21 Apr 2012

India-UK Round Table on Innovation : Text of Shri Kapil Sibal’s Speech


Following is the text of Shri Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development’s speech at India-UK Round Table Conference on Innovation and Skill Development, here today. 
            “In today’s world of knowledge economy, no nation or organization can go ahead on its own – there is need for nations, institutions and organizations to be embedded in and be part of complex system of networks.  Economic resources defined the milestones of the 20th century but the defining story-line of the early 21st century will be that of human resources. Today’s challenges are qualitatively different from the past in their global reach. The global economy will not be defined by financial flows and trade but by global, collaborative knowledge networks. Therefore, engagements like we are having today in the backdrop of a successful partnership initiative like UKIERI are extremely important and we have a lot to learn and share. I am sure this platform provides us with an opportunate platform for revitalizing our education systems.
            The creation and dissemination of new knowledge and its application are critical to the progress and development of society. Innovation carries spin-off benefits and yields social dividends through enhanced quality of life, reduction in poverty, improved health, better education and empowerment of weaker sections of society. Knowledge-based institutions such as Universities are spaces where new ideas germinate and grow into applications, and the prevailing culture of creativity, intellectual challenge and freedom trigger innovation.
            Realizing that innovation is the engine for national and global growth, employment, competitiveness and sharing of opportunities in the 21st centaury, Government of India has declared 2010-2020 as the ‘Decade of Innovation”.   For preparing a roadmap for innovation in the country and to leverage on the potential for implementation of a model of inclusive innovation, Prime Minister of our country has constituted National Innovation Council in 2010.  India has unique challenges and opportunities across diverse areas such as health, education, skill, agriculture, urban and rural development, energy, water, climate change and so on.  Innovation is going to be central to providing answers to the most pressing challenges in our country and for sharing the benefits of emerging knowledge economy and knowledge society.
            India is uniquely poised to reap the advantage of the comparatively young population, its leadership role in ICT and software, with over 800 million people connected through mobile phones that provide for unprecedented advantages for development of inclusive models of innovation for making the country to become not merely a knowledge producing economy but a knowledge sharing society.  Our core idea of innovations is to go beyond R&D parameters and to produce affordable and qualitative solutions that address the needs of people at the bottom of the pyramid, and focus on inclusive growth model and the National Innovation Council acts as a catalyst in this effort to break barriers and seize new opportunities. The National Innovation Council has made several recommendations to support entrepreneurship arising from University research. Sector Innovation Councils are also formed for focusing on specific sectors.
            We aim at nurturing innovation in the educational system through actions in schools and colleges by talent spotting of innovations, and award of Innovation Fellowships.  Creation of Meta University that rides on the National Knowledge Network to promote multidisciplinary learning, facilitating the creation of innovation ecosystem at universities through University Innovation Clusters and also by creating a legislative framework for supporting and facilitating   the development of Innovation Universities, even in PPP mode are some of the initiatives taken by us. 
            Recognizing the need for leveraging on the creative knowledge, we are also planning to set up 14 Innovation Universities, to begin with, aiming at world class standards which will set benchmarks for excellence for the Central and State Universities.  Each of the Innovation Universityshall consistently aspire for attainment of pinnacle of knowledge and will provide the knowledge manpower of the country in training professionals, specialists, scientists and researchers needed by the supporting national innovation system.  Government has already framed a legislation for Universities of Research and Innovation which will provide a facilitating framework for creation of these institutions. These universities would be embedded in ecosystems developed for promoting synergies among education, research and incubation centres or industry
            In order to be truly innovative, these Innovation Universities will not be clones of each other, but will focus on one deep theme of innovation and will focus on one area or problem of global significance in general and India in particular, by building an ecosystem of research and teaching around related discipline and fields and will search for solutions that are globally valid.  For example, such areas may focus on urbanization public health, water security, environmental sustainability, digital literacy etc. The proposed universities will be autonomous in true sense, designing their own knowledge disciplines, admission criteria, academic programmes, credit systems etc. The programmes shall also facilitate horizontal mobility across disciplines.
            Universities and higher educational institutions are expected to lead and set the innovation agenda – especially in developing people with the necessary skill sets, background and attitudes to solve local, national and global problems.  Universities and Institutes in India face several challenges in the changing global scenario:  Can Indian Universities be the catalysts for innovation in the Indian Economy?  How can we create an enabling environment in our universities that facilitates innovation?  How can universities play a role in developing innovation ecosystems in their local areas/ regions? How do we build vibrant linkages between universities and industry, government and other societal entities?  

            We have also planned creation of Cluster Innovation Centres in our Higher Education Institutions for promoting linkages for innovations, and R&D for solving the real problems and creation of products and processes for which systemic reforms have already been initiated for facilitating the linkages with industry and society.  The Cluster Innovation Centres will provide a platform for the University and its partners to forge linkages between various stakeholders from industry and academia and to act as catalysts and facilitators. We have prepared a blueprint for setting up about 50 innovation centres of excellence in different frontier areas. Cambridge Cluster in UK as well as Trinity College founded by Cambridge Science Park are two prominent examples from UK which have promoted the growth of enterprise and innovation and created thriving innovation ecosystems. Such examples also exists in US (MIT, Silicon Valley – Stanford University), IsraelGermanySwedenJapanChina andKorea. Biggest strength of these clusters has been the cooperation and collaboration, where all actors are connected in symbiotic relationships.  We are also aiming to scale up such National Innovation Clusters.  We already have a few such schemes in the form of Technology Business Incubators and Technology Entrepreneur Promotion.

            We have realized that traditional models of public funded universities are not enough as the investment required is too high. We do acknowledge the need for policies to encourage private investment in higher education and the Foreign Education Providers’ Bill, now under consideration of the Parliament, is a decisive step in that direction. Although Government will be prime facilitator of the new innovation universities and innovation clusters, it is also proposed to focus on Public Private Partnerships (PPP) mode.  It is also proposed to collaborate with Universities elsewhere in the world and they may be invited to set up similar  such institutions in India and Government will support its research and establishment needs and teaching including scholarships may be funded by the promoting university. New Greenfield Innovation Universitiessupporting an already existing University/Institution of repute to attain world class standards through innovation in chosen areas of knowledge as well as Identification of some educational hubs in the country, where a few institutions of excellence are located and create an architecture of Innovation University by promoting synergy for teaching and research among such institutions are the models that we are aiming at promoting.

            The Cluster Innovation Centers and Innovation Universities are the specific areas in which we seek further collaboration with UK Institutions who have already innovated and scaled up by creating appropriate framework and institutionalized the same successfully.

            Seizing the new opportunities and leveraging the National Knowledge Network, the National Innovation Council has also proposed to create the first Global Meta University. With a network of Universities coming together offering courses cutting across disciplines, the Meta University will reinterpret the concept of a University as not just a traditional, physical space of learning, but as a repository of knowledge and information that can be delivered in multiple ways, and can be accessed from anywhere and anytime. It will seek to enhance the learning experience through new and innovative delivery models of education that allow students and institutions to collaborate in unprecedented ways. Thus the 21st century meta-university would be a network and an ecosystem rather than a single brick and mortar space - a Facebook of Institutions. A few central institutions located at Delhi, like Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityUniversity of DelhiJamia-Millia Islamia and IIT-Delhi have already initiated steps to constitute a meta-university. Here also, we are looking forward to collaborate with Institutions from the United Kingdom in the next step for creation of global meta alliances. Though the internet and technology are fundamental to this conception of the Meta University, at the crux is not a new technology but a 'new pedagogy' that is more in tune with the requirements of the knowledge society of the 21st century. In such an environment there is a greater focus on a learner centric, collaborative model that allows continuous learning from the environment.

Improving the interface between Institutions of higher learning and business as well as delivering a better environment for commercializing research are the common focal points for both the countries and since UK has already gained lot of headway in this direction, we would seek forging sustainable alliances for this purpose with UK Institutions. This Roundtable, I hope, would provide the desired stimulus in that direction, bringing forth more such interactions and joint efforts in future.”

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