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Transcript of The Uneven Innovator

  • 8/9/2019 The Uneven Innovator


    India: The uneven innovatorKirsten Bound The Atlas of Ideas:Mapping the new geography of science

  • 8/9/2019 The Uneven Innovator


    About DemosDemos is one of the UKs most influential think tanks. Our research focuses on fiveareas: cities, culture, identity, public services and science. We analyse social andpolitical change, which we connect to innovation and learning in organisations.

    Our partners include policy-makers, companies, public service providers and socialentrepreneurs. Our international network which extends across Europe, Scandinavia,Australia, Brazil, India and China provides a global perspective and enables us towork across borders.

    As an independent voice, we can create debates that lead to real change. We usethe media, public events, workshops and publications to communicate our ideas.All our publications can be downloaded free from

    Kirsten Bound is a researcher at Demos, where her research centres oninternational aspects of science, innovation and governance. Kirsten has authoredreports including one for the Electoral Commission on the European parliamentaryelections and co-authored a report with Tom Bentley for the Confederation ofSwedish Enterprise on how Sweden can reinvent the rules of political economy.Kirstens global network includes collaborative work with the Finnish innovationagency, SITRA. Her publications includeMapping Local Governance for the JosephRowntree Foundation, andCommunity Participation: Who benefits? published in2006 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Forthcoming publications include aninternational study of cultural diplomacy.

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    Introduction 05A brief history of Indias future

    Mapping 10More than the numbers game

    People 21India everywhere

    Places 27The changing landscape of Indian science

    Business 32The entrepreneurial ecosystem

    Culture 39Science at the interchange

    Collaboration 45No such thing as a natural partner

    Prognosis 53Interdependent innovation

    Notes 62Acknowledgements 65List of organisations interviewed 66





  • 8/9/2019 The Uneven Innovator



    First published in 2007 DemosSome rights reserved see copyright licence for details

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    1 IntroductionA brief history of Indias future

    Indias future cannot be one that is halfCalifornia and half sub-Saharan Africa.Amartya Sen, 93rd Indian Science Congress, Hyderabad, January 2006

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    Guru Ganesan brandishes a copy of the San Jose Mercury News with the headline: The valley didnt die, it moved to Bangalore. Ganesan runs the Indian researchcentre of ARM, the UK designer of semi-conductors. This lab is a carbon copy ofa sister facility in Austin, Texas, and does research of an identical quality, accordingto its managing director. Ganesan is one of the new generation of globallynetworked, technological elites who are driving Indias emergence as a sourceof innovation.All around Bangalore, recently renamed Bengalooru by the government, littleAmericas are springing up, as they are in other fast-growing cities such asHyderabad and Pune. On some of these housing developments 80 per cent ofthe residents are Indians who have lived overseas, returning to take advantageof the opportunities opening up at home. Where Ganesan lives they even gotrick-or-treating on Halloween.

    Yet despite the media hyperbole, this at times chaotic south Indian city is a longway from becoming a Silicon Valley. The success of its software and serviceindustries is still to make an impact on the lives of the majority: 390 million peoplein India live on less than $1 a day.1 Predictions that India will become a twenty-firstcentury knowledge superpower have to accommodate these contradictions.

    The Indian economy is booming. Economic growth has averagedaround 8 per cent since 2003.2 According to Goldman Sachs,India has the potential to grow faster than China in the long term.3 In just a few years India has been transformed from an aidrecipient to a global competitor. India everywhere was theslogan for the Davos World Economic Forum in 2006.

    But these macroeconomic trends, including a threefold increase in

    R&D spending over the past decade,4

    do not convey the complexdynamics behind the rise of Indian science and innovation.

    The impact of the R&D centres that have been set up by multinational companiesis still unfolding, as is the contribution of the thousands of Indians returning fromabroad. India does not conform to the state-led model of economic developmentof the East Asian tiger economies in the 1970s and 1980s. Modernisers in theIndian government want the state to become a catalyst for change. But othersdoubt whether the so-called license state, encrusted with layers of bureaucracyand regulation, is capable of playing such a dynamic role.

    Above all, Indias rise as a source of innovation reveals its intense and sometimestroubled relationship with external ideas and influences. For much of the postwarera, India was a copier and adapter of technology developed in Europe and the US:foreign technology was a mark of prestige. That is why even now the taxis in NewDelhi made by the Hindustan Motor Company are modelled on the ancient BritishOxford. After independence in 1947, admiration for foreign technology co-existedwith a period of science nationalism, in which the government launched a string ofprogrammes to promote indigenous Indian science. During the 1980s and 1990s,Indian brainpower serviced the technology needs of foreign companies, health andeducation systems around the world, either by migrating to places such as SiliconValley or directly from call centres in Bengalooru. The question now is how quicklyIndia can evolve from being a technology server to an innovator and creator in itsown right.

    Keeping India in clear perspective is doubly difficult because we are not idlespectators in this story. Researchers were first dispatched to India by the British

    06 Introduction

    8%Economic growth hasaveraged around 8 percent since 2003. 2

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    07 Introduction

    government in the eighteenth century to find out about innovations in steel, textilesand medicine. British attitudes towards India are inevitably inflected by our ownhistory of colonialism and presumed superiority. This will be a liability if it breedsBritish complacency about Indias potential.

    Ancient excellence

    Indias potential as a centre for innovation is the product of earlier periods ofscientific development that together will condition the path India takes into thefuture. For centuries, India was the worlds largest economy, producing a third ofglobal gross domestic product (GDP). Indians, like the Chinese, were an advancedcivilisation when Europeans were still barbarians. From this perspective, we are notwitnessing the emergence of India as a scientific power so much as itsre-emergence.

    Evidence of advanced technological culture comes fromarchaeology as well as scripture. The Harappans in 2500BCE hada sewage system at their city of Mohenjo-Daro and carefully laidout streets, indicating advanced notions of geometry. Ayurveda,the science of longevity, which still plays a significant role in Indianmedicine, dates back to 800BCE. India developed themathematical concept of zero in about CE600, as well as thedecimal system. Even Pythagoras, in the sixth century BCE, issaid to have learnt his basic geometry from the Sulva Sutras. By200BCE, Indian scientists were the first in the world to be smeltingiron with carbon to make steel.

    Yet Indian science, with its deep intellectual roots, never translated into an industrialrevolution like that in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,in which science, engineering and wealth were so powerfully combined. By 1850,

    when Britains colonial dominance was reaching its peak in India, British technologicalcapability was the envy of the world. Britain colonised India with soft power science and engineering, ideas and language as much as with war.

    Dependence Modern science was introduced to India under the shadow of colonialism.5 The British founded the first Indian universities in the lat