering competencies of the institutions in the Pune region.  We aspire to be the organization that creates, shapes and sustains a “Pune cluster” of innovative technology businesses with significant economic impact regionally, nationally, and globally.

John: Does the Center have specific sciences that it focuses on?
Mugdha: We do. Venture Center mostly focuses on the areas of: 

  • Material science
  • Chemical synthesis
  • Biomedical science and technology
  • Chemical and process engineering 
  • Research, technology and knowledge management

John: Tell me more about the entrepreneurs that are involved with the Center. 
Mugdha: The Venture Center has supported over 300 entrepreneurs. They come from varied backgrounds and bring with them diverse ideas and viewpoints, enriching the innovation ecosystem at Venture Center. What unites them is their determination and passion to turn their ideas into business. One thing I am particularly proud of is that 32% of our start-ups have women as founders or co-founders.  

John: What is an example of one of the programs of the Center? 
Mugdha: The flagship program of Venture Center is the Lab2Mkt program.  It was designed to help technology providers close the gap between a concept and raising finances for a spinout company.  It is supported via the Proof of Concept Fund.  Through the PoC Fund, the Venture Center will define, fund, and drive PoC projects in partnership with scientists from R&D institutions and (potential) entrepreneurs who seek to join and/or launch spinoffs.  

John Hoffmire: Tell me about Venture Center’s work with social enterprises via your social innovations vertical.
Mugdha: Venture Center is very committed to social innovation and entrepreneurship. We actively nucleate and nurture enterprises that focus on solving socially important problems and are working to build sustainable entities (for profit or not-for-profit) to deliver the solutions to society. Currently, our focus areas include affordable health and attrition, assistive technologies, empowering farmers, clean energy, sustainable resource utilization, environment and circular economy, water, sanitation, hygiene and any other social sectors that can leverage Venture Center’s innovation ecosystem.

We help social entrepreneurs through various initiatives supporting startups at different stages in their journeys. For example: 

  • Venture Center’s Include and Eklavya programs provide mentoring support to some of our mid and late-stage social entrepreneurs, where we have partnered with CSIR-NCL and their CSIR-800 program. 
  • Our Social Innovation Tech Fellowship program, supported by Government of India’s Department of Biotechnologies’ Biotech Industry Research Assistance Council, aims to support entrepreneurs at the idea stage. Currently we have supported 15 entrepreneurs in the fields of maternal and child health, elderly health, sanitation and waste to value. 
  • We run active campaigns around social impact themes such as: antimicrobial resistance, sanitation and waste to value, energy and bioenergy, maternal & child health (Project: Vatsala) and more recently in the response to the COVID 19 pandemic we have constituted the Pune Diagnostics Action Group (PDAG).
  • We present our Social Innovation Lecture Series, which highlights social innovators and entrepreneurs, their journey, models for delivering social impact, lessons learnt, and tips for the next generation of social innovators and entrepreneurs. 
  • Venture Center’s Corporate Social Responsibility supported projects are also complementary to the initiatives under the Social Innovations Vertical which provides grants to social entrepreneurs, and has resulted in putting in place key facilities like the clean room facility for our startups, as an example. 

John:  I met you when you were part of the 2016 Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP) program at Oxford. It’s exciting to see the good work you’ve been up to since then.  
Mugdha: Thank you, John. I look forward to telling you more about Venture Center’s progress in the coming year.

Dr. Mugdha Potnis-Lele is the Senior Manager for Social Innovations at Venture Center and an alum of the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP) at Oxford (2016)

Dr. John Hoffmire is the Chairman of the Center on Business and Poverty, the Director of Employee Ownership at Teamshares, and Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business 

Click here for the Venture Center’s website

Click her for the CRISP Social Ventures’ website