Dr Mohit Gambhir, Innovation Director, Ministry of Education, Government of India is doing phenomenal work in promoting innovation ecosystem across the country through various path-breaking initiatives. Working as Innovation Director he has launched many programs like IICs, ARIIA, Smart India hackathons, YUKTI 2.0, KAPILA etc. All of which are having direct or indirect impact on more than million lives across the country.
Sachin Gaur, Executive editor, interviews him about his innovation peregrination and the arduous efforts taken by the Government in implementing them for the betterment of the nation.
1. The most crucial part of any innovation is the generation of Idea and what are the plans of the Government to generate the same?.
You are right. We need to enable the young generation by developing a mind set of problem solving and for the same, there is a plan to introduce the concept of Design thinking to all the students, be it of school or college. Apart from introducing design thinking as a mandatory subject, Innovation Cell of Ministry of Education regularly organises training sessions, online and offline, to disseminate the relevant information among all the stakeholders.
2. What are the initiatives taken by Innovation Cell during the covid pandemic and how healthcare innovation focus looks in the future?
Innovation Cell was one of the very first department among various government departments to organise IDEAthon and SAMADHAN during the pandemic. These programs provided a platform for innovators and start-ups to present their path breaking solutions in the healthcare space. Healthcare sector is one of the prime areas where India must become ATMA NIRBHAR, and therefore, innovation in this space is undoubtedly poised to attract a lot of attention. As a country, we have different requirements and affordability of decent healthcare facilities is one such concern. I am sure the day is not far when we, as a country, would be able to meet our unmet demands.
3. How has been the journey and what are the hurdles faced by you in promulgating the students’ innovation and entrepreneurship?
The journey has been really mesmerising. It has been close to 4 years since we began in July/Aug 2018 and the impact in the higher education space is amazing. But having said that, I believe there is still a lot more that is still required to be done. For the initial few months, we faced a challenge on how to build the culture among faculty members first but our perseverance and patience paid off. Further, pandemic also helped us in moving everything online, thereby, reaching the last mile became possible, though with some hiccups indeed such as network issues, digital fatigue and so forth.
Government has introduced multiple initiatives from various departments to handhold the innovators.
4. What role does the Government play in handhelding an innovator?.
Government has introduced multiple initiatives from various departments to handhold the innovators. I can be more specific about the programs being offered by the Innovation cell of the Ministry of education. We organise various programs such as Smart India hackathon, National Innovation contest, and other similar programs through which innovators showcase their innovations. We have institutionalised the process of handholding the innovators by establishing Institution innovation council (IIC) in colleges and universities across the country. These IICs act as a bridge between the institution and department at National Level so as to streamline the outcomes.
5. What are the future plans of the Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell (MIC’s) for generating and sustaining the future of the budding entrepreneurs.
MIC in itself is ever evolving in bringing in a lot of path breaking initiatives. We are working to introduce a combination of course work and formation of successful start-up as a credit based scheme. This will certainly provide an open environment to budding entrepreneurs to work on their ideas and also get them accounted for as credits in their existing course. Further, we are going to schools now as I strongly believe school is a place where seeds of knowledge are being sowed and what better place it could be to introduce basic concepts then and there itself. We would be introducing School innovation councils shortly so as to provide the right kind of knowledge and platform to the young buds.
We are targeting not only to spread IP awareness but also to increase IP filings from Academia by providing the matching grant to an institution for patent filings.
6. How do you measure the impact around the interventions you are making to foster innovation? Is patents filed a good yardstick, how are we improving the intellectual property being created in this process? Any initiatives that you would like to highlight from the ministry.
We have also introduced India’s first ever ranking of institutions on innovation achievements, ARIIA (Atal Ranking of Institution on Innovation Achievement). It is named after ex-Prime Minister of India, Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. In ARIIA, we capture various parameters that an institution has gone through in past year and then calculate their rankings. ARIIA framework in completely base on INPUT – ACTION – OUTCOME model. Further, we cannot consider number of patents filed as a good yardstick, because filing alone cannot contribute in making a robust ecosystem, it is just one indicator and that too with a very thin reflection. On the contrary, patent grants may still be considered as key parameters and then subsequent commercialisation of that Intellectual property (IP) may be an excellent yardstick.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) is always very close to my heart and it has been almost 18 years now. I am advocating that for a developing country like ours, we must focus on registering or filing for more and more IPs. Ultimately, economies move because of IP. Just for the reference purpose, China files close to 15 Lakhs patents every year, US files around 7 lakhs per year whereas India files only 50K per year as per the data reported by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIP)O. I have been on an INDOVATION mission for 4 years to spread awareness about innovation along with protection of IPRs and have introduced a first of its kind program named KAPILA (Kalam Program of IP Literacy and Awareness), named after our beloved ex-President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Here we are targeting not only to spread IP awareness but also to increase IP filings from Academia by providing the matching grant to an institution for patent filings. We have set our target of getting 10,000 patents filed in one year and are moving strongly to achieve the same. Also to highlight, the government has reduced the fee for patent filing and prosecution by 80% for approved academic institutions, thereby, creating a much more vibrant ecosystem for generation of more IP.
7. Knowing the talent of young children in exploring innovations, is anything planned by the government to motivate them to accomplish their ideas and make them aware of various opportunities available?.
Yes, like I highlighted above, very soon we are going to launch School Innovation Councils, which would be aligned with already existing Atal tinkering labs. This would not only enable the use of infrastructure as set up by those schools but also develop the culture of innovation among youngsters. Further, I have introduced Smart India Hackathon JUNIOR track in this year’s edition and invited school students from 6th grade to 12th grade to showcase their talent.
8. The Prime Minister stated that National Digital University has an unprecedented step which would resolve the shortage of seats in campuses, would you please elaborate on it.
Pandemic has brought in front of us, something which we all never thought of. It has on one hand created a lot of losses but on the other hand introduced opportunities as well. It has taught us many things, and one major sector apart from health was education, where online delivery became the norm. Multiple Edtech companies were founded and many observed exponential growths. Considering the challenges faced by learners and to meet the unmet needs, Hon’ble Prime Minister of our country announced setting up National Digital University. Already teams of experts are working day and night to make it happen and realise the dream of our Hon’ble PM. National Digital University is expected to bridge the demand and supply gap for quality education in line with the National Education Policy, that allows multiple exit and entry options for an individual at various stages of the career. I am sure this would set up another milestone in the education sector of India.