Kochi, Sep 16:  Kerala is taking a new step in technology innovationthis weekend, as Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurates the Digital Hub by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) at Kochi aiming to host a vibrant ecosystem comprising incubators, accelerators and Centres of Excellence in emerging technologies.

Occupying 2 lakh square feet of built-up space at Kalamassery, the state-of-the-art hub has the capacity to support 200 startups, besides the 165 startups hosted in the adjoining Integrated Startup Complex. Housing a design incubator, healthcare incubator, Center of Excellence (CoE) for Mouser Electronics, co-working spaces, design studios, investors hive and an innovation center, the Digital Hub is conceived to emerge as one of the South Asia’s largest product development centers for technology startups, authorities revealed today.

As a destination for designing and prototyping, the hub will be open for international organisations and institutions to build world-class products, KSUM Chief Executive Officer Mr John M Thomas said.

The CoE aims to groom shelter-related ideas and innovations, and will function as a one-stop centre for all product-design and development activities for software and hardware components. These include all sectors and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented reality/virtual reality, internet of things and natural language processing.

Initially, the Hub will accommodate 200 startups giving direct employment opportunities to 2,500 talents, Mr Thomas told a press conference here.

Saturday’s function will be presided over by Minister for Law, Industries and Coir Shri P. Rajeev, while Shri Hibi Eden, MP, will deliver a felicitation address. The other speakers will be Chief Secretary Dr V.P. Joy and Infosys Co-founder Shri Kris Gopalakrishnan, besides Kalamassery Municipal Chairperson Smt Seema Kannan and Vice-Chairperson Smt Salma Aboobacker. Principal Secretary (Electronics & IT) Shri Biswanath Sinha will welcome the gathering, while KSUM CEO John M. Thomas will propose thanks.

The digital hub comes at a time when Kerala is giving extra focus on building the end-to-end process from ideation stage to prototype stage of a product, capitalising on its unique combination of assets. The coastal state, with its logistical and maritime advantage, has a rich talent in engineering design, a Digital Fabrication Network, a Super Fablab and a hardware incubator named Maker Village, besides small-scale manufacturing clusters, industrial corridors and maker communities.

“The state machineries have taken efforts to democratise digital fabrication methods through such initiatives,” the KSUM CEO said. “This gives Kerala an opportunity to become the ideal destination for designing and prototyping.”

The digital hub will upgrade the skills of the younger generations in design for manufacturing as well as for rapid prototyping, in association with super fablab and academic institutions. It will design studios established as a plug-and-play facility for designers by leveraging the existing fablabs and mini fablabs. It can help maptalent pools and private prototyping centers to meet excessive demand from the existing system.

Further, the digital hub can minimise entry barriers for hardware startups to relocate, thus create more opportunities for designers and woo talents into this sector. It can help widen the consumption base and channelise inventory supply chain to cater to the prototyping consumable needs.

The digital hub is the latest addition to KSUM’s Technology Innovation Zone (TIZ) as a global innovation hub for several technology sectors. The zone aims to create world-class infrastructure facilities for multi-sector technology incubators to incubate their startups and to support homegrown enterprises, Mr John revealed.

TIZ is being established in a 13.2-acre land at KINFRA Hitech Park in Kalamassery, envisioning a one-stop destination for technology innovation that encapsulates everything from the consolidation of the idea, to its incubation, acceleration and to mentor support to set up an enterprise and even a squadron of angel investors ready to invest in a bankable idea. The Zone will act as a self-sustained ecosystem which serves all the interests of the young innovators and entrepreneurs.

TIZ has a total built-up area of 4 lakh sq ft. Currently its first phase is operational with two buildings: Integrated Startup Complex (ISC) and Biotechnology Incubation Centre, with an overall built-up area of 2.3 lakh sq ft.