The National Innovation Council (NInC) published its First Report to the People in November 2011. In the foreword to the report, Sam Pitroda begins by stating the Government’s recognition that “innovation is the engine for national and global growth, employment, competitiveness and sharing of opportunities”. Accordingly, the Prime Minister has declared 2010-2020 as India’s “Decade of Innovation”, and in order to enable this and create a roadmap for innovation in the country, set up the NInC in September 2010. The main aim of the NInC is to enable a more inclusive model of innovation in India, in order that the country will become not only ‘a knowledge-producing economy but a knowledge-sharing society’.
In order to realize this agenda, the NInC has worked on several different initiatives during this past year, which include:
Developing an India Inclusive Innovation Fund
The Council has proposed the setting up an innovation fund of about 5000 crores ($1 billion), kick-started with seed investment from the government. It has been conceptualized as an autonomous entity with a focus on social innovation, to promote inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship in key areas such as health, education, agriculture, handloom, handicrafts and other small businesses.
The Fund has been proposed to the Ministry of Finance, who have agreed to kick-start it with an initial contribution of 100 crores in the financial year 2012-13.
Industry Innovation Cluster Initiative
This initiative was envisioned as network through which Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) could increase their skills, productivity, and competitiveness in the mainstream market. The clusters would allow these small enterprises to be connected to one another as well as to mentors and other stakeholders, creating a supportive ecosystem wherein members would have access to technology, funding, mentorship and more.
Pilot activities have begun at the ayurveda cluster in Thrissur and the food processing cluster in Krishnagiri, with more activity scheduled to begin in the auto components cluster in Faridabad, the bamboo cluster in Agartala, among many others.
Nurturing Innovation through Education
In order to promote creativity and nurture innovation, the NInC has planned to work with various educational institutes, and has accordingly made several proposals to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which include, among others:
_ The creation of National Innovation Scholarships, aimed at school-going children to encourage creativity and innovation from a young age, as well as to consequently raise the social value of innovation in parents, teachers and general society.
_ Setting up an innovation training curriculum in each District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) to provide training to teachers such that they in turn become facilitators of creativity and innovation.
_ Proposing the setting up of a ‘Meta University’ – a redefinition of the university system that will leverage the National Knowledge Network to enable multi-disciplinary learning and collaborative knowledge creation.
These are just some of the many initiatives that the NInC has undertaken this past year. The Council has also made other very promising and ambitious proposals, such as connecting all 250,000 panchayats through broadband, which would influence their efficacy and efficiency as well improve sharing of knowledge, accountability, and transparency. They have also proposed the setting up of State Innovation Councils across the country, some of which have already come into realization, such as the Karnataka State Innovation Council. Besides this, the NInC has proposed an India Innovation Portal, which has already been made functional, to provide resources on innovation and facilitate interactions and collaborations between different arms of the government, and to communicate about different innovation initiatives in India.
All these initiatives and proposals certainly seem well thought-out and planned, but the next year or two will reveal the extent of their success. It seems that one of major determinants of these proposals will lie in the partnerships and collaborations developed between the government and other sectors of society, from private corporations to NGOs, social sector foundations, and educational institutions. These are some of the main focus areas of the Design Public Conclave, where we look forward to discussing how best to organize and develop these collaborations and consortia in order to best realize this future vision of India as an innovation society.