BIRAC-News Descriptioin

BIRAC Announce Second Call of SPARSH on Healthy Mother Healthy Child


BIRAC announces Second Call of SPARSH



Healthy Mother Healthy Child



Sparsh is the Social Innovation programme for Products: Affordable & Relevant to Societal Health. The programme is initiated by BIRAC under the aegis of Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India.

The programme aims at promoting the development of innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The scheme will tackle major social issues and offer new ideas for widespread change. The scheme aims to invest in ideas and innovations that improve health care of all Indians and encourage affordable product development in the social sector.

The scheme intends to create a pool of social innovators in the biotech arena who will identify the specific needs and gaps in healthcare. The social innovators will be provided financial and technical support for developing market-based solutions that have potential to bring cost effective health care breakthroughs to vulnerable populations in particular.

Sparsh was launched on 15th Aug 2013, with focus on Maternal and Child Health. The first call aimed to foster biotechnology in national priority area - Maternal & Child Health (MCH). The call was aligned with the UN Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5 i.e Reducing Child mortality and improving Maternal Health. MCH remains one of the key determinants of health of a society. India shows poor MCH indicators especially infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality ratio (MMR). The MCH area needs products and services that can alleviate the current situation that India and several developing countries face.

Sparsh objectives

  1. Identify and provide support to cutting edge innovations towards affordable product development that can bring significant social impact and address challenges of inclusive growth.
  2. Provide support in form of impact funding of biotech product innovations (with social goals) that can be scaled.
  3. Create and foster a pool of social innovators in biotech and provide a platform to share best practices, understand intricacies of business models in social innovation and network.

The existing Gap for RMNCH

Poor maternal, newborn and child health remains a significant problem in developing countries.  Worldwide, 358 000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year and an estimated 7.6 million children die under the age of five. The majority of maternal deaths occur during or immediately after childbirth. The common medical causes for maternal death include bleeding, high blood pressure, prolonged and obstructed labour, infections and unsafe abortions. A child’s risk of dying is highest during the first 28 days of life when about 40% of under-five deaths take place, translating into three million deaths.


Up to one half of all newborn deaths occur within the first 24 hours of life and 75% occur in the first week. Globally, the main causes of neonatal death are preterm birth, severe infections and asphyxia. Children in low-income countries are nearly 18 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in high-income countries about half the children suffer from malnutrition, 49 percent of women are anemic, and about one-third of children are born with a low birth weight


Interventions and strategies for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and survival are closely related and must be provided through a continuum of care approach. When linked together and included as integrated programmes, these interventions can lower costs, promote greater efficiencies and reduce duplication of resources. However, few efforts have been made to identify synergies and integrate these interventions across the continuum of care. Despite the existing plethora of knowledge, there is a lack of consensus on how best to move forward in a coordinated manner so as to achieve progress towards the MDGs 4 & 5.(Source: WHO)

India contributes the maximum number of maternal deaths to the world, though it does not have the highest MMR. It has been observed that for every maternal death that occurs, at least 20 other women suffer injuries, infection and disability. Moreover, a sizeable proportion of maternal and infant deaths are preventable by access to proper care. As per SRS data of 2010, the perinatal mortality rate in India is 32 per 1000 live births, with a marked rural-urban disparity (35 per 1000 live births vs. 22 per 1000 live births respectively). In India, the infant mortality rate in 2010 (SRS data) was 47 per 1000 live births In India, against the desired MDG 4 target of 38 by 2015. The national goal was to attain the rate of less than 30 per 1,000 live births by 2010. Considering these factors, it is important to find innovative solutions in biotechnology to accelerate the attainment of MDG goals.

Healthy Mother Healthy Child - Current RFP

The current call under Sparsh aims at improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) in a coordinated and integrated manner so as to bring significant impact at the bottom of the pyramid through affordable, accessible and adaptive technologies.

The challenges are open for development of ‘Continuum of Care’ technologies/ products / processes / Services / Delivery innovations with low gestational periods and scalable potential on below mentioned;

  1. Innovative Immunization technologies / products for the Mother and Newborn which may include but are not limited to;
    1. New Vaccine delivery Devices
    2. Development of Indigenous Vaccines
    3. Combination Products / Solutions / Vaccines
    4. Innovative Packaging technologies to address the unmet need
    5. Improving the stability and shelf life of existing products
  2. Revisiting the Neonatal Resuscitation, Transport and Intensive Care methods
    1. Innovative technologies / products for newborn care
    2. Improving the specifications of monitoring and life-support systems to suit Indian requirements
  3. Innovative Products /Technologies for mother and newborn to aid in safe birth
  4. Ideas / Solutions to make diagnostics test during pregnancy affordable and accessible
    1. Non-Invasive and least Invasive technologies
    2. Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT)
    3. Diagnostic tests for Genetic Abnormalities
    4. Affordable and Point of care screening tests/products for newborns for detecting common disorders e.g. deafness, thyroid tests, blood disorders etc
    5. Technology to develop a reliable and convenient Point of care test for anaemia, RTI/STIs, HIV for screening pregnant women at lower levels of care
  5. Integrating IT technologies with health systems for improving mother and Child tracking and Data Management
  6. Technologies /Products for combating Maternal and Neonatal Sepsis
  7. Research on Congenital Anomalies, still births and Gestational Diabetes

Application Directions

The challenge is open for Affordable Product Development component of Sparsh only. The said Component includes three categories as mentioned below

Category A: Idea to proof of concept (PoC)

Proposals are invited for taking an Idea to PoC, which is at an ideation or nascent stage and that would aim to bridge significant challenges in the socially relevant area.


Funding Support: Grant-in-aid assistance up to Rs. 50 lakhs for a period up to 18 months


Eligibility: This category is open to:

  • Biotechnology Indian start-ups (Incorporated under the Indian Companies Act and having a minimum of 51% Indian Ownership) (Less than 3 years old as on the date of advertisement)/Indian entrepreneurs (Indian citizen willing to form a Company as per Indian Law).
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 (less than three years old as on the date of advertisement) having a minimum half of the persons who subscribed their names to the LLP document as its Partners should be Indian citizens.
  • Indian Academic Scientists, Researchers, PhDs, Medical Degree Holders, Biomedical Engg Graduates (who must be willing to incubate in a business incubator)
  • No DSIR certification is required



Category B: Proof of Concept to Validation


Proposals are invited in various areas which have crossed the ideation and PoC and are in the stage of need for validation.


Funding Support: Grant-in-aid (up to 50 Lakhs) over the period up to 24 months

Eligibility: This category is open to:


FOR COMPANIES (For profit/ nor for Profit)

  • Incorporated under the Indian Companies Act having a minimum of 51% Indian ownership.
  • DSIR recognition.



  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 having a minimum half of the persons who subscribed their names to the LLP document as its Partners should be Indian citizens.
  • The Applicant should own the background Intellectual Property based on which the proposal is made.



Established in India and having NAAC/ UGC/ AICTE or any equivalent recognition certificate.




Partnership Firms/ Society/ Trust/ NGO/ Foundation/ Association established in India under the relevant Indian Law having at least half of the stakeholders (partners/ trustees/ members/ associates etc) as Indians.


NOTE: Applicants and Co- applicants should not have any other legal disqualification that will prohibit them from participating in the scheme process and execution of necessary agreements thereafter.



Category C: Access to innovative pilot scale delivery models


Proposals are invited for Implementation of delivery models of innovative healthcare products and services pertaining to social innovation (which have gained necessary regulatory approvals) and services that can show positive social impact, sustainability of the operations and potential for scale up in the near to medium term.


Funding Support: Grant-in-aid for a period up to 24 months. The project cost would be matched equally by BIRAC and the Company.


Eligibility: This category is open to:


FOR COMPANIES (For profit/ nor for Profit)

  • Incorporated under the Indian Companies Act having a minimum of 51% Indian ownership.
  • DSIR recognition
  • The product should have gained necessary approvals from the concerned regulatory authority (-ies) for pilot studies.
  • It is desirous that the projects show partnership or a consortium between product/service innovator Company, an implementer/deployer (Research Foundations, Section 25 companies etc) and clinical partner(s). Any such Partner for execution/implementation can become Co-Applicant in the proposal. Co-Applicant should have been established as a legal entity under the relevant Law of India having at least half of the stakeholders (owners/partners/ trustees/ members/ associates etc) as Indians. Local/state/ Central Departments can also become part of the execution/ implementation/ survey etc.

Application process

  1. The call for letter of Intent will be announced on a thematic area with high societal impact
  2. The LoI will be submitted online through registration at BIRAC website
  3. The eligible LoIs will be scrutinised  online by  the SPARSH  Technical advisory Group ( STAG -1)
  4. Submission of Full proposal by the shortlisted applicants
  5. Full proposal will be reviewed online by subject experts
  6. Mentoring and Evaluation (M&E) Induction Program will be organised for shortlisted Category “A” applicants. The applicants will get mentorship on grant writing skills, proposal technicalities, Documentation skills, financial requirements and Technical aspects.
  7. Site visits will be organised for Category “B” and “C” applicants.
  8. Revised proposal submission by the applicants (If required based on the M&E Induction program or site visit recommendations).
  9. Advanced Evaluation and Recommendation will be carried out by STAG-2 based on the revised proposal, the reports of the lead discussants and the BIRAC facilitators for shortlisted proposals.
  10. BIRAC shall  process the sanction of fund after financial, legal concurrence, due approval etc

Click here to view SPARSH Guidelines

Click here for Online Submission of SPARSH LOI

BIRAC will also be pleased to explore opportunities to partner with organisations like healthcare/biotech/biomedical area of operations which include Research Foundations, Private and Public Health Organisation, Corporates etc.

Click here to view further details 



Sonia Gandhi

Project Manager - Investments


Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

A Government of India Enterprise  

Tel: +91-11- 47744500-510