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Will new budget support creative communities and young inventors?

The entrepreneurship and people’s knowledge are two themes, which recur repeatedly in the manifesto of the ruling party. And yet, there has not been any declaration in this regard so far. May be, a considered view is being taken to tap the enormous creative and innovative potential of Indian society at different levels in formal and informal sector. My wish list is guided by the acts of commission and omission during last ten years. I hope that justice will be done to the aspirations of creative youth and communities in the coming budget.

The first and foremost need is to recognize that millions of students, particularly from technology stream do projects in the final year, which have never been supported so far. There is an urgent need for investment in the innovative projects by youth at the proof of concept stage. At least 5000 – 10000 ideas must be supported every year out of more than a million students who pass out. Distributed mentoring and monitoring is possible and transparent tracking is desirable. We can double the rate of patent filing as well as sharing open source technologies. Innovation Scholarships can be given on the pattern of a similar schme for innovative children devised and burried under a load of files at HRD ministry.

The District Innovation Fund created through 13th Finance Commission must be completely restructured to focus only on innovations at district level through a group of three to five eminent people, chaired by the District Collector. When the Collector is trusted for so many programmes and schemes, can’t we trust him for a few crore rupees? This Fund should be increased to five crore dedicated for investment in the validation and value addition of very early stage of innovations in different fields. Similar IIIF ( I call it India exclusive Innovation fund, how can a Fund be inclusive by excluding young students. My note of dissent in national Innovation Council is on record, of course.)

Every Technical University must be advised to allocate at least 25 crore partly from the fees collected from the students and partly from MHRD to transparently invest in the ideas of the students. State bureaucarcy may keep an honourable distance from the management of such funds if the academia has to be empowered ered and conencted with the society except where VCs have been appointed on considerations other than merit.

Public facilities for testing, calibration, refinement, etc., must be made accessible to young inventors and start-ups at a very nominal cost or through a national fund for standardization of technological innovations.

A section 25 company called as National Technological Innovation Bank should be created to hold five percent equity in every technology that is supported through one of the above funds.

The National Technological Innovation Bank should be supported to acquire the IP rights of such technologies from within or outside the country which can help improve upon the energy usage and increase the efficiency at lesser cost.

The In-situ model of incubation must be supported with significant simplification of the procedures so that innovators from lower middle class don’t have to uproot themselves for pursuing their innovation based enterprises. We should also modify the MPLAD and MLAAD schemes and provide for not just five but may be fifty outstanding TK practices and innovation in each constituency. Most members don’t use their funds any way and this way they will put these funds to promote creativity of their constituents.

National Innovation Foundation [NIF] has shown the power of performance that children and grassroots innovators have. However, the financial base of the Foundation has not improved much over last 15 years. If an independent assessment demonstrates that the state has got much better social and financial returns on its investments so far, than in any other venture of similar kind, then the efforts should be scaled up. Instead of supporting couple of hundred ideas a year, it should be enabled to support at least 2000 ideas every year including outstanding traditional knowledge practices. Unless knowledge based enterprises become the basis of entrepreneurial model for poverty alleviation, we will not go away from just an entitlement based approach.

Every college should set up National Innovation Club to search, spread and celebrate innovations and sense the unmet social needs. A national mission needs to be set up to track time bound projects by students and faculty on addressing such a list of unmet needs in every bloc of the country.

About 20 million people travelling by train every day and 1.6 lac rural post offices should be engaged in the task of mass sourcing of ideas and disseminating public interest, preventive health and other entrepreneurial tips.

A budgetary provision for in-situ value addition to the forest and farm produce will help in engaging the alienated tribal and other youth in productive activities. The most talented youth and other experts should be sent for teaching and other project development activities in 50 to 100 most economically backward districts. A new social transformation leadership program is the need of the hour. But Will Finance Minister care to show commitment towards creative and committed youth? We will see!

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