"Innovate!", said the government, "And they all went forth and innovated."
Does it really work this way? Is it really possible for innovations to emerge from government orders?
Sam Pitroda tweeted today that he was 'delighted to have 24 State Innovative Councils taking the innovative agenda forward'.
This was news to me. Even though I was aware of the existence of a 'high-power' agency that had been created to instill the joys of innovation to all the boring copycats in India, I never knew that it had been functioning like yet another government department.
Perched in the ivory tower called Planning Commission, the National Innovation Council was conceived in the early years of UPA-II. Sam Pitroda was appointed the chairman, a dozen or so eminent personalities were roped into the advisory committee, and they have been 'promoting innovation' ever since.
So what does the NIC/SIC do? It seems these councils would "drive the innovation agenda in the states and harness the core competencies, local talent, resources and capabilities to create new opportunities".
How? Through seminars, workshops and speeches exhorting people to 'innovate'? By ordering government agencies to submit their 'innovation road-maps'??
Even a cursory look at some of the most inventive and innovative societies will tell you that innovation is not something that can be extracted by bureaucrats. In Israel, the armed forces help in building multi-disciplinary networks among talented youngsters. In Estonia, the government set the pace through a reliable, affordable WiFi network that covers the entire country.
In contrast, our approach to innovation sounds a bit like the Chinese approach to manufacturing steel during the Great Leap Forward!
* National Innovation Council - http://innovationcouncil.gov.in/
* Innovation "Action Plan" for MSME - http://www.dcmsme.gov.in/Innovation%20Action%20Plan%20for%20Ministry%20of%20MSME.pdf
* Innovation Clusters
- Furniture Industry in Ernakulam, Kerala -- http://h67.in/sampitroda/Ernakulam_Caselet.pdf
- Moradabad Bass Cluster - http://h67.in/sampitroda/Moradabad_Caselet.pdf