I wasn’t the science teacher’s pet in school. And I can’t confess I know too many scientists either. Yet, over time, I’ve come to appreciate the role of science in our society. And I have often wondered why India produces so many brilliant minds in the world of science—each of whom leave their impact on our world, but choose to work out of laboratories many thousands of miles away.
I hear the all-too-familiar reasons. That our scientists are prone to writing academic papers, but can’t apply their knowledge to solving real-life problems. Our research institutions don’t have a culture that rewards the discovery of new ideas. Our innovation system is broken. So, even the few ideas that do come through don’t end up getting funded. And what’s more, our business people don’t see the value of research. They’d rather rely on that much-abused term: Jugaad.
So how is it that countries like China, Singapore, Korea and Israel have almost a decade’s lead over us in research-based innovation? Amidst all the hoopla about the India growth story, this is an area that never quite gets its place in the sun. We’re instead more involved in debating whether the Eurozone will collapse.
While the rest of the world was predicting its demise, guess where the most advanced original research in science is taking place? Yes, Europe is all set to lead the world in science. As my colleague and Associate Editor Seema Singh tells me, the European Union upped its research budgets by a whopping 45 percent to €80 billion till the end of this decade.
Our special package on innovation is important for one solitary reason: Change is in the air. India is finally joining the race to build an innovation eco-system that will do justice to the wealth of talent it has. Initially, even Seema, who has been writing on science for more than a decade now, wasn’t quite sure that the signals she was picking up were for real. But for the past three months, she has spent hours talking to researchers, heads of research institutes, business folks and policymakers all over the world. The arduous process of reinventing our decades-old research and innovation system has started. Even though I’m pretty excited, I’m not about to give away the story here. I leave it to you to discover it for yourself on page 63.
And if you care about making India a leader in science and innovation, join us on forbesindia.com for more conversations. We’ll be waiting for you.
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id: @indrajitgupta
(This story appears in the 02 March, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)