There is a vast untapped potential in India for wealth creation by increasing the levels of innovation content in the entire economic development activities of the country. It is a tall call but an essential one, if the current levels of growth of GDP were to be maintained over the next two decades. Innovation will also be a key for sustainability-the ability to meet developmental objectives while ensuring sustainable use of natural resources.
Often missing within discussions of innovation is the role of innovation for directly improving the livelihood or quality of life of the poor. The general assumption is that the market mechanism will take care of this. However, innovation may also be important for the delivery of, and access to, services that are essential for a quality of life; whether it is clean water, modern energy or affordable health care.
Faster growth in a globally competitive market environment demands a national innovation infrastructure that connects knowledge systems to wealth creation efficiently and effectively. In the Indian social context, there is a need to ensure that innovative growth linked processes do not bypass the poor and leave them out of developmental choices emanating from the benefits of globally competitive innovations. The innovation infrastructure of India should aim to bridge the internal asymmetries and serve the dual purpose associated with global competitiveness and inclusive growth.
Both pro-poor and global competitiveness objectives should be embedded in the search for innovations. The number of grass-root innovators in the informal sector in India is large. However, grass-root innovations are not able to reap sufficient economic benefits for want of backing with adequate resources. The innovation infrastructure in the formal sector is thin. It requires deepening by referencing to global best practices and market demands. Such an innovation infrastructure would depend strongly upon a vibrant and gainful public private partnership in research and development as well as commercialization of innovations.
The design and development of a sustainable innovation infrastructure should take into account global best practices, attraction, attachment, retention and renovation of talent within the research and development streams, public private partnerships, venture and angel financing and capacity building. The realization of Indian Vision 2025 to emerge as a major economic power in the global knowledge economy would call for a sustainable innovation infrastructure.
In order to unleash our full innovative potential, we need to put in place a National Innovation policy, which encourages competition among enterprises, greater diffusion of knowledge and increased support to early stage technology development initiatives and grassroot level innovators. There is a need to foster increased collaboration among R&D institutes, universities and private sector enterprises and leverage upon their cumulative strengths in designing and implementing various innovation programmes. There is also a need for an appropriate legislative framework for incentivising the innovators and commercialization of public funded R&D, where the government, the recipient(s) of funds, the inventor, as well as the public benefit from the protection and commercialization of intellectual property.
At the root of innovation is invention, which is an essential creative step that cannot really be directed or forced. However, there is much that can be done to facilitate this initial step and the many subsequent steps that will ultimately yield the value to society from the invention. These steps are not isolated or distinct from one another; therefore it is more appropriate to think of a comprehensive innovation policy, rather than a policy that is aimed at only one of the steps in the process or elements of the innovation system. Innovation policy needs to be placed within the broader social and economic context, informed by goals and aspirations of development and should reflect a fair and effective balance between public and private interests, social and economic goals and inclusiveness versus rapidity.