COLLOQUIA - NURTURING INNOVATION
Mr. Deepak Bhatnagar
Date: 13 December, 2010
Mr. Deepak Bhatnagar is one of the most renowned professors of all times. Currently he heads the Centre for International Trade in Technology department at IIFT. With over twenty years of industry experience, he has also worked in TIFAC for 19 years where he looked after technology development projects in the area of metals and materials. Mr. Deepak also has many publications in his name for which he has even acquired international acclaim.
The event kick started with the students expressing their views on innovation. Mr. Deepak wanted the students to understand the difference between discovery, invention and innovation. Discovery is when one finds something which already exists but is not yet known to the world, invention is when one finds something new and innovation is the application of inventions to industrial and commercial purposes. A small child is the biggest inventor of all times because a child is very curious and it tries to question each and every aspect of life. But as it grows, the societal norms restrict it and that is how the creativity dies out in a child. But there are a few people who refuse to abide by those norms and thus succeed in bringing out the creativity in them. They are known by the world as "The innovators". Innovation has an altogether a different meaning in economic context where it means profitable change.
Mr. Deepak then moved onto the discuss the innovation cycle which is a vicious cycle starting with creativity, followed by practical application, technological diffusion, feedback and all the way back to creativity. He discussed the Technology Innovation Chain wherein he explained the different types of research starting from basic research to applied research and commercialisation. The discussion then headed towards TIFAC and fostering innovation through Technopreneur Promotion Program (TePP) and Technology Refinement & Marketing Programme (TREMAP).
TePP was an initiative taken up in 1998 to promote independent innovators to become technology based entrepreneurs. So far it has supported more than 250 projects and continues to be a ray of hope for many youngsters. The TePP support includes financial support for R&D, patent support, scientific and technical support, market information etc. He also described in dept, the funding pattern adopted by TePP. There are about 18 TePP outreach centres across the country for support.
The discussion headed towards the formulation of project proposal and the procedure involved in the project evaluation which provided a fair insight into the whole process. The next fifteen to twenty minutes centred on some prototypes developed by people from all walks of life under TePP. Those breakthrough innovations were a testimony to the immense wealth of talent in our country!
Mr. Deepak also discussed the various challenges faced by TePP such as difficulty in reaching out to the grass root level, experimenting with outreach centers etc. Next he discussed Tremap (Technology Refinement and Marketing Programme).The main aim of the program is to facilitate linkages of developed products and innovative technologies with the market. It is the technology commercialisation process which describes as to how this linking can be achieved. He discussed the famous dilemma faced by young innovators which is whether to become an innovator or an investor or both! The onus is on the innovators to decide if they would want to rely on external funding or gather their own funds!
Mr. Deepak emphasised on the need for Home Grown Technology (HGT) and how it has succeeded in promoting Indian capabilities for commercialising novel products and services. Currently there are about 77 projects supported under this, out of which 21 projects have been commercialised. He moved on to describe numerous success stories in different sectors under the aegis of Home Grown Technology initiative. A major breakthrough in innovation funding was Technology Development Board (TDB) constituted in 1996 by the government of India to provide financial assistance to the industrial concerns and other commercial applications. It is a unique funding institution that encourages industries to venture into high risk areas. Its major strengths include acknowledged experts and transparency in processing of project proposals. It provides loans up to 50% of the project cost and the implementation period is within 3 years. The main investment strategy followed by TDB is early stage funding of companies to become globally competitive. TDB provides assistance in the areas of health, road transport, engineering, chemicals, agriculture etc.
The last few minutes of the session dealt with the major challenges in commercialisation and the funding provided by TDB for the Reva Electric Car Company. He also discussed the various factors that led to the failure of the Reva project which ultimately was taken over by Mahindra and Mahindra. He ended the session with a thought provoking advice to the students that if we take up jobs in this sector then we should see to it that the government funded projects that are socially beneficial but have reached an impasse due to various factors are given assistance for completion. The onus is on us to lead and the crowd will follow!
By - Aditi P. Menon