View: Innovation is the fuel that will enable India to thrive in a post-Covid world – Economic Times

Research and innovation are significant pillars for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. And, yet, India’s gross expenditure on R&D is a mere 0.65% of its GDP. This is lower than the 1.5-3% spent by the top 10 economies. Government intervention through favourable policies can stimulate home-grown innovation.

Over the years, India has witnessed increased technology adoption. This is bound to become more effective when the country’s diversity and uniqueness are reflected in the solutions. For instance, a self-driving car requires AI to enhance its ‘cleverness’. But to make it effective on Indian roads, it needs to be ‘intelligent’ enough to understand the ‘nuances’ of Indian roads and driving. India can become a game-changer in innovation with its ‘More for Less’ innovation model that leverages its strength in indigenous research, and talent ecosystem to ensure successful outcomes with minimum investments.

To thrive in these volatile times, we need to focus on innovative strategies to become a real differentiator. By making innovation their agenda, startups can script a great rebound story for post-Covid India. Policies, like tax credits, can incentivise venture capitalists and bolster local R&D.

MSMEs can spell out to be the ‘Most Significant Makers of difference for the Economy’. Promoting innovation networks between MSMEs, academia and large firms can enable better commercialisation of innovative goods and services. There is much to be learnt from OECD economies where 60-70% of workers in most countries, and five new jobs, are created with every $1 million invested in public R&D.

While India has shown tremendous strength on the software exports front, a self-reliant India will also need a robust technology infrastructure. Further, it is not just about manufacturing everything in India, but also about gaining a competitive and recovery advantage in areas of stress caused by any global disruption. For this, we need to invest in deep tech and prioritise areas where technology could play a big part.

Driven by cutting-edge technologies, the jobs of the future require us to master new skills, which can help foster an innovation ecosystem. Technology is now the horizontal across all verticals. It is of paramount importance that young students are encouraged to learn niche technology skills, which include artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, cloud computing, blockchain and analytics.

Thanks to EdTech platforms, today we have a pool of resources to start our upskilling journey. Learning platforms should support diverse languages and dialects to ensure inclusive learning and upskilling. This can transform the lives of millions.

To foster an innovation ecosystem, it is important to bring together academic institutions and corporates in the technology sector. This will enable students to engage with state-of-the-art labs in real-world business settings. Simultaneously, organisations are also introduced to the right pool of fresh talent. We need to focus on developing multidisciplinary skills to leverage opportunities to their fullest potential. To achieve this, the current institutional capabilities should be enhanced with integration of humanities and engineering to the existing courses.

In the long run, nurturing an innovation ecosystem will help businesses to overcome unforeseen crises. Leaders should introspect to see if they are taking advantage of all the levers available to innovate. Enterprises today are promoting innovative measures for sustainability. Stakeholders are becoming increasingly aligned towards organisations with green practices and sustainable technology innovation. Additionally, a strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) proposition enables improvement of operational efficiency and greater cost reductions.

Innovation is the fuel that will enable us to thrive in a post-Covid world. But we need to foster adequate policies to enhance skills, nurture creative ecosystems, and create networks for technology diffusion and cross-collaboration.