Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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17-12-2002 : New Delhi

I am indeed delighted to participate in the 2nd National Award Function of the National Innovation Foundation. I greet the award winners, innovators, collaborators and the organizers and the National Innovation Foundation (NIF). The objectives of NIF to help India become an innovative and creative society and a global leader in sustainable technologies by scouting, spawning and sustaining grassroots innovations; and also to ensure evolution and diffusion of green grassroots innovations in a selection time bound and mission oriented basis so as to the socio-economic and environmental needs of our society. It is indeed a laudable effort.


Since our population is of a billion people, the society in its own way has to make innovations continuously, not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. For example, the honey bee network movement is indeed an excellent attempt. Creativity comes from beautiful minds. It can be anywhere and any part of the country. It may start from a fisherman hamlet or a farmer's household or a dairy farm or cattle breeding centre or it emanates from class rooms or labs or industries or R&D centres. Creativity has got multi dimensions like inventions, discoveries and innovations. Creativity has got an ability to imagine or invent something new by combining, changing or reapplying existing ideas. Creativity has an attitude to accept change and newness, a willingness to play with ideas and possibilities, a flexibility of outlook, the habit of enjoying the good, while looking for ways to improve it. Creativity has a process to work hard and continually to improve ideas and solutions by making gradual alterations and refinements to their works. The important aspect of creativity is: seeing the same thing as everybody else, but thinking of something different.



Innovation is market driven. Innovation can also be making improved performance of the product/system technique by adopting a change using most alternative technologies. An innovative product makes a leap in the benefits-to-costs ratio ion some area of endeavour. Innovation is a systematic, organized, rational work - usually done in many stages like analysis, tests, experiment etc. I would like to give a few examples of innovative technologies/applications. What we see in optical communications is speed vs cost. In flexible manufacturing systems it is choice vs cost. In the web-enabled processes, it is customer satisfaction vs cost. Again in e-Mail, a message is instantly delivered in any part of the world through internet.


High, Low and No Technology Innovation

The high technology innovation happens through new discoveries mostly in natural sciences. For example, NMR and Human Genome. No technology innovation happens by finding gaps in market created as a result of changes in values, perceptions, attitudes and demographics. For example, ready-to-eat food and fast food chains. The hire purchase scheme helped the consumer to buy things and pay in instalments. Like this, there are many. Also, adaptation can lead to innovations, for example the micro-wave ovens.


Competitiveness and innovation

The indices of world competitiveness are based on the global competitiveness report prepared by the world Economic Forum. The forum has defined competitiveness as "the ability of a national economy to achieve sustained high rates of economic growth". As per this definition ranking of different countries as of April 2001, according to the forum, are: USA[1], Singapore[2], Hong Kong[6], Australia[11], Taiwan[18], China[33] and India[41]. The world competitiveness is therefore decided by a triangular combination consisting of progressiveness of industry, technology push and status of governmental deregulation, all working in unison. Technology-led industrial growth can be sustained only through establishing an innovation system. It is through the process of innovation that knowledge is converted into wealth. Further, innovation is an important factor for the competitiveness of both service and manufacturing sectors and hence the urgent need to put in place an innovation system. Such a system would involve network of firms, knowledge-producing institutions, bridging institutions and customers/users in a value addition-creating production chain. With such a consortium, the innovation system would tap into the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilate and adapt it to local needs and finally create new knowledge and technology. India must evolve such systems to improve its competitiveness in a global marketplace. Competitiveness emerges from the strength of knowledge power, which is powered by technology that in turn is powered by capital. In the coming years, competitiveness would be derived from the ability to recognize and integrate all forms of knowledge leading to innovation in every area of human endeavour. While talking about competitiveness and innovation, I thought of sharing with you the necessity of building innovation systems brought out in the Task Force Report of Planning Commission - India as knowledge superpower : strategy for transformation.


Building innovation systems

It is through the process of innovation that knowledge is converted into wealth and social good. Further, innovation is an important factor for the competitiveness of both service and manufacturing sectors. Innovation tends to emanate less from R&D and more from other sources, including organizational change. Hence there is an urgent need to establish an efficient innovation system in the country. Such a system would involve creation of clusters, which are networks of inter-dependent firms, knowledge producing institutions (universities, colleges/institutes, research institutes, technology providing firms), bridging institutions (e.g. think tanks, providers of technical or consultancy services) and customers linked in a value-addition creating production chain. The concept of clusters goes beyond that of a firm network, as it captures all forms of knowledge sharing and exchange. Thus an innovative system with its clusters would tap into the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilate and adapt it to local needs and finally create new knowledge and technology. For such an innovative system to succeed, the following are necessary: (a) improving inter-ministerial coordination and ensure consistency and credibility in policy formulation; and (b) introducing new mechanisms to support innovation and technology diffusion, including greater use of public/private partnership.


Conclusion : Development and Leadership connectivity

For the nation today, what is needed is a combination of technology and leadership using the technology to bring economic prosperity. 'Developed India', as defined by us can be only powered by economic strength. The economic strength has to be powered by competitiveness and competitiveness has to be powered by knowledge power. Knowledge power has to be powered by technology and technology has to be powered by innovation and business. Business has to be powered by innovative management and management has to be powered by leadership. What are the characteristics of leadership? A leader will neither be a commander nor a super boss, but he or she will be a visionary, facilitator of the team and a thinker. Above all, the nobility of the mind is the hallmark of the leader. I am sure that the National Innovation Foundation will take a lead to bring in grassroots innovators in the mainstream.

Thank you.




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