Tamil Nadu could not have asked for more. Out of the five universities that have been selected to launch a new Central initiative to foster biotech innovation at university level, two are from the southern State.

The star universities from Tamil Nadu which feature in the select list are Chennai-based Anna University and Coimbatore-based Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

The other three universities that have been selected from other parts of the country for the new initiative are: University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Punjab University, Chandigarh, and University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

The new initiative is being launched jointly by the National Innovation Council [NInC] chaired by Sam Pitroda and the Department of Biotechnology [DBT]’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council [BIRAC].

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Pitroda said a total of 22 universities had applied for being included under the initiative and of them five were selected to start the scheme. The numbers would be steadily increased over time.

Under the initiative, post-masters and post-doctoral students would be provided with all the facilities needed to translate promising research findings into useful innovations, including support for preparing business plans and ensuring proper protection of intellectual property rights.

Among other things, the students would be provided with fellowships — Rs. 50,000 per month for post-doctoral students and about Rs. 30,000 for post-masters students. The fellowships would be for three years.

DBT Secretary, K. Vijayraghavan, said all the programmes that are currently operated by BIRAC to promote industrial research in the area of biotechnology would be accessible to those participating under the new initiative, which would also involve the participation of the industry.

Emphasising that there had been positive responses from the universities, industries and other stakeholders, he expressed confidence that the initiative could start showing results as early as the end of the year.