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Past Issue • Apr-Jun 2011

Deconstructing Innovation

Krishna Tanuku, Executive Director, Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (WCED) recently spoke with Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission on research and development in the Indian context Krishna Tanuku: I would like to focus on India’s R&D landscape and its role in addressing broader challenges for India. What role do you see the research community playing in addressing the socio-economic inequities of the country? While we are having a lot of measured economic growth in terms of GDP growth, we don’t seem to be including the progress of many people sufficiently. Something must change, the gap between economic growth and the pace at which people are being included will remain or might become even larger. And the consequences of it becoming larger on a critical side are quite severe. We have got a profound problem, but how do we change the pattern of progress in the country? What is the model by which we can have both inclusion and growth at the same time? People need to be educated much faster, and more people should have affordable and acceptable access to healthcare, food, water and sanitation. There is need for a new model to improve these various elements. It is too simplistic to believe that problems can be solved by converting scientific research into results through entrepreneurship because the policies required for such conversion are based on the theory of how an economy should be organised; so the two do interplay with each other very strongly. Scientists of Indian origin have done particularly well overseas. But the same research community in the Indian context hasn’t quite done that well. Why this ironic contrast? What do you actually mean by research and research community? We have a model in our head about researchers and what this community is that one should focus on. We think in very traditional western terms that to get innovation we need labs. What about the grassroots innovation of the National Innovation Foundation? India is not seen as the nation of innovation because what people elsewhere have been measuring regarding innovation is things – such as papers published, patents filed and PhDs produced – which they believe are essential ingredients of innovation. They ignore the informal sector, people who are working under constraints. Though people in this sector have no access to labs and money, they are making a difference. But economists have difficulty in measuring this real innovation phenomenon.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • Krishna-Tanuku

    Krishna Tanuku

    Executive Director of the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (WCED) at the Indian School of Business (ISB).
  • ArunMaira

    Arun Maira

    Member, Planning Commission focusing on industrialisation, urbanisation and tourism policies.
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