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Posted: December 24, 2007
Climbing the innovation ladder
(Nanowerk News) Over the past decade, India's young graduates have drawn global attention to the country. Banks, software companies, generic drug makers and investment bankers have outsourced tasks ranging from answering customer calls to writing research reports and mining data for drug development to this pool of knowledge workers.
The “India” brand thus created has inspired multinational firms to set up research and development (R&D) centres in the country, even as the highly skilled Indian diaspora comprising scientists, engineers and technologists is moving back to set up start-up companies in hot spots such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and the National Capital Region (Delhi and its environs). All this activity is fuelling an explosion of ideas that has catapulted India from being an adaptor to an innovator, according to Atlas of Ideas, a research report by UK-based think tank Demos.
Researchers at Demos were given a brief to identify the new hubs of innovation that policymakers and investors in the UK could plug into. Despite countries such as Japan, the US and those belonging to the European Union ranking higher on conventional metrics—such as the number of scientific papers published and patents—filed researchers at Demos argue that new ideas in drug development, nanotechnology and communication will come from Asian countries including India, China and South Korea. "We are moving to a non-linear model of development-countries such as Brazil and India, for instance, might have similar problems, for which they could look for collaborative solutions," says James Wilsdon, head of science and innovation at Demos.
In India, as the economy grows at an average of 8% for the fifth consecutive year, there is a growing demand for goods and services in the domestic market. "This demand for new innovative products and the ability of people to make money from such innovation is what will make India a hub for new ideas," says Naresh Gupta, senior vice-president, print and classic publishing solutions business unit and managing director, India research and development, Adobe Systems, Inc. In about a decade of operations, this centre has contributed more than 15 full products to the Adobe suite, which includes popular software such as Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop.
By setting up research centres in India, global technology majors such as Adobe and Microsoft Corp. are tapping into a talent pool of roughly 14 million graduates with an average work experience of seven years; this number is topped up annually by a further 2.5 million new graduates in science, engineering and information technology. This is more than double the number of Chinese graduates, and almost twice that of the US, according to data compiled by Demos.
Critics argue there is not enough interaction between these multinational centres and local Indian institutions to seed innovation in India.