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India can't be complacent on innovation (Column: Active Voice)


The New Year is upon us. It has been 17 years into the and if one word has to define this period, 'is bound to reign supreme. Technological in every field has taken place at such a rapid pace over the last two decades that most of it is taken as given.

It is hard to imagine that a world obsessed with acronyms like AI, VR, and EV was still very much dependent on the post office barely 17 years ago. It is unfathomable and potentially scary from some aspects as to what the future holds for mankind.

With the world innovating at breakneck speed, no country wants to be left behind the curve. is the latest kid in the block. It is no longer the low-labour-cost country that makes it the of the world. Now, the country's in its strong and advanced production knowhow. In fact, in its 13 Five Year Plan that began in May 2016, laid out a roadmap to become an "innovative nation" by 2020 and an "international leader" by 2030.

Even before these goals were set, the country had doubled its spending on R&D between 2000 and 2016 from 0.9 percent of its GDP to 2.1 percent. It is no surprise then, that the greater Shenzhen-Hong Kong area finds itself ranked second in terms of global inventive clusters as measured by patents.

It is clearly time for to adopt as a paradigm and a long-term principle to be competitive on the world stage. Like China, it is critical that works upon building an enabling conducive environment for to take place. This includes, but is not limited to, access to technology required for scaling, availability of funding, leadership and skill, and also a market for all this.

As per the Global Index, has shown consistent improvement since 2011 and its performance has been ahead of the average lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries of the world. However, the State Report 2017 has brought out some interesting highlights on the state of in

First, on a national scale lags considerably behind the major economies of the world. As of 2015, spent 0.88 percent of its GDP on R&D while Brazil, the US and spent 1.2, 2.8 and 3.4 percent respectively. As for patents, had filed 17 per million people while Brazil, China, the US and were at 34, 541, 910 and 3,716 respectively. Finally, the India's share of global publications stood at 4.2 percent while and the US were at 20.2 and 25.3 respectively. Therefore, there remains a vast gap for to cover if it to catch up with the global economies in the field of

It is not a preposterous argument to make that the economy which stays ahead in the race for will dictate global dominance. As things have panned out over the last year, USA seems to have been ceding that ground to Denying realities like climate change to support industries of yesteryears like coal and closing doors on the very people who built the country seem inimical to the innovative spirit that has come to define A huge vacuum will probably be left behind, and needs to grasp the opportunity while the time is ripe.

Second, coming to the sub-national level, shows a very mixed performance. Delhi, and were the most innovative states in 2017. A three-way categorisation was also done based on the classification for developmental stages of economies by Michael Porter, considered the guru of competiveness. Delhi, and turned out to be the leading states in their respective stages.

A striking feature of the state performance on is that there is a clear demarcation running across where the western and southern belt of states score considerable better than the rest of the country. This belt of states also performs economically well than the rest of India, but per capita income explains only 60 percent of the scores. Higher industry presence and better prevalence of institutes of higher education along with improving linkages between the two has a substantial impact making the environment conducive for across these states.

However, there are a multitude of challenges faced even by these states in undertaking The first and most basic one is that the university system in lacks focus on research and Inadequate funding dedicated to education does not help in building adequate facilities for research either. Second, the patenting process is quite cumbersome in and significant amount of resources need to be devoted towards it, something which the industry typically lacks. Finally, lacks stringent regulations and IP laws, which hinder any innovative activities. It is a telling fact that in the Index released by the US Chamber of Commerce, which ranks 45 economies based on patents, trademarks, copyrights, enforcement and international treaties, ranks 43.

There is simply no time for complacency for when it comes to matters of The country has a perfect opportunity to get onboard the train that is swiftly chugging away beyond its reach. Almost 15 percent of the start-ups in Silicon Valley have been founded by Indians. We clearly have the capability to do the same in Only the enabling factors are lacking.

(is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, at has contributed to the article)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 02 2018. 17:38 IST