'If India has to emerge as the world's laboratory and a global innovation hub, the minds of our youngsters must get an opportunity to flourish.'
'Their new ideas need to be encouraged; more importantly, they have to be provided with a comprehensive ecosystem to convert their ideas into world-class products.'
'And this is where the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements framework comes in, says Dr Abhay Jere, Chief Innovation Officer, Union HRD ministry.
The Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements framework, which was recently launched by the human resource development ministry to rank higher education institutions based primarily on their ability to innovate, is truly unique, apart from having a great potential and a huge futuristic value.
By measuring institutions on the quality and quantum of support they offer for building an innovation ecosystem, both for faculty and students, the ARIIA framework can transform India's higher and technical education landscape by compelling all major institutions to make 'innovation' their primary focus.
In doing this, ARIIA will reorient the institutions' focus and encourage them to invest more in ideas, projects and technologies that can be patented, licensed and commercialised, thus earning revenue.
In other words, a true 'Sangam of Lakshmi and Saraswati'!
India currently ranks 57th among 130 nations on the Global Innovation Index, moving up from 81 a few years ago, but this is still quite low.
Purely as a comparison, China ranks 17th, with even countries like Malta, Croatia, Mongolia, Cyprus, etc way ahead of us. The most innovative country in the world, of course, is Switzerland.
India has 1.3 billion people; in other words, we have 2.6 billion hands and, more importantly, 1.3 billion brains, so the billion rupee question is, despite this wealth, why does India still rank so low on innovation?
Why are we not producing disruptive, game-changing technologies?
One reason for this could be our education system that places less emphasis on creativity, new ideas generation and innovation.
If India has to emerge as the world's laboratory and a global innovation hub, the minds of our youngsters must get an opportunity to flourish.
Their new ideas need to be encouraged; more importantly, they have to be provided with a comprehensive ecosystem to convert their ideas into world-class products.
To achieve this, our systems need to be reoriented, and every stakeholder must be sensitised to support innovation.
Although a concerted effort is being made through initiatives like Atal Tinkering Labs, Higher Education Funding Agency, Smart India Hackathon etc, much still needs to be done to promote a culture of innovation.
The ARIIA framework is another major, concrete, step in this direction. It will measure the achievements of each stakeholder -- the institution, management, faculty and students.
Globally, the ranking systems used for education institutions only focus on the 'outcome', but in India, where the innovation ecosystem is still evolving, we need to measure our institutions using three parameters:
The ARIIA framework will analyse the support offered by an institution's management for promoting innovation, support in the form of investments and infrastructure created to support the ecosystem.
It will also consider innovations done by the management in the day-to-day governance of the institution, along with special courses and electives offered in areas such as IPR and entrepreneurship development.
For measuring the ability of faculties to support an innovation ecosystem, ARIIA gives special weightage to faculties involved in creating and nurturing start-ups.
Although ARIIA measures inputs and processes, it also places a high emphasis on 'output' and, more importantly, on 'outcome'.
The outcome is measured in terms of quality and quantity of innovation, for which the key matrix is the revenue generated by an institution by licensing patents to industry, exits from successfully incubated start-ups, and technology transferred for commercialisation.
Some thought leaders may ask if a majority of our institutions are ready for an ARIIA-like assessment The answer is, they need to get ready very soon.
The ARIIA framework will ensure that the culture of innovation penetrates deep into every educational institution's DNA in the next few years.
In a competitive education market, market forces will give only two options to institutions: Innovate, or perish.
Dr Abhay Jere is Chief Innovation Officer with the Union ministry of human resource development, Government of India.