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India's Retail Teaching Shops!

  • India ranks 35 out of 51 countries when it comes to the number of top-ranking universities in a country.
  • Only 17 Indian universities are counted among the world’s top 800 universities.
  • Per capita government funding of university research amounts to $12 in India. India ranks among the bottom six, behind countries including South Africa and Brazil.
  • Poor investment in higher education is also one of the reasons why India doesn’t do well in research outcomes.
  • On Average education expenditure per primary and secondary student, India is at the bottom of the list. India spends only $1,248 per student and is behind countries such as Colombia and Vietnam
  • India’s intellectual property laws, export subsidies and balkanised market in services have contributed in large parts to its poor ranking,
  • Country’s poor show in developing human capital is also responsible for its poor performance.

Please note here that Global university rankings take into account the quality of research conducted by universities too.
Most Indian universities lack focus on research.
In effect, this reduces them to RETAIL-TEACHING SHOPS without any scope in international rankings.

  • There are only 15 researchers per 100,000 people, putting India among the bottom nations measured on this yardstick.
  • Not only is the quantum of research poor, but also the quality of research.
  • India lacks a technology transfer legislation to allow the transfer of know-how from university research labs to the private sector for commercialisation.
  • Even developing countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil have legislation that enables licensing and transfer of economically significant innovations to commercial markets.

Take the example of the Bayh-Dole Act in the US. The act enables the transfer of ownership of an invention from the government agency that funded the research, to the academic institution that carried out the actual study. Other advanced economies like Germany too have legislation in place to develop close partnerships between industry and academia.
There is an intimate relation between domestic innovation and contribution to global innovation. A country with policies to boost innovation also contributes increasing innovation globally. Transferring research licensing to a university by the government will also create jobs, improve gross industry output.

Let's consider international patent applications filed from India to assess the innovative activity generated by the much-publicised Make in India initiative.

As per the figures released by the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, international patent applications filed from India dropped to 1,423 in 2015 (in 2014 it was 1,428).
When Japan’s increases to 44,235 (from 42,381), China’s 29,846 ( from 25,548 ) and South Korea’s 14,626 (from 13,117 ) in the same period.
One company of China, Huawei Technologies, with 3,898 patent applications, is almost three times the number of patent applications filed from entire India.
So what could be the reason behind this ambiguity?

Vedic Culture In DNA

We have a deep-rooted upbringing that everything is already in the Vedas. There is no need or scope for fresh innovation, research. Haven't we already invented and gave to the world the concept of zero, decimal, plastic surgery and what not? Research is not yet “valued” by the society as much, compared to countries like USA, UK or Germany.
Terrible lack of investment in basic and applied science and technology that is essential for innovation. Without this, there is no scope for accelerating the pace of intellectual property activities.
Some feeble memoirs and papers here and there, for grabbing a few grants and allowance cannot bring a Research & Innovation Renaissance.

Poor Payment, Stigma

Most of PhDs and Post Doctorates are poorly paid, and such positions are not even considered as a real job.
On an average, an Indian researcher is paid around Rs 2.5 lakh/year, which is 22% lower than the average minimum salary range of Rs 3.2-5 lakh/year paid by good IT and engineering firms to fresh graduates.
In October 2014, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) approved increased stipends. These range from
55% for junior research fellows-from Rs 16,000 to Rs 25,000, and 66% for research associates-from Rs 24,000 to Rs 40,000. The University Grants Commission (UGC) also announced a 55% hike in 15 fellowship schemes.
But the scholars still haven’t received the hiked stipends.
Young scholars in their 30s continue to work for 6-8 years underpaid and often receiving stigmas: When are you going to stop studying and get a real job?
Money earning, street smartness win over research careers.
Stability of work and getting settled in life by bagging a well-paid job seems to be the only objective.

The Jugaad Mentality

Managing/improvisation leads to imperfect, quick-fix type incremental research rather than innovative (which tend to be risky in terms of time and money) solutions. Though there are some successful products of frugal engineering too.
Gramateller is a solar-power based lowest power-consuming automatic teller machine (ATM) on the market. It has been developed jointly by the Indian company Vortex and the Madras Indian Institute of Technology. Leading banks like SBI, HDFC and Axis Bank use this ATMs to service their rural customers.
But not all frugal goods have met with the same market success, NANO car is an example.
We can not to reach anywhere in global innovation platform in a big way with such frugal innovation.

Because these are often user specific, location specific and supply chain specific and cannot be globalised massively. Although foreign multinationals have been quick to recognise even the potential market appeal of frugal innovation.
But here too we fail.
Our innovation policies do not explicitly encourage frugal innovation, something that needs addressing. This is as per the UNESCO Science Report.

Risk Averse Mentality/Politics

The selection committee of most of the institutes (IIsc/IIT etc.) as well as industry are highly risk-averse.
They fail to see value in any new type of research that will add value at a later date. Rather they prefer scholars doing what they themselves know/have been working on. Certainly, this cannot bring innovation.
At Master's level programme that includes Project, no real-life, outstanding project work comes up. Neither any great research work happens at PhD level.
University professors often resort to number game. More focused on churning out mediocre researches and in quantity to get promotions. Quality is sacrificed.
Petty politics is in our blood and often happens in the universities among students, professors, coupled with jealousy.

Bureaucracy & Lobbying

Research proposal follows bureaucracy and lobbying rather than scientific scrutiny. Connections and manipulations are the keys to getting research fund.
Research findings end in few publications and conference visits. Very rarely a product development or Innovative output happens.
The same is true for brands like IITs. They manage to get huge fund just because of the “Halo effect’’. And there ends the journey of the scholars.

No Industry-Academia Interaction

In India, PhD is like a secured job. People mostly come for PhD as it is a door to become a professor at some university. From their perspective, it is the most relaxing job.
There is no real-life research work that leads to some innovative or outstanding discovery. No tie-ups with companies to make commercial use of a finding that can benefit the society. Everyone focuses on the number of research papers and thesis-length.
Researchers chose some aimless topic, and 95% of the research is of no use to the industry in India, forget the world.
Whereas, in USA and Germany, the companies specify their problems for research, giving a direction to it. The outcome is of practical use and finally reflects in the progress of a nation.

Frugal Money - Even That Is Not Available

India has a remarkable ability to make technology affordable for everyone, which is its greatest contribution to the world. Frugal engineering is now a buzzword in the world.
The concept and trend existed in this country before the advanced countries began to think about it as an engineering practice. Even to procure funds for such frugal products is a mammoth task here. American universities obtain philanthropic funding, but this practice is still nascent here.
In pharma sector, the invested money is terribly low in comparison to global standards. Large pharma companies spend several billion dollars on R&D.
The total R&D expenditure of Top five Indian pharma companies together spent over Rs 8000 crore or .8 billion in 2017 whereas Roche and Novartis spend around $10 billion a year each on R&D.

No Patience

Few venture capitalists here have the patience to wait for a decade for producing a commercial drug. As per International Federation Of Pharma Manufacturers Association, it takes 10–15 years to develop a medicine or vaccine.
Though lead time in IT industry is much shorter, here again developing global products are risky, needing courage both from the entrepreneur and investor. Simputer case is an example. Innovations in corporate India are mostly restricted to business models and commercial successes.

Academic Entrepreneurship Just A Sprouting Concept

Academic Entrepreneurship is a way of commercialisation of an invention. It means the transforming knowledge into products, processes, and organisation and their contribution to economic growth and innovation.
No Indian institution has produced even one technology of world-class calibre.
Our Scientists blame the defective reward system in Indian institutions as a reason for lack of inventions. Institutions do not have any system for the faculty to spin off their inventions. They are forced to advance their careers by publishing in volumes.
Hoping to come back soon with some remedial rays. In our next blog!
Till then, please send us your views. They matter to us!