Unchaining our entrepreneurs

Sheikh Kamal IT Business Incubator at Cuet will bridge gap between industries and young entrepreneurs

The Sheikh Kamal IT Business Incubator has the potential to redefine business and education in Bangladesh by bridging the gap between promising young entrepreneurs and industries.

The incubator at Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet) will also provide selected entrepreneurs with a platform to explore innovative ideas to their full potential by providing state-of-the-art laboratory and financial support.

Experts from various industries will be brought in to train up to 200 young entrepreneurs at each session at the incubator, through both online and in-person lectures. Up to 28 entrepreneur teams (comprising a maximum of four members each) will be given facilities to transform their ideas into a commercially viable product.

Five of the 10 floors of the incubator building will house large IT firms. Up to 32 smaller IT businesses will have about 350 square feet of office space each.

The firms will use their spaces at the incubator primarily for research and product development work. The seven laboratories in the building include AI support as well as two mini supercomputers for analysing large data sets.

According to the policy, entrepreneurs will get office spaces free of cost for six months, while business entities will pay only Tk10 per square feet. Entrepreneurs who successfully develop a commercially viable product will be given more time to develop it.

“An incubator is a nursing station or a support centre. Young entrepreneurs will be able to grow as they will get technical, infrastructural, financial, and mentorship support,” said Dr M Moshiul Hoque, director of the incubator.

“It will be a bridge between entrepreneurs and business entities, streamlining the path for innovative new products to enter the market. It will also help the government with assessing policy and financial needs,” he added.

Entrepreneurs will be given grants of up to Tk 10 lakh from the Idea project, according to the director.

“If an industry thinks that an idea, product, or software is commercially viable and will be useful for the country, it will come to an agreement with the entrepreneur. That agreement will be subject to certain IT rights and shares. A link will also be established with the various hi-tech parks of the country as well as academia,” he further said.

Chaldal.com has already set up its office on the 10th floor. It will employ 200 students from the university there. Meanwhile, LG-Butterfly, Huawei, and Walton have made contact on setting up their offices. 

Dcrowd IT Ltd has set up an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) Lab at the incubator for entrepreneurs and IT firms, although it is quite expensive to use.

“AI is now a very useful technology in solving various problems. Getting AI lab support is expensive for entrepreneurs, but it is available at the incubator,” said Raktim Sharma, managing director of Dcrowd IT Ltd.      

Cuet mechatronics department fourth-year student Protik Barua said: “The Sheikh Kamal IT Business Incubator  is functioning and it began at Cuet. All of us current students consider ourselves very lucky to be part of such an initiative from the outset.”

He added that he was optimistic that the incubator would foster a new age of innovation in the country.

Zaima Sartaj, a fourth-year student of computer science engineering, said: “Students can now obtain knowledge in various advanced technologies, such as AI, deep learning, machine learning, and more. The result will be the emergence of a class of highly skilled workers.” 

Cuet Vice-Chancellor Dr Rafiqul Alam said: “Considering the reality of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the government has set up the Sheikh Kamal IT Business Incubator at Cuet with the aim of developing  career oriented and entrepreneurial students.”