Lagging behind: As per Global Innovation Index, India is the worst performer among BRICS nations, with all the others improving their positions from that of the last year.
Despite feel good factors and optimism, Indian innovation ranks globally are sliding down. It was visible when in July, 2014, the annual rankings of Global Innovation Indicator ranked us at 76th position, a good 10 places down than what it was in previous year. The results are jointly published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation. It surveys 143 economies around the world, using 81 indicators to gauge innovation capabilities and results.
Except for few genuine cases, India has been known for its ‘Jugaad Innovation' which means taking the easiest possible route for establishing a short-term order until the next one is found. Few will argue that with a huge population and lesser resources, this is the best we can do. But that doesn't stop one from asking why is the real innovation reaching us? Well the reason necessarily is not that there is lack of ideas but possibly of enough translation. The Thompson Reuters ‘State of Innovation in India- 2013' states that the pharmaceuticals on basis of the patent activity hold close to 23 percent of overall innovative stuff done in India while agriculture with mere 5 percent is the only next in bioscience domain. Besides that the academia scores higher than industry as the government departments such as department of biotechnology (DBT), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) find their places in the list while the number of companies is significantly much lesser than expected.
There can be different ways to introduce new things and improve the existing ones. However, is that so simple? One of the easiest definitions ever heard of the word ‘Innovation' is the desire to overcome existing challenges to establish new order.
Giving his own version, Mr Sam Piroda, former chairman, National Innovation Council said, "Although the word innovation might be defined in many ways, I think it should bring about change not just in terms of new products but the processes and delivery too. It cannot be limited only to outcome but the entire process that is part of it. In plain words, it is thinking just outside of box."
Dr RA Mashelkar, former director general, CSIR and president, Global Research Alliance and National Innovation Foundation defines it. "In a simple language, innovation is creating ideas and then turning them into something that benefits large sections of society. India being a capital-starved country faces challenges apart from sustainable growth. Therefore, given the scarcity of funds in the present context, I would say "less from less" is not the answer but "more from less" is the solution. Unfortunately, we don't have those extra millions to spend on various initiatives of importance. There is need for the work flow changes to adapt to new requirements. One may ask what is common between selling a burger or an eye-care treatment. It is the sharing of expertise that matters and that make the industries grow. Moreover, the essence of education is to mix multidisciplinary aspects to create something new and useful."
Obstacles can damage innovative spirit to a great extent. During one of his talks, Dr MK Bhan, former secretary, DBT identified several of them in India. The reluctance to experiment, talent tool not being diverse enough for product innovation (don't require only scientists); poor flow of knowledge (not enough bi-directional flows); fragmentation in government policies as separate departments for biotech and pharma; and more importantly the lack of cross talk.