Education

Impetus for innovation

An opportunity for engineering students and faculty to innovate with Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

The Government of Tamil Nadu has recently launched an initiative called Innovation Voucher Program (IVP) to encourage innovation among MSMEs in the manufacturing sector. The timing of this initiative appears to be right since MSMEs are under pressure to adapt to two key trends. The acceleration of technology trends such as Industry 4.0, 3D printing and relaxation in regulatory processes for electric vehicles, defence and space manufacturing are creating new challenges and opportunities for the MSMEs.

The IVP is based on a model that has been successful in other parts of the world such as Europe and Australia. It encourages formation of a virtuous cycle (referred to as the Triple-Helix model) among MSMEs, Knowledge Partners such as academic and research institutions, and the government. The programme has two grants ranging from ₹ 2-5 lakhs to support product and process innovation among MSMEs. The programme is being implemented by the Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation Institute (EDII) and the Department of Industries and Commerce. The Government is launching an awareness campaigns to encourage the MSMEs to take the initiative to identify the opportunities for innovation, partner with suitable Knowledge Partners and submit the proposals for the grant.

Impetus for innovation

Be proactive

However, MSMEs may encounter challenges to take advantage of this programme, given the information asymmetries in finding suitable Knowledge Partners with relevant research capabilities, and their own everyday challenges and time constraints. It is therefore important for Knowledge Partners to play a proactive role in this initiative. Knowledge partners (especially engineering colleges) have a great opportunity to contribute to this programme and benefit from it. However, instead of waiting for MSMEs to come up with design challenges, faculty and students should reach out to their local MSMEs with proactive proposals. A guestimate is that about 300-400 faculty and at least 1,200-1,500 students can benefit by participating in this programme. Focused and committed work in this direction will not only help students gain very good experience, but also help the faculty understand the process of consultancy and product development and move in the path of self-sustenance. This win-win relationship can also create a strong talent pool to support further innovation in the manufacturing sector. Promising ideas emerging from such an initiative can th en be considered for further development in incubators and accelerators.

In addition to the knowledge partners, industry bodies such as the MSME cluster associations and CII can also support the creation of this innovation ecosystem for manufacturing. For instance, the CII Southern Region has launched an initiative called Manufacturing and Digital Excellence to encourage its members to embrace Industry 4.0. The CII member companies that are embarking on Industry 4.0 initiatives could in turn encourage their MSME suppliers to leverage the IVP scheme to innovate in their products and processes. Industry bodies can also consider supplementing the state government’s initiative with an innovation fund pooled from CSR resources of the member companies. A concerted effort from knowledge partners and the industry bodies can complement the Government initiative and bring to life the Triple-Helix model of innovation in the manufacturing sector of Tamil Nadu and move it into knowledge-intensive manufacturing.

The author is Dean (Design, Innovation & Incubation), IIITDM Kancheepuram.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 1:19:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/impetus-for-innovation/article25213471.ece

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