Analysing the impact of Innovation Index on higher education in India

Policymakers, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders need to come together and collaborate to strengthen the ecosystem supporting innovation in higher education

February 24, 2024 12:42 pm | Updated 04:34 pm IST

The Innovation Index has prompted a revamp of academic curricula to align with industry demands. 

The Innovation Index has prompted a revamp of academic curricula to align with industry demands.  | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto

In the ever-evolving landscape of global innovation, the annual World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) serves as a crucial barometer. In 2022, despite a decline in trademark and design filings, patent applications surged globally for the third consecutive year, reaching 3.46 million. This reveals intriguing trends that have significant implications for higher education, particularly in a country like India.

According to the WIPI report, while China, the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Germany led in patent filings in 2022, applications from India grew at the rate of 31.6%. Clearly this surge is not isolated but is connected to the country’s higher education landscape. The focus on nurturing a vibrant start-up ecosystem, coupled with knowledge capital generated by public and private research organisations, has been instrumental in providing the necessary infrastructure, and fostering a culture of research and development. Indian institutions are globally recognised for their academic performance. Several Indian universities feature in the top 300 of the QS World University Rankings 2022, with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay leading the way.

Contributions from India

A growing number of Indian-origin researchers and professionals are contributing to global innovation and the collaboration between the diaspora and Indian institutions has led to significant strides in research and technology. There has also been a rise in R&D funding for educational institutions. In the 2021-22 budget, the allocation for the Department of Science and Technology increased by 34.5% to 14,788 crores.

The Innovation Index has facilitated increased collaboration between academia and industry. Partnerships between academic institutions and tech giants like Infosys, TCS, and Google have resulted in joint research initiatives, exposing students to real-world challenges. India has witnessed a surge in entrepreneurial activities, especially in the technology sector. The NASSCOM Start-up Report 2021 notes the addition of over 1,600 start-ups in 2020, totalling nearly 12,000. This entrepreneurial boom is fuelled by a conducive ecosystem shaped by a high Innovation Index.

The Innovation Index has prompted a revamp of academic curricula to align with industry demands. Programmes emphasising interdisciplinary skills, emerging technologies, and hands-on experience ensure that graduates are job-ready in a dynamic tech landscape. According to the WIPO report, the world’s five largest science and technology clusters are situated in East Asia, including clusters in Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai, and Mumbai. This underlines India’s emergence as a key player in the global innovation ecosystem. Additionally, India’s ascent in terms of publication output, ranking fourth in 2022, signifies the growing influence in disseminating knowledge and contributing to global research.

In the 2023 Global Innovation Index (GII) India was placed 40th with a score of 38.1, a rising trajectory from the 81st place in 2015. The GII 2023, utilising 80 indicators to track global innovation trends, offers insights into India’s strengths. Notably, India holds top rankings in key indicators such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services exports, venture capital received, graduates in science and engineering, and global corporate Research and Development (R&D) investors. These underscore the crucial role played by higher education institutions in producing skilled graduates and fostering an environment conducive to research and development.

Challenges

While India continues to make strides in innovation, challenges such as the uncertain economic outlook and a decline in venture capital funding pose potential hurdles. The report emphasises the importance of quality investments and urges stakeholders not to compromise on supporting transformative ideas that can positively impact the world. Other issues such as bureaucratic hurdles and regulatory bottlenecks persist. Streamlining processes, updating regulatory frameworks, and incentivising private sector participation in R&D are critical to sustain and accelerating innovation. India’s remarkable performance in global patent filings and its consistent rise in the Global Innovation Index highlight the pivotal role of higher education. Thus, it becomes imperative for policymakers, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders to collaborate and further strengthen the ecosystem supporting innovation in higher education. The fusion of academia and industry, coupled with sustained investment in research and development, will be key to ensuring that India remains a prominent player in the global innovation landscape.

S. Vincent is Chairman, Environnex Innovation and Research Foundation, and Former Dean of Research, Loyola College, Chennai. Dinesh Kumar Vannam is Asst. Vice President, Ideation IP.

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