Infectious innovation: Spreading a virus
In last two weeks, I had the privilege of spreading infection of innovation virus in several parts of the country. The foundation programme for the current batch of IAS probationers had an innovation workshop of two days for the first time. Thanks to the initiative of faculty Jaspreet Kaur and Dirctor Rajiv Kapoor, the officers invited several practitioners as well as activists who had achieved public policy goals through innovative pedagogy. It was heartening to note that many of them were beginning to get disturbed by the persistent inertia in society. May be they also saw the changing mood in the country. How passion and purpose gets combined to result in performance through platforms became evident in the interactions. It is hoped that IIMA and LBSNAA will cooperate to map the innovations in governance but also the unmet needs in different regions. If 200 probationers during their field assignments identify 20 unmet needs in each district, we would have made at least first cut inventory of the agenda for action in one third of the country. A chapter of National Innovation Club may also be started to search, spread and celebrate innovations and sense the unmet needs. Likewise, the learning from the change agents at all levels in society will get documented so that cribbing culture gives ways to creative and collaborative culture.
In Odisha, interactions with various secretaries and other members of state innovation council, triggered several initiatives for linking students of technological and other universities. Similarly, in Telangana, Secretary, Education, himself a graduate of IIT Kanpur recognized that the techpedia.in could be a viable platform for linking students with society and small entrepreneurs. In Karnataka, I had the opportunity of recognizing about 60 projects by more than 150 students solving real life problems in an innovative way through TEQIP platform. It was so gratifying to see so much of talent never recognised before, at a common platform. Thanks to the enormous energy of Teqip team and prof Venugopal, anonymity of students who had achieved international award was overcome. There is Teqip project in every state and yet nowhere so far, three best projects from every college have been recognised as was done yesterday. There were students who took up a project from an industry, developed fully functional prototype at almost one tenth of the cost with same reliability as the costly version for testing relays. Similarly, there were several projects which converted plastic into oil ranging from 30 per cent to 90 per cent efficiency (Malvika, Om, Dhiraj, adhiti) and cooked food and helped in vending for mid day meal (Subramanya Shetty). Imagine if you could convert millions of tons of plastic into diesel and furnace oil at reasonable cost, then every housing society or community will process plastic and the dream of Clean India could be accomplished faster than one can imagine. It is gratifying to see the fund being used to support patent protection and also entrepreneurship development. The example of Kerala was shared where any student who started an enterprise while studying can get upto four per cent grace marks and 20 per cent relaxation in attendance. Those states which have not taken any step to use resources under this scheme for promoting innovations by young students should introspect urgently the reasons for their inertia. Any argument against empowering students and expanding their options for innovation and entrepreneurship is an argument against progress and inclusive development. I also interacted with several innovative teams at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore where creative ways of using energy and other resources were showcased. One team had designed a dryer for vegetables and fruits heated by the water of solar heater passing through the dryer. There are a large number of solar heaters installed all over the country. But none has used heat wasted through delivery pipe for such a creative purpose. There was another team which combined fly ash with quarry waste and slag from steel plants bound together by sodium hydroxide. These bricks were not only stronger than ordinary bricks many times, but also retained less moisture and were corroded much later. A team from Dharwad tried to use the energy of rain drops for generating power, of course of low intensity was sufficient to charge sensors for triggering different devices like de-humidifier. There was another interesting project where by using solar systems of heating and evaporative pooling, a 30 degree temperate gradient developed which could be used for generating energy more efficiently than using only heat or only coolness. Many of these projects will be nominated for Gandhian Young Technological Innovation award by techpedia.in. And who knows some of them may make it to the Innovators-Scholar-in-residence at the President’s house. All this has become possible because the model developed through GTU and SRISTI has brought out so much of tangible impact. I am sure, there will be other initiatives which will follow soon adding wings to the imagination of creative people.