India: Challenge of Innovation

According to the Booz & Company’s annual Global Innovation 1000 study, the top 80 U.S. corporate R&D spenders deployed an estimated US$80.1 billion of their $146 billion R&D funds overseas in 2007. The top 50 European companies spent $51.4 billion of their $117 billion total outside the continent. In Japan, the top 43 Japanese firms exported $40.4 billion of their total $71.6 billion to other countries. The Global Innovation 1000 companies are spending an average of 55 percent of their innovation dollars outside their home country. And the companies are doing this for a reason.

Companies that invest wisely in a multinational innovation footprint are gaining far better returns on their R&D investment than companies that exclusively keep their laboratories at home – or that fragment them across a wide variety of locations.

The Booz study provides an insight into the potentials for the R&D in India that if snatched can engage the students passing out after higher educational institutes. Indian scientists and technocrats are in demand. Many companies from the countries all over the world are trying to attract the best brains of India to use their talent. No good and sincere students should be in doubt about the employment today.

I quote from a recent Prime Minister’s speech about the encouraging work being done in India that must be inspiring for those who wish to go for knowledge sector to pursue R&D.

“The Diamond Jubilee Technology Award to Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. symbolizes the importance we attach to commercialization of scientific and technological research. The Rural Technology award given jointly to the National Research Centre on Yak for improvement of sustainable Yak husbandry practices in the Himalayan Region and to the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute along with the National Chemical Laboratory for genetic improvement of Deccani breed of sheep recognizes the difference these innovations have made to the livelihoods of the people in rural areas.”

“CSIR has undertaken a number of important initiatives over the past few years. We are the first country that has successfully mapped the entire genetic diversity of its population. This will lead to the identification of populations that are genetically at risk of various complex and infectious diseases including adverse drug responses. Another initiative that has immense economic importance for our farmers is a path breaking scientific discovery that enables mass propagation of even asexually produced seeds.”

However, it appears a lot of gap between the industry and the research institutes. According to officials in the Ministry of Steel, there are hardly any proposals from any research agencies, steel manufacturers or the engineering colleges for taking up steel-related research projects.

I request B Muthuraman, managing director, Tata Steel, and an IITian to take a note of it and take some initiative to prove the officials of Steel ministry wrong. Muthuraman while addressing Pan IIT Global Conference had given some information. According to him, ‘innovation will help cut inventories by as much as half and add value. For every tonne of steel produced, 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted. Every year, the steel industry across the world emits more than 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide’.

I wish the government officials get into proactive mode and start interacting more effectively with the right people in the steel industry. Similar actions are necessary in all the sectors to make India a knowledge power and that is where India can lead. All the stakeholders are to use the opportunity of global melt down and innovations in millions can find solution rather than those unscrupulous minds of financial wizards such as Bernard Madoff.

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