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Innovation in India- Challenges and Opportunities

The Global Innovation Index was released a few months ago and India was ranked 48th among 131 countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization ranked India 4 steps higher than its position in 2019. This is the first time that India ranked among the top 50 innovative countries in the World. Within six years India’s rank rose from 86th in the world to 48.
It is no surprise that India’s youth is considered as one of the most informed. However, the information that the students possessed was not proportional to the insight that they had into their field. In recent years, due to the efforts by the government as well as the encouragement provided by various institutions in the country, there has been an increase in the number of innovative minds in the country. A boom in the start-up culture is proof that Indian minds are thinking out of the box and attempting to solve the country’s problems. The mentality of- “Oh no, that’ll never work, it’s too different”– is taking a back seat, slowly and steadily.
India, is still a long way from becoming a leader in creating innovative minds but the foundation has been laid.
Innovation depends upon the Enablers as well as the Performance. There are five pillars on which enablers stand-
Human Capital
Investment
Knowledge Workers
Business Environment
Safety and Legal Environment
Whereas, Performance depends on two things
Knowledge Output
Knowledge Diffusion
It is the holistic approach towards all aspects of innovation that will boost India’s potential in Innovation and technology.
Strides towards Innovation
Five Years ago, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) was launched with the sole purpose of giving a big push to the Innovation and entrepreneurship environment of the
country. Although no stringent controls were put on the spending pattern of the grants provided under the scheme, this was a welcome measure towards encouraging young
minds to create and innovate. To give rise to successful sustainable start-ups over the years, AIM launched partnerships with many Multinational companies to increase the exposure of the students. Some of the notable ones include-
i) A collaboration with NASSCOM
ii) Partnership with IBM which focused on mentor network modules
iii) Collaboration with NIC for CollabCAD (Computer-Aided Design)
iv) Game Development partnership with Dell.
NITI AAYOG, Atal Innovation Mission, and The Better India initiative launched a scheme to reward students for solving real-world problems which include and are not
limited to-
i) Clean Energy
ii) Waste Management
iii) Healthcare
iv) Space Research
Although AIM was not able to achieve success in all aspects, it was able to cultivate neoteric innovators in the country. For this, Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL), was established, to boost the application-based knowledge of STEM and problem-solving ability of school-going kids. Due to the success of ATL, ISRO decided to adopt 100 ATLs. This will promote the curiosity and knowledge of students in the fields of Electronics, Physics, Optics, Space Technology, Material Sciences, and much more.
The various start-ups such as IdeaForge, cure.fit, and others that have come up with innovative ideas to solve the real problems that India faces, place more feathers on the cap of India’s innovation sector. Innovations that can detect the presence of Covid in a sample and robots which can assist doctors and patients are new additions to this list of problem-solving innovations.                                 The Cement Association of India now uses green fuel to power its cement kilns.
A huge stride towards waste management was done by a city in the state of Madhya Pradesh. A city that was laden with more garbage than people. The collaborative work of the citizens and the government turned this dumpster-looking city into the cleanest city in India within six months. The city earns over 4 crore rupees through proper waste management. Robotic technology segregates dry and wet waste. The wet waste is used to produce bio-CNG which is used to run the buses in the city and the slurry is used as manure. The waste from demolition and construction is used to make bricks. A command center for effective coordination and door garbage collection helped in achieving the feat. Administrative will and public participation turned the city into the cleanest in India with an expenditure of less than 10
crore rupees.
The Indian government introduced an India Innovation Index on the lines of the Global Innovation Index to encourage state governments to work towards the propagation of start-up culture. 5 south Indian states emerged at the top of this Index: Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Kerala. This increases the competition and helps increase an innovation ecosystem in the states. The reason
Then, can we safely assume that India will keep growing in this field and have overcome all the hurdles? The hurdles are larger than they appear. These feats are just a stepping stone; India still has a long way to go before it can produce a Google or a Microsoft.
Challenges and Hurdles
The first and foremost challenge that India has been facing for years is the disconnect between academia and industry. Steps like Atal Innovation Mission and collaboration with institutions in countries like Switzerland and UK are proving helpful.
The growth requires a fundamental change in the Indian Education System. Top institutions in India are still focused on being teaching Institutions. The research done in universities is not linked with the industry or real-world problems.
Interdisciplinary and international collaborations are the need of the hour, to ensure maximum impact and outcome.
It is high time that the Indian Education System starts taking risks. The recently announced National Education Policy provides a glimmer of hope towards solving this problem. Right implementation and partnership with educational institutions can prove instrumental to achieving the goal of transforming the Indian Education System.
Investment
India is the highest producer of Engineers but the number of innovations and start-ups don’t match up to this amount. Individuals will learn to take risks only if institutions do so. 
Funding both national and in the form of Foreign Direct Investment can steer start-up culture immensely. AIM has been working towards it but more incentives and remuneration are needed.
Spending on Research and Development is another sector where India lags behind. The situation has hugely improved in the last few years but we are far from advanced, in this sector. Research investments are done out of faith with a small amount of risk involved.
Collaborations like the UK-India tech partnership, which has established a 3 million pound innovation fund, can support the work of scientists in academia and industry.
Infrastructure
This is an area in which India lacks the most. For any idea to succeed, infrastructure is the most important. Good and efficient infrastructure can only be made available when the organizers know the needs of the innovators and scientists. A simple culture of dialogue and discussion can prove ground-breaking. This leads us to the next challenge-
The mindset of the citizens. Indians excel at cricket, chess, and badminton, but fail at games like basketball and football. Notice that all the games that Indians excel at laud the individual player. This proves that Indians are not team players. Unless a culture of raising your team with yourself is not developed, start-up culture is not likely to gain a lot of success.
Last, but the most important challenge is taking all the stakeholders on board. Whether creating an innovative solution for rural India or a solution to a city’s waste management crisis, every stakeholder needs to be represented appropriately. This will make sure that the innovation can be used for the betterment of society.

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