Established in 2005 as a not-for-profit non-governmental initiative with the goal of identifying, promoting and celebrating young innovators from rural and urban India, TechTop Charitable Trust has been organising national annual TechTop Innovation Challenge since 2006. Over the past eleven years, these contests have attracted around 16,000 engineering students from across the country to come forward and showcase their innovative ideas for products and services that could help solve real problems facing the community. Every year, 20-30 outstanding entries surmount a three-stage selection process. They get an opportunity to present their months-long effort before a panel of judges, and to unveil working prototypes before the public and the media. While it is a fact that several of these successful innovators did not walk the path to entrepreneurship, opting instead for higher studies or well-paid jobs in more comfortable work environments, we are pleased that, inspired by the encouragement and appreciation received at these events, more than 30 start-ups have sprung from the laps of our student community. A Forbes ’30 under 30’ list also came out of the TechTop programme.
The TechTop (TT) team believes that innovators are not always ‘born’– it is possible to discover hidden innovative talents and polish them; we believe that an innovator can be ‘made’. In 2014, interested contestants were encouraged to attend a week-long ‘Innovation Workshop’ prior to the Techtop event, at the same venue; the course covered Digital Fabrication, Design Thinking, Product Design and Fabrication. The results of these workshops were so encouraging that in 2015, a month-long bootcamp called ‘MIT-Make in India’ workshop was organised under the TechTop banner. MIT – Make in India brought studentsfrom all over India and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, to work together to find technological solutions for social issues. The month-long MIT – Make in India camp partners with the Indian Institute of Technology in 2017, and been renamed the ‘MIT-IIT Make in India’ workshop.
Believing that it is better to ‘catch them young’, the TT team introduced a ‘Junior TechTop’ contest for school children during the 2015 & 2016 national events. A technological contest that was open to the general public who do fit within TT’s original framework was also organised at the same time.
TT contestants have never had to pay any fees – registration or otherwise. Those students who nurture ideas were advised to form groups (generally consisting of 4 people), picking like-minded students from different specialisations, semesters or institutions (if necessary), and preferably guided by a Faculty member of any discipline. The contestants were also assisted with free accommodation, food and travel money to attend the final event from their place of residence anywhere within the country.