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Campus Trip
DST's brand new Prayas Shala at IIT Hyderabad is a paradise for innovators. Here's why

The Department of Science and Technology's (DST) Prayas Shala, or the Maker's Lab, was inaugurated recently at IIIT Hyderabad and with this, the institute has opened its arms wide for every individual innovator and entrepreneur who wants to make! Set up with the support of the Nidhi Prayas programme, this 4,000 square feet facility also houses a high precision laser cutting machine, 3D printers, the SLS 3D printer, which is the only one in the whole of South India and so much more.

Making of a lab
Head of the Technology Transfer Office and Product Labs, Prakash Yalla, who is also spearheading the lab, tells us how the lab is dedicated to prototyping, both mechanical and digital. "Usually, entrepreneurs have to run to Balanagar or ECIL just to cut a piece of metal or get one bolt made since there are hardly any standard vendors out there. And for start-ups, that kind of work is a productivity killer," he explains and this is where this lab comes in. From everything, complicated tasks like 3D printing to cutting a pipe — all kinds of equipment are available here. Talking about that unique printer, SLS 3D printer, which uses a certain nylon powder which gives both strong and light-weight prototypes, Yalla informs us that this just adds to what the lab can offer. "It can help entrepreneurs create really intricate designs," he says.

IIT Hyderabad usually runs a campaign and selects a few start-ups under the Prayas Grant who will receive not just hardware support from the lab, but also a grant of `10 lakh. There are eight start-ups currently, some of which are working on robot chef, robots that clean the swimming pool and so much more.

"I can see a lot of hardware-based start-ups coming in," says Yalla. Hence, they are running several training and awareness programmes for start-ups. These are all about designing initial prototypes, how should the equipment be used and so on. This also helps those entrepreneurs who are more into the software or electronic side of things to understand the making of things better. "We always need to be cognizant of the kind of projects that the start-ups will be visiting the lab," he points out.

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