26 Feb 2016 21:28 IST

Raliways to offer innovation grants worth ₹50 cr

Will support employee ideas, start-ups and growth-oriented small businesses

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has earmarked ₹50 crore to offer innovation grants to employees, start-ups and growth-oriented small businesses to support internal and external innovation.

“On an annual basis we will seek out solutions to the Railways’ most critical problems through an Innovation Challenge,” said Prabhu during his Rail Budget speech.

The initiative would be administered by an Innovation Committee comprising reputed investors, representatives from the National Academy of Indian Railways, Railway Board, and Kayakalp, headed by Ratan Tata.

Challenges this year

A programme management structure will be put in place to manage this initiative. This year, the areas of challenge are: Accessibility to trains from low-level platforms; increasing capacity of coaches; and digital capabilities at stations.

The Railways will also setup innovation labs in all its workshops and production units to support creative innovation by locals and staff.

Students and start-ups have welcomed Prabhu's move. “The most exciting addition in this year's railbudget for me, as a student is the innovation grant that will pave way for smart ideas and talent on board the Railways," said Anoop Prakash, an IIM Shillong student.

Improving customer experience

The idea will foster a culture of innovation within the system and a lot of ideas to improve the customer experience can come from the grassroots level inside the Railways, said Bakul Dholakia, Director-General, IMI, New Delhi. “The grant may seem like a small amount but the fund will encourage a lot of players, as it can act as seed money for an idea whose viability can be tested. If the idea is scalable, start-ups can always look for additional funding from other sources,” he said.

The Railways also plans to upgrade the Vadodara-based National Academy of Indian Railways into a full fledged university by the next financial year. “A Rail University is an important enabler to build a sustained flow of skilled manpower, a prime requisite for any world-class railway system,” said Prabhu while making the announcement.

“Plans to set up a railway university are futuristic but recruitment of management graduates who can bring in some fresh ideas and perceptions could be a suggestion for the present,” added Prakash of IIM Shillong.

Recommended for you