Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Innovation Networks: Government's Role

The role of government in building an innovation network was one of the questions I and others on my panel were asked today at the Advance Women's Leadership Summit in Sydney. An elaborate response to the question couldn't be made on the panel for want of time but here are my thoughts on the question.
In the context of India, the industry grows inspite of the government and so Indian industry loves it when the government doesn't do much. Having said that the role of the government should be focused on fostering the right environment for innovation - IP protection, tax credits, aiding collaboration and so on.  Govts should not be expected to be part of the innovation process itself. 

In the realms of development particularly rural development, governments of developing countries for long have pre-decided what solutions ought to be and in many cases parachuted these to unsuspecting citizens. Many such solutions fail because they are canned in a place far removed from the actual points of deployment. Instead I believe that governments must provide what I call "platforms of innovation" to the people so that they can find their own solutions to their own problems best understood by the people themselves.

Innovation can become the currency of a democracy in that Innovation can be of the people by the people and  for the people. An example of this is the numerous women's self help groups that has worked together in rural India to seek accountability from the local government or the many avenues provided for access to funds for small buisnesses, or access to a new market as in what, villgro,  for example, does.

We should also be careful what we ask of the govt. In the US public funding constitutes less than 25 % of R&D funding and so we have a very market oriented innovation ecosystem. In India 75 % of funding is public sector funding and so the emphasis on fundamental sciences is much more than market facing IP.  Governments can play a role in fostering greenfield research where it is unattractive for private investors.Governments can help maintain a balance between green field research and commercial IP because the private sector and in doing so can define the orientation of a national innovation ecosystem.

Also Read
Define and implement the National Innovation System
An apex role at the National Innovation System
The role of policies in the National Innovation System
If you enjoyed reading this, consider buying India's Innovation Blueprint

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