Getting defensive won't help India's 'innovation' cause, Narayana Murthy points out some vital elements!

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While addressing students during their convocation ceremony at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, NR Narayana Murthy , Infosys co-founder and chairman emeritus wanted to know if there was a single earth-shaking invention done in India. In other words, he asked whether the country had contributed anything credible towards the overall development of science in the world.

When the Indian scientist community came to know about his views soon after he finished his speech at the premiere institution last week, the reaction was predictable - "what was he (Murthy) speaking after all? And why was he speaking about innovation? What was his contribution to the scientific innovation in the world? Could someone please stand up and explain?"

The response was defensive, mostly rhetoric. The reason was obvious; Murthy has hit the community where it hurts. The question is why was it wrong to take stock of India's contribution in the field of research and innovation in the last 60 years?

In the convocation ceremony, Murthy has merely reiterated what most of the Indian scientists have often said about the country's contribution towards research and innovation. He did not raise this question on an alien platform. He brought it up where it belonged to.

It was, more or less, a wake-up call, pointed towards the students.

If a country like Ireland could contribute in terms of research and innovation, why can't India? Despite all social and internal conflicts, Iran and Israel have turned themselves into a research hub. On the other hand, India, which has all the resources and infrastructure, had missed the bus.

The Infosys co-founder has pointed out two reasons - lack of infrastructure and focus on research - that made the country lags behind in the area of research and innovation. No doubt, India has made remarkable achievements in the field of space research. How did it happen? India has put focus on space research, encouraged new talents to work in this field and helped them with better infrastructure. The result is successful Mars Mission which many of the developed countries could not achieve and are jealous of.

Another example is Green Revolution , which became reality in the country with the help of improved infrastructure and a dedicated team of scientists.

Now shifting our attention again to the premier institutes in the country, when we invest enormous amount of money to provide resources to such institutes, it is obvious to expect new results. The government invests a lot every year to provide required resources and infrastructure to IITs, IIMs and IISc. Therefore, the question will arise - where are the results? What are these institutes doing?

Scientists will defend themselves, saying research is a continuous process and it takes time to arrive at some conclusion. They will argue that they should not be compared with international institutions like MIT and Harvard. True. But, if you are not diversifying your research stream, even after you were provided with resources, it would be unfair and somebody will raise a question.

One reason behind India's failure to contribute towards research and innovation is Indian scientists who are moving outside the country and winning accolades for their contribution in science. Getting nostalgic and tracing Indian roots apart, media also has a serious task at hand, that of aiding introspection.

Mark F Schultz, senior scholar, centre for the protection of Intellectual Property (IP), George Mason University School of Law, had written that innovation in India was lagging owing to underdeveloped IP system.

He wrote, stating a research that showed stronger IP rights are associated with many positive outcomes likely to help a nation bridge the innovation gap. "Nations that protect intellectual property file more patents, have more researchers, invest more in R&D, and enjoy more Foreign Direct Investment," Schultz had said.

(Image: Indiatimes)
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