Technology R&D at Crossroads in India

By Dr Praveen Vishakantaiah Jun 22nd 2012
Technology R&D at Crossroads in India
Given its technology prowess and growing credibility as a key destination for IT, India has a tremendous opportunity to generate more value for itself by becoming a true technology R&D hub for the world.
The other area of concern when it comes to building an ecosystem for R&D is intellectual property right (IPR).

It’s an extremely exciting time for the Indian technology community. Over the last couple of decades, India has earned a position as a key knowledge economy in the world. This is built on a very strong foundation provided by our robust academic infrastructure and nurtured by a strong entrepreneurship culture in the country. A vibrant industry, it engages millions of talented technologists and professionals who are enriching people and businesses everyday through cutting-edge technology and solutions. India’s achievements in the technology space have been incredible so far.

Having achieved these, India is now poised for the next level of growth through leadership & innovation. This offers us with an amazing opportunity to make the country a true technology R&D hub for the world, marked by cutting-edge research and innovation. However, it would require us to follow a new thought process and approach in a few key areas.

It will be important for us to create and expand an academic ecosystem conducive to research and innovation. An ecosystem where students are enabled to develop key technology competencies and are encouraged to pursue research and path-finding efforts is the need of the hour.

The good news is that the government is committed to support this. It is already taking several steps in this direction by allotting grants and scholarships to high school students, setting up new institutes for scientific education and research (including IITs and IIITs), and establishing new innovation centres and university innovation clusters in different parts of the country. It’s now important for students to pursue their studies in order to achieve excellence in specific technology areas as the industry requires specialized skills. 

Specialization offers inherent edge and value to both the students and the industry.

Specialization offers inherent edge and value to both the students and the industry. In-depth specialized knowledge is key to successful technology R&D and we need to work together to develop the next line of researchers. All these concerted efforts can help building a talented, highly skilled resource pool that can start paving the way for the future.

As part of the technology R&D community in India, we have been delivering critical global projects from our centres based in India across a wide range of technology. Over the years, we have gained credibility for being key centres for supporting and making critical contributions to the global engineering programs. In the process, we have accumulated remarkable expertise and knowledge here in specialized areas.

This opens up an opportunity for the leaders in the technology R&D space to collaborate to create products and solutions for the global market. It is important for us to expand our worldview and think of solutions and innovations that are relevant globally, not just in India. This will also give opportunity to our talented engineers to be engaged in highly visible and critical projects.

It is encouraging to see the government announce the years 2010-20 as the Decade of Innovation which is expected to fuel the growth in technology R&D here. The government agencies need to develop a framework where innovation is nurtured.

The other area of concern when it comes to building an ecosystem for R&D is intellectual property right (IPR)—the very lifeblood of R&D. IPR needs to be nurtured and protected in India. There has to be higher awareness of the norms and greater collaboration between innovators, the academia and the industry to ensure that the existing IPR is not infringed upon and there is a strong legal structure to protect innovation.

Even as the government addresses the environmental challenges with favorable policies, the bigger issue, in my opinion, is that the overall thinking in the country needs to become more conducive to R&D.

The ecosystem challenges and the mindset barriers offer the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum. For instance, how do you create a critical mass of PhDs without giving them right opportunities here, and yet, how do you foster R&D opportunities without the right talent.

Instead of getting inhibited by the challenges, however, we need to work together to come up with solutions. I am confident that if we put our minds to it collectively, there is no stopping us from becoming a technology R&D hub for world.

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