India’s Innovation Puzzle – R&D Budget a ‘Cost or Investment’?
Indian large companies have traditionally been conservative in their approach to investing in R&D. Instead of developing their own high-technology products and services, they have chosen to buy, license, or collaborate with developed nations. This decision is not due to a lack of funds or profits, but rather stems from a shortage of new ideas and a limited global vision. In other words, they have not shown enough commitment or initiative in building a business around intellectual property and innovation. Unlike India, which has exported many brilliant minds to the world, these companies have not leveraged their potential to the fullest.
In the ‘Age of Innovation and Exponential Growth,’ a key differentiator is the ability to engage in ‘Deep Dive Thoughts for Innovation.’ Organizations need to adopt an Applied Collaborative Research approach with top universities, backed by significant grants of public funds. This way, projects can bridge the gap between industry and start-up needs, identifying and addressing business and social challenges. This approach will lead to new insights and better opportunities for students and researchers to develop their skills, create employment opportunities, and generate deep-tech licensing possibilities for universities. By showcasing their true potential and technology licensing programs to the world, universities can explore new avenues for growth. Currently, there is little accountability for public or government-funded projects in universities.
India’s R&D investment has been around 0.6% – 0.7% of GDP for years. As we aspire to raise this figure to 2.0%, it’s crucial to understand that the measure of innovation is not directly proportional to R&D investment. Rather, it is an inquisitive mind with a global ambition that can turn good ideas into big successes.
Take the Fidget spinner, for example, a toy with four ball bearings that has been promoted as a tool for helping people who have trouble focusing or need to relieve nervous energy, anxiety, or psychological stress. It’s a brilliant idea that highlights how even in a well-established industry like ball bearings, major players might overlook new segments and purposes.
Looking at the success stories of large deep-tech companies like Amazon, Alphabet, Samsung, or Tesla, their contribution to R&D investment and IP generation, as well as their ability to spot deep-tech startups with innovative intellectual property and business models for their home countries, is remarkable! (It’s worth noting that Nokia once did the same for Finland’s economy.) All we need is the courage and deep aspirations to build such a company in India, which could spike R&D investment to 2% of GDP, and potentially change the face of innovation and elevate India’s global standing by any measure.