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The National Innovation Foundation (NIF), which spearheaded innovations at grassroots level across various sectors, is now getting sound support from India Inc. Companies are now approaching NIF for commercial and social tie-ups.

While the likes of Future Group and Britannia intend to brand and market grassroots innovations in NIF's food products, power equipment company Alstom is joining hands with NIF for pilot projects in low-cost windmills.

Retail giant Future Group recently unveiled Nutraceutical Cookies, developed by three tribal women innovators from Panchmahal in Gujarat. The products have been unveiled by the Future Group and NIF under the aegis of their ‘Khoj lab-India ka Idea’ initiative. With a memorandum of understanding signed between them in December 2010, the tie-up would result in more such launches in the coming months, said Future Group.

The patented cookies are made from natural ingredients under the four categories of Anaj, Cornif, Kodri and Farari, and are rich in calcium, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, dietary fibre, phosphorus and iron, its bio-active and antioxidant compounds. These products would be available in two pack sizes of 100 grams and 200 grams at Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar stores. Starting with the six Big Bazaar outlets in Ahmedabad, the products would be sold across Big Bazaar outlets in India soon.

According to Anil Gupta, executive vice-chairman, NIF, the organisation is also in talks with another Britannia for a similar tie-up. “While we have been promoting grassroots innovations since sometime. It is now that they are seeing us in the mainstream. What makes our innovations different is that we try to sell by people, and not to people. It is a positive sign to see many companies showing interest in our grassroots innovations,” said Gupta.

Apart from retail and fast-moving consumer goods sectors, NIF is also in talks with various companies for commercial or social tie-ups in verticals like automobile, food and food-processing, technology, agriculture, energy and transport.

The Alstom Foundation has extended financial support of euro 56,000 to the Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) and NIF to set up 50 low-cost windmills for irrigation in salt farming areas of Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. “The low-cost windmills are an innovation by two brothers from Assam, which was identified by NIF. GIAN has added value to the innovation and helped the innovators make it more commercially viable. Among companies, Alstom Foundation, the corporate social responsibility wing of Alstom Group, has shown interest in supporting the use of low-cost windmills for irrigation in salt farming in Gujarat,” said Mahesh Patel, chief innovation manager, GIAN.

While 50 such windmills would be set up by September 2011, GIAN and NIF plan to set up 130 such windmills in the near future in three phases, and hope to see more support from companies for the project.

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