Does the Indian Government Support or Stifle Innovation?

In an op-ed in the Hindustan Times, Samar Halarnkar celebrates the innovative ideas being created by people across India, from researchers and designers in formal institutions to folk innovation from farmers, laborers and handymen.

But Halarnkar isn’t convinced that new ideas alone are sufficient to create a truly innovative society:

So here is the problem with this explosion of innovation: very little is likely to be used under India’s current system. How does India ensure the scaling up of innovation from grassroots, from start-ups, from multinational research laboratories, some of them using India’s best brains? How can these innovations be tested, verified and deployed for public applications and needs?

…Chetan Chitnis explained how difficult it was to get permission for clinical trials of a promising malaria vaccine at his global research laboratory, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi. Chitnis, the principal leader of the malaria group at ICGEB, told me how a month’s dealing in the US with one state organisation, becomes about 18 months in India, between four government departments, with much we-have-not-got-the-file kind of responses.

These interactions with government can become especially challenging when the government is the client you are designing for as well.

In his re-cap of the Design Public event in the Sunday Guardian, Center for Knowledge Societies’ Aditya Dev Sood gave some new details about one of our most exciting current projects: a re-designed Vaccine Services Delivery Kit. And he talked about designing in harmony with the way government works:

This particular product will only ever be used by a governmental cadre, and so its design and development cannot be a matter for the private sector. The procurement and utilisation of this new design, moreover, will necessarily transform the health department’s existing ways of working at every level. This particular case, therefore, illuminates how product and services innovation must go hand in hand in order to change the quality and reach of how our public services are delivered.

Sunday Guardian – Aditya Dev Sood: The functions of good design extend beyond the aesthetic

Hindustan Times – Samar Halarnkar: Ride the Second Wave

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