An idea can be worth billions of dollars as unicorns in India and around the world have shown, and who better to come up with new ideas than schoolchildren? And this is what the Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC) aims to achieve with its two ambitious programs to nurture young innovators. The first program is Vikram Sarabhai Children Innovation Centre (VSCIC), which is envisaged as a platform to institutionalise the efforts of GUSEC and UNICEF to identify, nurture, and promote innovations by children. VSCIC is functioning as an incubator of ideas for school children with innovative skills. It is up-skilling and educating school children towards developing critical thinking and design thinking skills through an elaborate MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), and is also helping synergise and co-creating opportunities for child innovators by bringing together stakeholders of the innovation & education ecosystem. The second program is the National Children Innovation Challenge (NCIC), also a joint initiative with UNICEF, to identify and support children-led innovations and identify the best young innovators in the country.
NCIC aims to scout for innovative ideas by children that solve the problems related to or in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The objective of the Vikram Sarabhai Children Innovation Centre and National Children Innovation Challenge is to promote ideas and innovation among schoolchildren and to make focused efforts to support innovation and entrepreneurship. The initial response and the results have been very encouraging, and we are confident of identifying some excellent ideas and helping the young innovators turn their ideas into reality, said Rahul Bhagchandani, CEO of GUSEC. NCIC will invite applications from children from all over the country to solve contemporary problems and expects to provide exposure to over one lakh school children on innovation and entrepreneurship. Some of its benefits include incubation support of up to two years at GUSEC, e-certificate for all participants, mentorship, guidance, and networking, and access to government grants and funds. About 500 startup teams by young entrepreneurs will be identified as a part of NCIC and groomed through VSCIC.
NCIC is an extension of GUSEC Children Innovation Festival (CIF), which in two editions has resulted in over 3,100 children submitting their ideas. One such idea is an environment-friendly cement-like product. Atharv Shah, a class 9 student at Ahmedabad International School, came up with the idea of making cement/concrete from plastic waste and glass bottles. He was inspired after seeing people dispose of waste outside his house. Atharv idea was shortlisted by GUSEC in 2021, and he was extended help and expert guidance through online sessions. Subsequently, he was introduced to offline boot camps, where he was sensitised to innovation and taught about design thinking by experts and mentors of the GUSEC startup ecosystem. With GUSEC support, he visited several cement factories to conduct further research. His learnings have allowed him to figure out ways to use waste to manufacture his product and also make it more cost-effective. The innovation is still in R&D stage and Atharv is yet to work out the cost of the product, and it is another challenge he hopes to overcome with VSCIC aid.