In my opinion the reason for India getting such a lower rank in Innovation Index is that Indians are shy of publicity. They are shy of filing patents for the innovative ideas and averse to defending them. They are lazy enough not to publish their work in international journals
The innovative creations are popularly known as "Jugaads" in India. And I believe a book has been written on this.
In the era when there were restrictions by Western world on giving access to the latest technology to India ( computers, Nuclear reactors, weapons and such other technologies) there have been may be millions of "jugaads" created by Indian farmers, technicians, engineers, scientists, doctors,many of which may not have been documented well.
If all of that goes into print and patents , may be India will jump many positions up in the Innovation index.
Sofia, yes there are many cool innovations that have not seen any publicity at all. For example, before Dr. Ashok Gadgil (of UC Berkeley / Lawrence Livermore Lab) popularized "Darfur Stove," there were versions of it in India for efficient burning of fuel. I can go on to cite other examples where circumstances (like export restrictions by US) forced Indians to innovate and in the process improve what they were seeking to begin with in the imports!
It is worth noting that India also ranks well below China and even Saudi Arabia when it comes to Global Competitiveness Index:
That should serve as a rallying call to action for the Indians -some thing along the lines of what US did when the Russians sent Sputnik up to the heavens! Only time will tell in India's case.
Yes, when you talk of innovation from India, usually, the mitticool fridge comes up and for those of you know are not aware of this -it is refrigerator which is made of clay and keeps fruits and vegetables fresh for almost up to a week. Mitti or clay is a natural coolant and this property of clay has been used well to make a natural refrigerator. In this device water is poured into a chamber from the top which percolates downwards between the 2 layered walls. During this process the water evaporates by convection and keeps the storage chambers cool. And the Jaipur Foot is a rubber-based prosthetic leg for people with below-knee amputations and it was designed and developed in 1968!
Am sure like Divakar says there must be some really good innovations but somehow they are not able to breakthrough.
There is a Nasscom group which is supposed to foster innovation in It products, and the National Innovation Foundation of which Anil Gupta is the Chairman-- but these are so miniscule if you were to consider a large country as India.
There was this oerson who was trying to develop a machine to pick cotton and he struggled for 10 years till Anil Gupta;s Honeybeen network team helped him out, I think.
There is no real/actual ecosystem for the entrepreneurs to take advantage of and thereis lies the demise of their idea and spirit.
@Junko: regarding products (more like lack of!) from Infosys, it was an eye opener to the engineering & MBA students in the audience. Every one there knew MS Word, Excel, Power Point etc., but could not name a single thing from Infosys. The point about innovating new products and sustaining them finally found home.
There are many examples from India on frugal innovations -ChotuKool fridge, Jaipur leg... efficient cataract surgery (Aravind Eye Care), refrigeration without electricity (MittiCool)... more recently Tata Nano (the cheapest car) among many others to name a few. The Indian government rightfully made innovation as the key to sustained growth and formulated a national imperative back in 2010. If Cornell's reports are to be fully trusted, then the results are obviously disappointing.
I have come across the same argument about India's lack of Nobel laureates. There is indeed an acute lack of basic / fundamental research for a country of its size and population. But the work force to do such research leading to Nobel awards often makes it way to Western economies. It would seem the ecosystem which exists today in India for fundamental research needs to be scaled 100X!
How ever, the same is not true with literature. With 18 different languages and thousands of literatary works, I can say that India's contributions have been largely ignored by the Nobel committee. Those of us who are proficient in Indian languages and English can confidently say there have been hundreds of works & authors in literature have been ignored for the Nobel award. But that is another topic... sorry for the digression!
before we talk "innovation", we better get a clear definition on what it truly means. For this article, I assume we are talking the real "innovation", not the "talk innovation". Basically, I don't find the listedparameters used for the ranking having anything to do with innovation. For one, in the history of Electronic designs, more innovations were made by people taught in classes that were very large by today's standard, maybe class size doesn't matter after all ? if that parameter is invalid as a yardstick, maybe other parameters are qeually not applicable ?
@docdivakar, as usual, thank you for contributing a very well debated. thoughtful take on the whole issue.
I like the fact that you actually asked your audience during your speech in Bangalore if they can name any memorable product from Infosys. You made your point very clear.
You mentioned that you personally know of many innovations where people from ordinary walks of life have innovated neat things driven by high cost of imports, found alternate ways to do things more efficiently using machines or methods.
I would definitely like to know more of those -- obviously, unless you are local, you won't find those examples...
@Junko & @Dylan, I am not at all surprised by this. In my one-on-one discussions with powers that be at the local government and with educational institutions heads, I have brought home this point umpteen times over a period of a decade or more. The fact that the Indian Patents Office (IPO) formalized its patents policy only a couple of years ago and that the guidelines and documents were released even later speaks volumes on where the priority on innovation stands. But the fault also lies with the Cornell report's methodology in gathering the metrics.
Indian populace by nature are very innovative. But sadly the govenment's so called IT & BT initiatives favor companies like Infosys & Wipro mentioned above which largely provide a service at a lower rate; their model of innovation is really how to provide a service at a lower cost which is replicable by other lower cost countries! In one of the lectures I gave couple of years ago at Bangalore, I asked the audience to name one product developed by Infosys that is well known to any one computer-literate. Not one hand went up.
I personally know of many innovations where people from ordinary walks of life have innovated neat things driven by high cost of imports, found alternate ways to do things more efficiently using machines or methods. I doubt if Cornell's report gathering process had boots on the ground to gather these metrics. On the same token, I would place blame also on the Indian government initiatives -it needs to place proper emphasis on smaller & individual enterpreneuers, not the big service type companies like Infosys.
India coming in at such a low ranking was quite a surprise to me. Sure, I understand a number of issues on India, as Sufia laid out on this article...but this really doesn't give much confidence in India, if I were an investor.
Aside from the government's initiative on "innovation," what other "pro-India" arguments are there, I wonder, as far as investment is concerned.