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3. Innovation in Higher Educational Institutions

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  • Published
    26th Mar, 2020
  • There has been a change in attitude of researchers over the years who used to pursue research in western countries.
  • Earlier students produced by premier institutes made a bee-line to destinations in the west in order to broaden their horizon.
  • This change has been due to creation of innovative culture in India due to introduction of various missions such as “Atal Innovation Mission” and establishment of “Atal Tinkering labs” in different parts of country.
  • Initiatives from institutes such as “Centre for Innovation” by IIT Madras have created an innovation culture in India.
  • The center for Innovation was set up to provide an outlet for students to try out their passion without the burden of grades or exams.
  • It has started modesty with a seed Grant from the 1981 aluminum batch, which was used for setting up a student-run tinkering wrap and a maker space which now serves to empower students who have the passion and motivation to try out an idea and bring life to it. The center was set up with motto “Walk in with an idea and walk out with a product”.
  • The ideas and projects range across all domains of science and engineering and span various stages of development from breadboard proof of concepts to full-fledged finished products.
  • Recently the CFI team “Avishkar” became the only Asian team to qualify and was placed within at the top 25 in the hyper loop competition held at SpaceX.
  • Further the development emphasizes on a frugal engineering mindsets where performance is fully made despite cost.
  • There are many student Formula racing car teams in the country such as IITM Raftar, that routinely participate and win in competitions across the world.
  • These student teams are pushing the boundaries and testing their mettle in emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, drones for services robotics, computer vision, data analytics, genetics etc.
  • Further the centre such as CFI also promote student interest clubs, which also enable contextual use of technology by exploring social needs in our country.
  • Some of themes that are explored include disaster recovery, smart agriculture, rehabilitation, education for underprivileged etc while students explore various topics across domains, the higher educational Institute serves as the launch pad for these students to dream big and gives them confidence so that they can achieve what they set out to do.


Innovation as catalyst

  • These innovation centres also foster team spirit and the ability to work beyond the classroom lectures. It prepares the students to take collective ownership of outcomes and work on the multi-generational products.
  • While individual merit brought them to these institute, working on innovation and bringing complete product to life prepares these students for the real world.
  • Innovation comes to life when the inventions are developed further in the recent context of the societal needs and wants.
  • Higher educational institutes such as IITs and IISc are all gradually transforming themselves into research and development powerhouses catering to the needs of the country.
  • The Quantum of a students pursuing post Bachelorette degrees are now more than those in entering at the undergraduate level.
  • Many centres of excellence in various domains of national importance has been set up at these institutes.
  • Robert Bosch centre for data Sciences and aritificial intelligence is a fine example of these types of institute.

 “Innovation Ecosystem”

  • The innovation ecosystem can be divided in to four buckets: 1. Ideate 2. Pre-incubate 3. Incubate and 4.Support
  • Among these, the incubation and support ecosystem are highly instrumental.
  • Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) in IIT Bombay is one of the earliest incubators in an academic setting in India supporting tech start ups and socially relevant projects.
  • IIT Madras established India’s first university based research park, collocating established companies with start-ups.

Loopholes in  “Innovation Ecosystem” of India

  • The challenge for our higher educational institutions is to enable routine transformation of these intellectually stimulated individuals to deep tech entrepreneurs and innovators solving societal problems of today and tomorrow.
  • It is often very hard to take a step back from a narrowly defined academic problem definition to identify broad opportunities where the research or technology developed might meet a market need.

Usefulness of incubators

  • Incubators offer mentoring, networking, and funding support for early stage start-ups along with business acceleration support.
  • Ideation and technology development is taken care of by the research and tinkering lab.
  • In the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) had pioneered the concept of lab to market through the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.
  • I-Corps accelerates the economics and societal benefits of NSF funded basic research programs by training scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and look at commercialization.


Conclusion: Our institutions will have to imbibe the spirit of entrepreneurial thinking, which includes rapid adaptation to the societal needs, developing and scaling in resource constrained environments and serving as focal points or nodes of innovation and entrepreneurship, to reach our national goal of a $5 trillion economy.


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