Linking innovation to education: How to turn students into innovators

Published: February 13, 2017 1:08:01 AM

The ministry of human resource development tried to get Indian universities to compete on a global platform by instituting the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF), which has a good weightage for innovation; the recent tax breaks for investing capital gains in start-ups and the easing of rules toward External Commercial Borrowings do lend a helping hand.

Founder of Infosys, NR Narayana Murthy, lamented the lack of disruptive innovative ideas that come forth from Indian companies, he was lambasted by the right wing, but the fact remains that the top Indian start-ups are simply adaptations of foreign ideas in the Indian market.Founder of Infosys, NR Narayana Murthy, lamented the lack of disruptive innovative ideas that come forth from Indian companies, he was lambasted by the right wing, but the fact remains that the top Indian start-ups are simply adaptations of foreign ideas in the Indian market.

If one were to map the history of power, it can clearly be traced to shifts in knowledge among countries. As a civilisation evolves, the focus on the application of knowledge moves from a military perspective to a more developmental one. When the founder of Infosys, NR Narayana Murthy, lamented the lack of disruptive innovative ideas that come forth from Indian companies, he was lambasted by the right wing, but the fact remains that the top Indian start-ups are simply adaptations of foreign ideas in the Indian market. There are Indians who manage top innovative companies globally, but getting Indians to participate in the innovation revolution is proving to be a challenge.

There have been welcome steps. The ministry of human resource development tried to get Indian universities to compete on a global platform by instituting the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF), which has a good weightage for innovation; the recent tax breaks for investing capital gains in start-ups and the easing of rules toward External Commercial Borrowings do lend a helping hand. But the issue is that all these are output-related moves, which do not address the fundamental flaw—that the Indian education system just doesn’t encourage innovation. Too much effort goes into addressing the demand-supply imbalance between seats in top universities and cracking entrance examinations. The irony is that teachers who encourage students to write something original are a rare breed. The result is we remain a country with minimal per capita output of intellectual property in the form of research papers and commercially-viable patents.

There has been a flurry in the private sector towards addressing this gap, where ed-tech companies are trying to fill this gap by bringing in the corporate sector to participate in the segment. The Worldwide Academia Industry Network provides interlinked opportunities to both academic institutions and companies to work together in the areas of research, innovation, academia-industry development programmes and collaborative projects. This platform brings together the innovator, the industry and the institution for real-time collaboration, and enables other valuable services such as IP management, industry-funded research projects, mentoring, talent identification, business incubation & funding.

A major challenge of industry-academia alliances is mutual apprehensions and lack of empathy towards the other party’s considerations and mandates. A healthy dialogue with a view towards collaboration can be the foundation of a synergistic relationship that can address a myriad of issues—from talent sourcing, skilling, curriculum building, and research and innovation.

The MeltingPot2020 Innovation Summit, which took place in November 2016 in Delhi, aimed and succeeded in providing a platform for innovation-focused conversation between academic leaders and industry, and facilitate fruitful, result-oriented conversations around emerging technologies like IoT, data sciences, automotive, healthcare, financial and education technology, and efficient energy. The summit provided networking opportunities through innovations, like a networking app that enabled immediate connections and impromptu meetings on the sidelines of the conference, resulting in MoUs, letters of intent and other positive partnerships.

Another related initiative was the Young Innovators Festival—a prelude to MeltingPot2020—which provided a platform for students from schools and colleges to showcase their innovations and ideas to a forum comprising investors, innovators, industry leaders and peers. Clearly, a new vision for education should include producing a highly-skilled workforce for a globally-competitive economy. The university in the 21st century should be viewed not just as a generator of ideas, but also as a source of knowledge and competence that can benefit society.

 

Indu Kannan

The author is associate vice-president, Kestone Integrated Marketing Services Pvt Ltd

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