As India emerges as a new centre of innovation
India is set to become a significant global source of science innovation – and Britain is at risk of losing its special relationship if does not kick start new collaborations, claims a new report, The Atlas of Ideas: Mapping the new geography of science, launched today.
The findings come from Demos, one of the UK’s most influential think tanks, whose 18-month study offers the most comprehensive insight into emerging innovation in Asia. A series of four reports focus on the dramatic growth and pace of scientific innovation in India, South Korea and China, with a fourth report providing an overview of the international situation, and outlining how Britain should respond.
The report comes ahead of a succession of visits to India by Cabinet heavyweights. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling visit India this week and Brown is set to present the first awards of the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI): a £25 million cross-government initiative to support collaboration in education and research. The report welcomes UKIERI as a positive step, but warns this should only be a first step in more radical efforts to scale up collaboration.
Charles Leadbeater, co-author of the report said:
“Britain is sleepwalking out of its special relationship with India because not enough people have woken up to how fast the country is changing. Britain’s position is being displaced by US and other European countries with more aggressive collaboration programmes. ”
“Many Indian policy makers believe that the UK is in danger of complacency, with most young Indians now choosing the US and Silicon Valley over the UK.”
India’s high tech capacity was put on the map by the software successes of Bangalore. But now other places are set to follow in Bangalore’s footsteps as centres of innovation – such as Pune and Hyderabad – in new industries such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
India’s innovation hotspots are moving from service outsourcers and copiers of Western technologies to science and innovation creators in their own right. One area set to make waves is pharmaceuticals. With one sixth of the global market share, currently valued at $8.2 billion, experiments in models of innovation are reaping rewards for homegrown companies like Ranbaxy, Dr Reddys and Nicholas Piramal.
Indian innovation is being driven by a new class of innovation nomads working between the US and India. Tight links between India and the US – particularly Silicon valley – are not matched in Britain which fails to make enough of its Indian diaspora.
India has a pool roughly 14 million young graduates. This is almost twice that of the US, and is topped up by 2.5 million new graduates in science, engineering and IT every year. Yet report author Kirsten Bound says:
‘Whilst elite institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology produce students that are models of academic excellence, there are only seven of them in a country of over 1.1 billion. ‘
‘There are countless examples of excellent research, but vast swathes of the university system are in dire need of overhaul if India is to match quantity with quality. New undertakings such as the Indian Institutes of Education and Research are positive models that need to spread fast.’
There are several forces supporting India’s innovation drive:
Government raises the bar: PM Manmohan Singh has announced plans to raise R&D expenditure from under 1% to 2% of GDP in only 5 years. This will focus on emerging areas such as bio and nanotechnology, where India can quickly catch up with Europe and the US.
In 2006 a national nanotechnology plan was launched that will invest $200 million over the next five years in areas such as nanotube solar power cells, diagnostic kits and drug delivery.
Innovation everywhere: Bangalore was for a long time the centre of India’s global science and innovation efforts but following in its wake are a growing number of new innovation hotspots like Pune ‘the next Bangalore’ and Hyderabad or ‘Cyberabad’ as it has been nicknamed, which could become as globally significant as Bangalore.
Homegrown innovators take the stage: India is already home to around 150 multinational R&D centres. But from servicing global science, Indian IQ is increasingly creating Indian IP. Industries like pharmaceuticals, automobile design and IT are at the forefront. Homegrown companies like Indian pharma giant Ranbaxy and chip designers ITTIAM (I Think Therefore I AM) are leading the way.
However, the report warns that India still faces huge challenges of poverty and illiteracy which may hamper its transition to an innovative, knowledge-based economy.
Kirsten Bound, author of the report said:
“India is a country of contradictions, where world-class science exists alongside grinding poverty. India’s economic growth has averaged around 8% since 2003, and yet there are still 390 million people living on less than $1 a day.”
The report argues that India’s three big advantages over China are democracy, demography and diversity. These will strengthen India’s capacity for innovation. But we should not expect its growth to follow the path of countries like the UK and US. With a unique set of historical advantages and future challenges, India will be a significant source of science and innovation, but it will do it differently.
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Atlas of Ideas reports will be launched at a major international conference on science, innovation and globalisation, at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), Savoy Place, London. Speakers include: Will Hutton, Boris Johnson, Martin Rees, Sir David King, Bhikhu Parekh, John Micklethwait and key figures from the Chinese, Indian and Korean science communities.
Download all four Atlas of Ideas reports, each looking in detail at the rise of Asia’s innovation ‘hotspots’:The Atlas of Ideas: How Asian innovation can benefit us all
China: The next science superpower?
India: The uneven innovator
South Korea: Mass innovation comes of age
The Atlas of Ideas project was led by Demos with support from a consortium of partners, including: Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Office of Science and Innovation; UK Trade and Investment; British Council; Scottish Enterprise; Microsoft Research; Vodafone; the Institution of Engineering and Technology; South East of England Development Agency; East of England Development Agency; Universities UK; Medical Research Council; Irish Management Institute; and Claydon Gescher Associates.
Interviews are also available by arrangement on the day of the launch on 17 January at The Atlas of ideas: Mapping the new geography of science Demos international conference on science, innovation and globalisation, at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), Savoy Place, London.