DECADE OF INNOVATION (2010-2020) was announced by the PM Manmohan Singh at the Indian Science Congress in 2010. The objective behind this is to develop an ‘innovation eco-system’ in the country to stimulate innovations and to produce solutions for the societal needs in terms of healthcare, energy, urban infrastructure, water and transportation.
"Innovation today is increasingly going beyond the confines of formal R&D to redefine everything. Today innovation can mean new and unique applications of old technologies, using design to develop new products and services, new processes and structures to improve performance in diverse areas, organisational creativity, and public sector initiatives to enhance delivery of services. Innovation is being seen as a means of creating sustainable and cost effective solutions for people at the bottom of the pyramid, and is being viewed as an important strategy for inclusive growth in developing economies....Innovation is the engine for the growth of prosperity and national competitiveness in the 21st century" [Introduction, NIC website http://www.innovationcouncil.gov.in/aboutus/aboutnic.php]
For this purpose a National Innovation Council was set up by the PM, headed by Sam Pitroda, to prepare a roadmap for this 'decade'. The approach and methodology guiding this would not be a blind-adoption of western thought but would recognize India's socio-cultural context, our economic and developmental problems, and be based on active collaboration with academics and industry both nationally and internationally. This ecosystem would be sustainable and inclusive and would seek to harness the potential of both the formal and informal sectors. The NIC would take policy measures across all sectors formally to make a difference.
The importance of innovation cannot be undermined for any society for any point of time. But this era presents new and increasing challenges, to meet which new approaches and methods are required. Recognizing India’s innovation potential a recent study (Zinnov Management Consulting) has stated that ‘India is at the cusp of global innovation’. This is because of a timely amalgamation of domestic market, global aspirations of Indian companies and the stress laid on innovation and R&D. The report states that MNCs and start-ups are the drivers of this innovation. Also both the private sector and the government have recognized this and are working to harness this potential. The GOI has earmarked US$ 9 billion for IT initiatives. Encouragement given to new entrepreneurs by venture funds is also a catalyst.
Nonetheless there is much ground to cover as was indicated by a slip in the ranking of India on the Global Innovation Index 2010-11 (compiled by INSEAD) from to 62 from 56 last year. What is vital to the success of this initiative is the promotion of ‘culture of innovation’. India needs to invest in the processes that produce innovation which will encourage and inspire people to be experimentative and inventive. As Pitroda has stated “Innovation is not a project, it’s a process”. For maintaining a growth rate of 9-10% we need to develop a varied skill-base and innovate. Innovate not only to have globally-competitive products, but improve governance processes and structures, and bring development to the people. The economy has grown but pace of inclusion has been slow- innovation can address this.
Another related agency is the National Innovation Fund: was set up in 2000 to promote innovation at grassroots level. It is an autonomous body under the Dept. of Science and Technology (GOI).