September 14, 2021

Our goal is to achieve a 25% energy efficiency over current EV configurations

With the government’s push towards EVs, more companies are taking up tasks associated with the move. Be it from helping create policies, build the needed EV infrastructure, or support making components, everybody’s pushing towards this cause. One such company is iCreate, which is working towards the creation of Indian subcomponents for electric vehicles to increase efficiency as well as reduce costs.

iCreate is working on an in-house EV Centre of Excellence to deliver at least a 25% increase in efficiency in EV two-wheelers and three-wheelers and create a technology package to help manufacturers gain the lead. To understand how the business works, Express Mobility speaks to Anupam Jalote, the CEO of iCreate.

Can you give me an overview of iCreate and what the incubator does?

iCreate is an autonomous super specialty institute dedicated to converting technology innovations into successful enterprises. The facility was formed under the leadership of our honourable Prime Minister with a vision of promoting the growth of entrepreneurial capital through innovations and technology.

At iCreate,  we have a unique model of incubating innovators through different levels of counselling, grooming,  training, mentoring,  intellectual support, workshops and annual events covering schools, colleges, entrepreneurs, MSMEs and Government. The facility is spread across a 40 acres campus on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Currently, the centre has the capacity to house 100 incubatees concurrently working on 40-50 projects and has so far incubated over 399 Startups across sectors like IT, Agro & Food processing, Electronics, Robotics, Electric Vehicles, Energy, to name a few.  Over the years, we have evaluated over 2800 ideas, supported 300+ innovations, applied for 30+ patents, and generated approximately INR 45 crore of revenues as well as 600 +jobs through our start-up network.

How is iCreate funded and how does a budding entrepreneur approach you?

iCreate is largely self funded and also receives support through various Government Programs. It is structured as a 50:50 Joint venture between the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (GMDC) and Gujarat Entrepreneurship and Venture Promotion Foundation (GEVPF).

Talking about how an entrepreneur can reach us, I would say our doors are open to all the innovative ideas that our budding entrepreneurs can bring to the table. We have multiple programs for different start-up stages starting from ideation to creation. Depending on the level at which the startup idea is brought to us, we counsel and incubate them at the suitable stage providing guidance from best of the industry experts. In addition to this, we run various events such as the iCreate Idea Accelerator program (iIA) where we help entrepreneurs convert ideas into a successful business plan and the iCreate Seed Stage Accelerator (ISA) program where we prepare innovators to pitch to an external panel for possible seed funding and further incubation support. Most recently, we launched EVangelise, a first-of-its kind innovation challenge aimed at identifying and nurturing some of the brightest minds in the country to use the power of innovation in addressing key problem statements of the EV industry.

Given that EVs are a big focus at iCreate, what is your outlook for the EV industry in India? What are some of the key opportunities and challenges that you as an institute are looking to address?

India is already the global leader when it comes to the two and three wheeler market but to  become the global leader in e-2W/3Ws, we need to address many challenges, from range anxiety to performance and efficiency to developing the complete ecosystem of tier 2 and tier 3 vendors who can meet the tech and quality requirements of modern EV’s.

It took India over three decades to become a world leader in normal automobiles. So, the paradigm and reference points are all there. We just need to replicate that success in less than half a decade.

All the key subcomponents that go into an EV from circuit boards to controllers to power boards to motors to batteries – all need to be made by a multitude of high-quality manufacturers before India gains a global leadership position.

For instance, while the whole country is working towards the transition to EVs, we also need to focus on innovating solutions for affordable renewable energy and charging stations for charging these EVs. This is an example of one of the many such challenges we need to identify and thus solve to smoothly transition our way towards sustainable mobility. Therefore, it becomes imperative to shift our focus from making incremental changes or updates to existing products, to creating market disruptive products powered by deep-tech innovation. And we believe that this innovation must happen at the sub-component level, so that it can provide long-term competitive advantage to Indian manufacturers in the global market.

At iCreate, our work with hundreds of start-ups in different domains tells us that start-ups are uniquely positioned to fast-track innovation, given their agile and adaptive mindset, appetite to take risks, and lack of a siloed structure.

Over a period of time, we have built a successful track-record of supporting projects in the EV space – from batteries and battery management systems, to charging systems, energy recovery systems, hybrid energy storage systems, autonomous driving assisting systems, and smart functionality systems.

In the long term, our goal is to achieve a 25% energy efficiency over current EV configurations through a multitude of efficiency enhancing innovations, and create a technology package that can be used by mass manufacturers to gain a dominant position in the global market.

When you look at the EV supply chain ecosystem, we know that EV players, especially start-ups, are dependent on existing ICE supply chain vendors. What role do you think start-ups can play in creating a robust and efficient supply chain ecosystem for the EV industry?

You need to understand that start-ups are knowledge creating engines. They create knowledge and intellectual property that can then be leveraged to create global leadership positions. Sometimes the start-ups themselves grow into such entities, sometimes they partner with more traditional, established players. This is how innovation is going to give India a global competitive advantage!

The mantra to build an efficient supply chain ecosystem is self-reliance and this is one of the reasons why we are focusing on building and nurturing innovations at the sub-component level. Currently EV players in the country are heavily  dependent on supply chain vendors from the ICE category, who have challenges of their own. For example, they are unable to take on orders owing to smaller manufacturing volumes or are unable to set-up separate manufacturing lines to cater to the EV segment’s demands. And this therefore increases the dependency  on international markets. We believe that start-ups at the subcomponent level can cater to this gap by catering to specific needs of the EV ecosystem. By curating our own supply chain, we will also have the advantage of being cost-effective, keeping a quantity and quality check and locally manufactured for the rest of the world. We believe that local innovation from our country’s startup ecosystem will help reduce a lot of our dependency from other markets hence solving  supply chain challenges.

Can these start-ups help reduce dependencies on global EV markets? Please elaborate on how you envision this.

With technology at the heart of the game, a large pool of skilled talent, and a burgeoning ecosystem of start-ups, venture funds, and incubators, we believe that India can, not just become self-reliant in one of the most important industries but also become the epicenter of the global EV revolution. And the young innovators and entrepreneurs of this country through their innovations, have already taken the lead on the way forward.

As discussed earlier, our aim is to drive innovation at the subcomponent level in the complete electric vehicle chain which includes the powertrain and the drivetrain. These innovations include design and concept level changes up to getting the complete product manufactured in India which in turn would reduce dependence on imports. The designs would stress the use of products which can be locally sourced or produced (not including silicon, lithium, or neodymium-based products). Once the product can be designed in India, factories can be set up to manufacture the same in bulk and supply it globally. In fact, in the coming years we envision India to manufacture locally and be an exporter for the rest of the world.

Can you elaborate on some of the interventions that iCreate is making in this regard to address these challenges?

As mentioned earlier, we are working on a host of efficiency enhancing innovations in each part of the complete electric vehicle, including the motor, the controller, the battery management systems and the battery. To this end, one of the earliest interventions we have made is to create a specific project for a high efficiency, low-cost, magnet-less powertrain (motor + controller) for electric two and three wheelers, for the global market. We then worked with our Israeli partners Start-up Nation Central, Israel’s premier agency for start-ups , to locate the best innovators from Israel who could deliver upon this requirement. Then we found a large Indian manufacturer capable and willing to take this to large scale manufacturing for the global markets. This lead to the Sona Comstar and IRP Systems project to prototype and then manufacture and market this powertrain globally.

Secondly, I spoke about EVangelise briefly,  but this is one of our biggest interventions in ensuring that we harness the innovation potential of the start-up ecosystem and collectively address the challenges in the EV ecosystem.  And in the long term, we are building an EV centre of excellence, a central platform where innovators can collaborate to design disruptive solutions that cater to India’s markets with global quality.

How did this idea (EVangelise) come about and who are the key stakeholders that you want to address through this challenge?

The idea of creating a grand challenge unique to the EV segment in India stemmed from the estimated increase in EV adoption in the commercial market. The reason why we launched EVangelise is because we want to be an integral part in the country’s transition to EVs by developing sophisticated, energy-efficient, and sustainable transportation solutions for the Indian market. The intent is to bring all the key stakeholders in the EV ecosystem –  innovators, ecosystem players, government, and academia together to bring about a huge disruption in the current way the market is functioning, and we believe that the impact generated from this initiative will be the catalyst to transform India into a world leader in 2W / 3W EV’s over a 3-to-5-year time span.

Avinash Punekar

CEO, iCreate

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