Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Engine Of National Growth Through Innovation

India has improved its position as one of the top 50 innovative countries in the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s annual ranking. At 48th position, India has improved its position by four spots on the Global Innovation Index 2020.

Switzerland, Sweden, US, UK and the Netherlands are on the top spots of ranking. India has been consistently improving its ranking – from 81st position in 2015 and 52nd in 2019 to 48 in 2020.

The ranking is based on knowledge capital, vibrant Start-up ecosystem and amazing work done by the public and private research bodies.

 Innovation has been given a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has been talking about it from every platform. In his address to the nation on the 74th Independence Day, Mr. Modi said, India needs to be innovative to take on the competitive world. He said, “In order to progress, the nation needs to innovate. Higher the stress that will be laid on innovation and research, greater would be the strength to take India forward in this competitive world.”

The National Education Policy 2020 has restructured the entire educational system to provide for knowledge creation and innovation. “Higher education must form the basis for knowledge creation and innovation thereby contributing to a growing national economy. The purpose of quality higher education is, therefore, more than the creation of greater opportunities for individual employment,” reads the policy.

NITI Aayog has given an institutional framework and made innovation a flagship programme of Modi government. It was named after former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who brought Science or Vigyan to the forefront of national priorities and reframed the slogan Jai Kisan, Jai Jawan and added Jai Vigyan to it. The Atal Innovation Mission is meant to be the driver to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the country based on India’s needs in the years ahead.

Atal Innovation Mission is pivotal to align innovation policies of the central and state governments and promote an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship at various levels – higher secondary schools, science, engineering and other higher academic institutions small and medium enterprises, corporate and at the level of voluntary bodies.

A long-term goal of the Mission includes bringing in its ambit major research areas in the country like Scientific and Industrial Research, Agricultural Research and Medical Research aligned to national socio-economic needs.  Unless research and innovation come out of laboratories to serve the mankind, India cannot achieve the dream of self-sufficiency. Seventy years, we have served as a market for foreign manufacturers and suppliers and it is time reverse the role.

Innovation could only germinate in free minds and in a free environment, free from administrative shackles.  This is a challenge for the government to transform India’s scientific and research organisations to become the driver of socio-economic development.

Since the government wants the private sector also to be an equal partner in the development of the nation, private enterprises have to chip in the development of research, development and innovation.

Indians have propelled innovation from the ancient times, and there is no dearth of innovative minds in the country. But the central challenge in India, as elsewhere, is stable and accessible financial mechanism. Though the government has come up with several programmes to support innovation, there still is hesitation among financial institutions to fund the innovation cycle – from ideation to commercialisation, expansion and eventually, long-term business sustainability.

The current global pandemic has given a learning curve, and a sense of urgency for the nation to be self-reliant in every critical areas, so that India does not have to look to foreign supply chain, which get disrupted during crises. 

Every crisis brings opportunities and room for creation. The spin-off effect of the current pandemic has been an interest in innovative solutions for health. It has also unleashed digital solutions in several fields like distance working, distance education, e-commerce and mobility solutions. India has now realised, it should seize the opportunity by creating an enabling environment by putting in place an ecosystem that breeds innovation. If all the initiatives taken by the government has to fructify, the financial dimension should play its critical role.

Script: N. Bhadran Nair, Executive Editor, Indian Science Journal

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