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PM kicks off fund to boost pro-poor innovations

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Lamenting that innovations have largely benefited only the rich in the country, the government on Tuesday announced the formation of a dedicated project for supporting new ideas which will be of use for the masses. The India Inclusive Innovation Fund (IIIF), with an initial Rs 100-crore corpus, will target to raise Rs 5,000 crore “over a period of time”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here.

Manmohan Singh“We have made innovations in areas such as space technology, atomic energy and automobiles,” he said, releasing a report of the National Innovation Council. “But innovation in our country has focused mostly on the needs of rich and not adequately on solving problems of the poor. We wish to change this state of affair.”

The council, which the government constituted under technocrat Sam Pitroda in September last year, has a major task: to prepare a roadmap for encouraging innovation in the country and formulate and implement a model for inclusive innovation.

As for the IIIF, it will operate as a “for profit” entity, with focus on social investment. The council is likely to start operating the fund after accumulating Rs 500 crore in its kitty. One-fifth of that is now coming through government contribution. The idea to got such a fund has already got the Planning Commission’s support. Its expenses will specifically boost grassroots innovations so as to help the poor, the panel had said in its approach paper to the 12th Five-Year Plan.

Today, that aim found further resonance in the prime minister’s statement, when Singh said that the country needed models of innovation to address problems in areas such as poverty alleviation, health, rural communications, agriculture, animal husbandry and green energy.

Noting that innovation has a “critical role” to play in India’s growth and development, he said “the set of challenges that we as a nation face is not only diverse but also unique”. It is “only through creativity and innovation, by coming up with novel solution appropriate to Indian context, that we can meet these challenges effectively”.

The country, the PM added, was currently witnessing innovation experiment in rights-based delivery through rights to work, information and education, besides to food security which was on the anvil.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, speaking on the occasion expressed the hope that the proposed fund would be a trendsetter in pioneering low-cost innovation.

“Our informal sector, where the majority of our workforce is employed, has poor productivity and low skilled activities,” he noted. “They can benefit from innovation if they would exploit the existing knowledge base, including product design and connectivity with markets.”

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First Published: Wed, November 16 2011. 00:47 IST