India has been steadily moving up the rankings in the Global Innovation Index for nations. The upward trend is consistent and experts believe that the climb will continue.
India has been a very innovation oriented society but our challenge has been the lack of a structured approach to innovation, capturing that and building an ecosystem to take that global.
The romance between innovation, technology and our society has always existed in our history. Whether it is the discovery of zero by Aryabhatta or the mathematical genius of Ramanujan or the launching of 104 satellites from a single rocket, to cite the most recent example, the scientific temper has always been prevalent. The current government initiative to support innovation from the ground up, is aimed at creating a structured ecosystem to encourage, enhance and develop India’s innovative character.
“Innovate or stagnate” has been practiced by business leaders and corporations globally. It’s refreshing to see the same thinking becoming a part of new India’s development plank. The government identified the key elements for an environment that fosters innovation and has rolled out an array of initiatives to improve the chances for innovators to succeed with outcomes around 4M’s – ‘mindset, mentorship, money and markets’.
Acceptance of innovators pursuing their ideas and dreams as change makers, job creators and disruptors is the basic building block of the mindset shift, in society, towards innovation. The recognition of failure as a learning experience and removing social stigmas in working for small firms are essential for that mindset shift.
India is witnessing the start of the ‘Innovate India’ movement and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led from the front in encouraging this movement, by interacting with innovators, entrepreneurs and leading delegations with them globally. Innovation is getting mainstreamed in India and that is a sustainable shift in mindset.
Furthering this vision with an aim to ‘Cultivate One Million Children in India as Neoteric Innovators’, the Atal Innovation Mission has established Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools across India, focusing on students from classes six to 12 across the country to ensure that the spirit of innovation is embedded in the very foundation of our education. These innovators look up to new-age icons such as toymaker Arvind Gupta, ‘padman’ Arunachalam Muruganantham, Mitticool’s Mansukh Prajapati, ‘Mini Washing Machine’s’ Remya Jose and many others who have taken their dream projects from labs to field.
The government has also played a leading role to promote mentorship in India’s journey towards innovation, via a combination of disruptive technology and agile policymaking. The NITI Aayog rolled out Atal Innovation Mission aims to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. The ‘Mentor India’ program has enabled more than 3,000 professionals to be mentors to students in the Atal Tinkering Labs. Numerous hackathons, grant challenges, startup meets, and specialised cohorts for technology have enabled mentorship networks to guide young innovators.
Startups, primarily led by the youth of the country, are the present and future of our development, with India becoming one of the largest startup ecosystems. What is even more positive is that 45 percent of all startups in India were established by women.
The government’s ‘Startup India’ programme, incubators supported by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) ensure that domestic innovation receive the necessary funds to enable growth and solve the societal challenges of Bharat.
Access to money
For the innovation ecosystem to be successful, and access to resources is a necessary condition, which has now been fulfilled with the $1.5 billion ‘Fund of Funds’ for startups. Atal Incubation Centers and the Atal New India Challenge, which provide grants of up to Rs 1 Crore, are aimed at democratising innovation from an urban phenomenon to all corners of Bharat. Startups are now not only restricted to urban boundaries and solutions but have percolated to Tier II and Tier III cities, spreading to agriculture, healthcare, and the manufacturing sectors. BIRAC, the biotechnology council, has provided innovation in biotechnology a renewed impetus with over 500 biotech enterprises empowered and funded to undertake strategic research and innovation.
Importance of marketplace
Creating and fostering innovation is the first step, however, it is equally important to enable the consumption of these goods and services. The current government has built platforms at scale and has implemented schemes and projects in 12-24 months, all targeting large groups that are equivalent to the population of many countries. A marketplace has been created for the people through the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) - which facilitates online procurement of common use goods and services required by various government bodies.
Startups and ‘Make In India’ products can have many criteria waived and can compete at a level playing field when listing on GeM. With a ready and transparent market in place, the innovators have better chances to succeed and are more motivated. Railways, Cyber Security, and many other government departments have been anchor customers to many of the 550 startups listed on the GeM marketplace. The ‘Innovate India’ platform, by the Atal Innovation Mission and MyGov, provides a common platform for innovators across the country to showcase their efforts and identify consumers and create a people’s movement.
India’s similarity to other developing countries means that solving a problem for India can translate into solutions for the next six billion people of the world. The world has already begun to recognise India’s innovation potential and there is global demand for indigenous innovations.
India is actively engaging in international and bilateral innovation cooperation, led by the Prime Minister in forums such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the India-Nordic Summit. It’s time that India becomes the next global innovation superpower to lead the world in scalable, affordable and impactful innovation.
(Arvind Gupta is an Eisenhower Innovation Fellow and member of the WEF's Digital Economy & Society Futures Council and currently CEO of MyGov.)
Updated Date: Aug 02, 2018 14:42 PM