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Commercialization of new technologies and innovation to push the frontiers of application research at Indian Universities

The innovation ecosystem in any economy is unpinned by its industry, government and universities working in tandem with each other, writes Sunita Singh

India is on the brink of a great opportunity for innovation and science and technology development. This may seem unlikely to some, given India’s R&D expenditure continues to be a fraction of GDP, public expenditure on R&D has been stagnant over the past two decades at around 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP.

India’s ecosystem’, with the entrepreneurial output being an indicator, is stated to be the world’s third-largest, having received total funding of US$ 4 billion. Coupled with this is India’s incremental progress on the global innovation index – in 2020, for the first time, counted amongst the top 50 globally.

The economic value of Indian manufacturing is expected to reach $1 Trillion by 2025’ as per SIPRI Fact sheet 2019 – indicative of latent demand for innovation in India, including with its SMEs.

The innovation ecosystem in any economy is unpinned by its industry, government, and universities working in tandem with each other. Policy and funding support from the government for research and innovation within the university is significant today – most recent push being the founding of a National Research Foundation to strengthen the research ecosystem in India centered around key identified national priority thrust areas. This mandate demands, amongst other things that academia-industry collaborate on market-driven research projects.

However, despite the policy and other tax incentives to garner better industry-academia collaborative research, Indian universities are still finding their feet in this space. A case in point is that India has some of the highest research publications in the world; however, market-driven innovation output from Indian universities is still minuscule.

What needs to be done
To take the rightful place on the innovation landscape of the country, Indian universities must first and foremost recognise that, a piece-meal approach to industry-academia collaborative research driven by an individual researcher is not likely to bring about any systemic transformation in innovation output of their university.

Instead, we may need to evolve more holistically designed organisational models of application/translational research centers in different fields, including Life Sciences, Genomics, IT, Blockchain, AI and Machine Learning, Mobile Internet, Renewable energy, Robotics, and other relevant technological areas for the country. These models should be replicable, allowing for nuancing to the local contexts while always driving standardised indicators of desired outputs, outcomes and impact in that field.

A model that at its core, helps to develop a clear mandate and vision for application and translational research-driven at the highest level of university leadership and board and closely linked to the core timebound strategy of the university.

It needs to be developed talent at faculty and student level to do quality R&D and drive applications to commercialisation to result in higher numbers of quality, startups, and industry personnel driving innovation.

To drive the development of knowledge and commercialisation of new technologies for both students and faculty, it is important to incentivise structures of rewards, advancements, promotions and recognitions.

It is important to develop mechanisms, programmes, networks, mentoring, and consulting access to researchers for technology and commercial advancements, timely industry linkages, IP and patent applications and protections, fund-raising and project funding, legal and financial negotiations and facilitation of commercialisation via start-up or technology licensing.

And finally, it goes without saying that taking an organisational model approach is a full-time activity for a professional team with relevant leadership and talent, structure and culture to drive relevant outputs and outcomes of commercialisation.

Source: Education Times

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