The tradition of science of scientific temper is inherent in humans, but prudent nurturing is needed for using societal welfare development. The great challenge remains over tapping the astute mind at the apt opportune moment. India’s huge young population presents a demographic window of opportunity for streamlined development.
What is innovation?
Innovation is often confused with invention and discovery. Innovation is essentially converting knowledge into societal well being and creating new opportunities, including an economic component.
Innovation is a culture. We need to focus on inculcating that culture in our people from an early stage.
How do we hunt for innovations which are affordable and appropriate?
“The minds on the margin of the economy are not marginal minds”. They are in fact the source of innovative thought processes. In order to have relevant innovations, we need to connect with people at large. This means, connecting not only with researchers and highly educated, but also with people who are aware of local living conditions. Even though science is global, the application of technology from science is local. So we must focus on local needs and local solutions. This new paradigm is called “glocal” which is a combination of global and local.
Department of Science and Technology (of Govt of India) has many different programs to hunt for grass root innovations. One of its organizations called “National Innovation Foundation”, which connects with students/farmers/local people and many others, has compiled about 200,000 innovations. Many of these innovations have been patented and commercialized. India is partnering with other countries and sharing its innovations with those countries which have common problems and solutions.
The Dept of Science and Technology has about 80 “technology-business incubators” spread across the country. They house about 2000 technology start-ups. The Dept is trying to scale it up to 10,000 technology based start-ups in about 4 years.
In the field of health sector, mobile applications are being developed which are providing valuable diagnostic information leading to integrated and affordable healthcare. It is like “lab in jeb”. One potential sector which has lot of scope for innovation is ITI. It needs to be encouraged and talent should be harnessed.
How do we make research and development a lucrative career and stop brain drain?
There are many opportunities in R&D more so today than ever before. There are big R&D companies existing in India. For example, in Bangalore GE R&D centre has 5000 scientists and engineers. The govt of India supports a network of R&D labs across the country which offer R&D career. There is no scarcity of R&D opportunities. The need of the hour is to sensitize people about R&D career. We need to motivate our young people to take up creativity.
Many global R&D companies relocate from India and move to other locations like China, since we lack personnel trained in R&D.
How efficiently have we been handling IPR?
Patents are important especially for start-ups who innovate and commercialize products and processes for local issues. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has been working hard to streamline the patent process of innovations – like decreasing the time it takes to obtain a patent. The global benchmark is 2 years to grant a patent from the time it is filed for patent.