Anil K Gupta
NIF (National Innovation Foundation) set up by DST in March 2000 has triggered a tremendous enthusiasm all over the country and in fact even in other countries. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is seeking our help in building database similar to Honey Bee database developed in India. Commonwealth Science Council has sought our help to assist Science & Technology Ministers in Commonwealth countries to set up similar NIF in respective countries. A meeting of the ministers would take place in May 2002 in South Africa. NIF documented in about four months time 945 entries totaling about 1600 innovations and traditional knowledge examples during the first competition in 2000. In second year’s competition we have already received more than 3000 entries including information about 6500 innovations /traditional knowledge examples. By 31st January, we might have more than 10000 innovations and traditional knowledge examples. This will be equivalent to what we collected over last twelve years in Honey Bee Network.
Our problem is our performance
Having raised the expectations of all those whose entries to NIF have been accepted, we have to help the distinguished innovators and traditional knowledge holders to move up the value chain. Our appeal to the Hon’ble Finance Minister is that the innovation movement triggered under the leadership of Dr.R.A.Mashelkar at various levels in society cannot be halted midstream. It has to gather momentum and your continued support to make it happen is vital. Otherwise, we would have betrayed the confidence of thousands of creative people who are expecting us to add value to their innovations, help them diffuse these through commercial and non-commercial channels and generate benefits for them, their communities and rest of the society.
1.0.Incubation and R&D fund for augmenting grassroots innovations
NIF has decided to set up four more GIANs (Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network) apart from expanding Gujarat GIAN into GIAN west. Already steps have been taken to appoint senior managers for GIAN north east at IIT, Gawahati and GIAN north at Jaipur. We are hoping that state governments in central and south India will also respond. Andhra Pradesh government has shown interest for hosting GIAN south. All these GIANs and NIF would need incubation fund to contract research at various public and private labs to get value added to selected innovations and traditional knowledge. In some cases, innovators would need to form networks to improve their innovations collectively. During the first national award function held in November end 2001, innovators from several states decided to form informal associations at state level to support innovators.
1.1. It is proposed that a dedicated R&D fund of hundred crores be created from the interest of which we can sponsor research by innovators and on their behalf at various labs. Alternatively, we should provide Rs. 10 crore every year for sponsoring research.
1.2 In case thousands of herbal technologies have to be valorized for generating globally valuable intellectual property, we need to create dedicated facilities for high throughput screening at institutions like NBRI so that a time bound results can be generated.
1.3 Rs.5 crore corpus for each of the five GIANs is necessary to make these incubators self-supporting.
2.0 A special hundred crore micro venture fund
Without risk capital it is inconceivable how the innovation, investment and enterprises can be linked. It has been very difficult if not impossible to mobilize financial support for even those innovators who have done commercial business of 50 – 60 lakhs during last few years just because they did not have enough physical property to mortgage. The concept of valuation of intellectual property and financing against it, for micro level innovations requiring 5 – 50 lakhs is very difficult. We have tried to build global value chain for augmenting grassroots innovations. We have filed two patents already and three more are in the final stages in USA through pro bono help of a patent law firm. The students at MIT, Boston have developed a business plan for a particular innovation for which patent is being filed there, design is being improved at NID and mechanisms are being improved at IIT, Delhi. Two of the innovations dealing with small tractor and motorcycle based ploughing machine will be showcased at auto fair at Delhi next month. Enquires have been received from companies abroad also for licensing some of these technologies. SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions), back stopping Honey Bee Network has already licensed one technology of a grassroots innovator in Gujarat to a US company few months ago and the entire proceeds have been given to the innovator. In future, NIF will retain a small part of such mediations to finance further activities.
It is proposed that a hundred crore micro venture fund to be managed by the Board of NIF be created to provide risk capital to various selected innovations.
3.0. Small Innovation and Traditional Knowledge Protection System
The mobilization of risk capital for augmenting grassroots innovations would require a special innovations patent system, which I have been pleading for last ten years. It will ensure that local communities and other inventors have incentives to disclose their innovations to NIF.
4.0. Technological innovations focused specially on women
We need a dedicated programme to valorize innovations by women and for women so that extraordinary drudgery involved in the daily chores of millions of women can be eliminated. The gum scrapper, modified pulley, modified stove, and many other examples already demonstrate the potential that exists for this kind of technological innovations.
5.0 Need for rethinking the priorities of agricultural research with greater focus on non-chemical input based technologies. The productivity of chemical inputs has been declining leading to increase in the cost of cultivation as well as decline in the carrying capacity of the soil. The non-chemical inputs and technologies have not received much attention. Unless there is a basic shift in the priorities of research in agricultural sector, neither will the productivity improve nor the export quality of our agricultural produce (due to chemical pesticide residues). Despite the fact that several hundred farmers committed suicide, there is no technological mission on non-chemical pesticide based approach to pest management particularly focussing on herbal pesticides and anti-feedants.
6.0 Need for differential charge to farmer innovators for testing and certification of their technologies: Honey Bee Network’s experience shows that formal agricultural research system charges the same fees for testing a new herbal product to NGO or small farmer as it would charge a large multinational corporation. This is applicable to other certification agencies such as for tractors in Budni or automobiles in Pune. There is no special track for small or individual innovators. This has to change.