Kochi-based incubator Startup Village Collective said on Wednesday it has tied up with Facebook to offer a programme to help Indian engineering students work on their virtual reality-based startup ideas.

The School of Innovation Program will help students build their VR ideas into globally marketable products and services, the incubator said in a statement.

Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijayakumar said VR and its applications have the potential to disrupt several industry areas but there aren’t established business models, products or markets anywhere in the world today.

“The startup ecosystem in India is plagued by the notion that they are copycats of US models. We need to change this perception that our startups only hop into the bandwagon while others blaze the trail,” he said. “The VR platform, in throwing open uncharted areas, provides us just that opportunity.”

Facebook, which already partners with Startup Village as the official Silicon Valley host partner in India, has been helping mentor student founders on their exploratory visits to the US as part of the incubator’s learning programme.

Facebook’s open source React framework powers the Startup Village platform and has been helping young founders design user interfaces for their products. Besides, Facebook Developer Circles help founders connect with the developer community and the startup ecosystem.

In April, Facebook had launched React VR, a new JavaScript framework that lets developers build virtual reality experiences with the help of JavaScript, which can deliver it to a wide range of end users, including ordinary netizens using web browsers.

Satyajeet Singh, head of platform partnerships at Facebook India and South Asia, said the VR programme will help create “an ecosystem that inspires innovation and empowers young talent” to build products using emerging technologies such as VR.

The School of Innovation Program begins this month and will run until January 2019. It will see top 10 student teams selected from millions of engineering students across the country via the #StartinCollege campaign.

Selected teams will be on-boarded to the Startup Village online learning platform for a six-month programme that includes online and in-person learning to improve their idea, build a prototype and finally launch to customers.

Successful teams will be selected and given an opportunity to represent their product in front of a leadership panel on demo day, to be organised at Facebook India office.

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