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Creating A Vibrant Ecosystem For Innovation To Thrive

A smart pro-active strategy for innovation supported by dynamic leadership from the government, private sector and the academia can help elevate the mission to 'Innovate in India.'

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India has moved up 15 notches in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2016 to 66th position as against 81st last year. The remarkable achievement is largely due to performance in university rankings in which it is second among middle income economies and 20th overall.

In patent families too, the country has made stellar progress and (also because of methodological changes) ranks third among middle income economies and 37th overall. The country is also a top-ranking economy in central and south Asia with particular strengths in tertiary education and R&D, including global R&D intensive firms, the quality of universities and scientific publications, its market sophistication and ICT service exports where it ranks first in the world.
It is inspiring to see how India is emerging as a good example of how policy can improve the innovation environment. China is the only middle income country showing a comparable innovation quality while India comes next.

The annual rankings are jointly published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation after surveys in 128 economies around the world representing 92.8 per cent of the world's population and 97.9 per cent of global GDP, using 79 indicators to determine both innovative capabilities and measurable results.

Nurturing Human Capital
With new digital technologies emerging, we are on the cusp of fourth industrial revolution. All sectors of the economy and people's lives will be transformed in the years ahead. India has a unique opportunity in this time of immense change. A smart pro-active strategy for innovation supported by dynamic leadership from the government, private sector and the academia can help elevate the mission to 'Innovate in India.'

Innovation disrupts existing business models and stimulates sustainable growth in highly competitive markets. Different parameters need to be evaluated consistently for developing a proper innovation environment. Universities and research institutes play an important role as hubs for innovative solutions and intellectual ventures which are directly related to existing and future challenges.

Skilled human resource development is a fundamental driver behind any innovation process. Countries taking a lead over others are mainly those where the word's top ranking educational institutions are. Nurturing human capital at all levels and in all sections of the society is crucial.

Academia Industry Partnerships
Indian universities have much untapped potential. They can act as a bridge between start-up entrepreneurs and companies. This requires dynamic academic-industry partnerships backed with bold policy decisions which encourage academicians to spend time in the industry.

This is essential for Indian businesses to gain competitiveness in design and development of quality products at affordable prices, and eventually become a part of global supply chains. While government's initiatives to skill the youth are a welcome development, increasing private sector's participation is imperative.

Corporates should thus partner with research and educational institutions relevant for their industries and create commercialisation paths for deserving projects. Young innovators should be encouraged to go on exchange programmes and get special internships or grants which help them fuel their research and learning.

India's space programme 'Mangalayaan' is a shining example of its innovative capabilities. There are other bright spots too. India has one of the world's largest educational systems with 1.4 million schools, 35,000 colleges and 600 universities. Over half of its population is under 30 years of age and 10 million people join the workforce each year.

However, there is a need to update the education curriculum, to revamp the examination system which is currently a test of memory than test of analytical skills, and to improve the quality of teaching and teachers.

Encourage STEM education
Blending skill development with education system is required on a priority basis. Hence linkages between universities and businesses need to play an important role in innovation dynamics. Research-linked scholarships, paid for by both the government and the private sector, are a crucial requirement. The private sector must step up its involvement in furthering STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) proficiency much more.

India has been way behind in STEM investment and invests just 0.88 per cent of the GDP in science research compared with seven to eight per cent for the United States and three to four per cent for South Korea. Of that, nearly a quarter is spent on basic research that has little to do with innovation or economic growth. In comparison, China spends five per cent.

STEM education programmes and activities will promote these subjects among young people and help create talent to secure the future success of businesses - particularly in manufacturing. This is essential to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship 'Make in India' initiative which is aimed at supporting the National Manufacturing Policy.

The policy aims to create 100 million jobs by 2022 and raise manufacturing's contribution to the GDP from 16 to 25 per cent. Other ambitious initiatives include 'Skill India,' 'Digital India' and 'Smart Cities Mission.' Investor outreach programmes are underway with several countries so that enterprises can access the best practices, tools and strategies.

It is time to seize the moment now.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Dr S.J. Chopra

The writer is Chancellor at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) in Dehradun

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