As defined in the World Bank report titled "Innovation Policy - A Guide for Developing Countries,"innovation involves the process of creating a new idea in a given context and its successful dissemination into the society. It opens up new venues for economic growth and is necessary for inclusive social development. Innovation is useful only when an entrepreneur can find ways to commercialise the idea and deliver it to all sections of the society.
Technological advancements have transformed the health, transportation, communication, energy, and manufacturing industries all over the world. These transformations, in turn, altered the organisation of economies and societies and facilitated greater international cooperation through a variety of institutions and arrangements. There is no shortage of acknowledgement that technology-driven innovation is critical to development—Goal 9 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocates for resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization, and innovation.
Institutional Support to boost Research and Development
The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), which is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, regulates India's R&D industry.
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Consultancy Development Centre (CDC), Central Electronics Limited (CEL), National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), and the Asian and Pacific Centre for Technology Transfer are all part of DSIR (APCTT).
Mechanisms such as Technology Transfer were introduced to accelerate R&D across industry segments and increase operating efficiency, product development, competitive advantage, and technological advancement.
To encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the country, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) provides a framework to reduce the processing time for Intellectual Property Rights.
Accelerating the Growth of New India's Innovations (AGNIi) supports ongoing efforts to strengthen the innovation ecosystem by connecting innovators from industry, individuals, and the grassroots to the market and assisting them in commercialising their innovative solutions.
The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) assists high-risk, early-stage entrepreneurs from academia, startups, or incubators with exciting ideas in the early stages of development or planning.
The India Innovation Index was released by the government think tank NITI Aayog and the Institute of Competiveness.
The Success Story so far
Indian scientists are at the forefront of some ground-breaking global research. Indian scientists' recent contributions to frontier research and technology have been encouraging. For example, 37 Indian scientists from nine Indian institutions were instrumental in the discovery of gravitational waves, which won the Physics Nobel Prize in 2017.
The development of Brahmos, advanced air defence supersonic interceptor missiles, a variety of missile and rocket systems, remotely piloted vehicles, light combat aircraft, and other strategic and defence technologies is a shining example of India's progress in strategic and defence technologies.
India is now one of only a few countries with credible capabilities in the field of space technology. India's significant achievements include the transition from SLV to ASLV and PSLV to GSLV, the first moon orbiter project Chandrayan-1, the Mars Orbiter Mission, and the recent simultaneous launch of 104 satellites.
In terms of the number of start-ups, India is now the third largest country. This figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. The government has established the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) to radically transform the country's innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-up ecosystem.
Low R&D expenditure, particularly from the private sector, is a major challenge for India's innovation ecosystem. Though India was ranked 48th out of 131 innovative countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020, a significant improvement from 81st in 2015, the Survey noted that the government is responsible for the majority of R&D and that businesses should contribute more to the sector.
The gross expenditure on R&D in India is 0.65 percent of its GDP, which is significantly lower than the 1.5-3 percent of GDP spent by the top ten economies. Despite the Centre's greater contribution to GERD, it remains low (gross domestic expenditure on R&D).
The connection between research, higher education, and industry is shaky and developing. It needs to be fortified and placed on a solid foundation.
So far, our educational system has not prioritised the development of a scientific temperament at a young age. Even in the later stages of an aspiring scientist's career, a lack of career opportunities in basic sciences diverts potential researchers to other rewarding sectors.
The "Lab to Land" is either delayed or never happens. Many frontline technologies have been developed by renowned public funded institutions such as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), and others, in collaboration with prominent universities across the country. However, the rate at which these technologies are being transferred to industry and for societal benefit is slow.
There has been little progress in the development and deployment of affordable rural technologies, particularly in agriculture, agro-processing, micro irrigation, and so on.
Policy Interventions Needed
An empowered body is required to steer the country's science management holistically. Its responsibilities will include science education and research, as well as coordinating and directing various science initiatives. The proposed body will aid in the pursuit of inter-ministerial and inter-disciplinary research, as well as the breaking down of silos among various scientific departments/agencies. Currently, the technological landscape is cluttered with overlapping and uncoordinated institutes, further complicating matters. We require a comprehensive organisation to oversee the synergistic interconnection of research, industry, and agriculture.
Foreign collaborators, consultants, visiting faculty, adjunct scientists, and so on must be involved in basic science R&D in emerging areas such as nanotechnology, stem cell research, astronomy, genetics, next generation genomics, drug discovery, and so on. DST, in collaboration with Indian Missions abroad, may identify discipline-specific foreign experts who can work with Indian scientists to advance basic research in these areas.
The Higher Education Commission may consider awarding credits for innovation and start-ups, as well as establishing online entrepreneurial development courses in colleges and universities. Students must be encouraged to participate by developing scientific temperament. We need more policies like - The Indian Space Research Organization is organising a special programme for school children called the "Young Scientist Program," or YUVIKA, to impart fundamental knowledge about space technology, science, and space. Applications are being accepted from younger students, with a preference for those from rural areas.
The programme aims to raise awareness about emerging trends in science and technology among children and adolescents, who will be the nation's future building blocks. ISRO has devised this programme in order to "catch them young." Additionally, the programme is expected to encourage more students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).