Entrepreneurs wishing to commercialize their inventions have a new and wealthy angel investor to tap—the Government of India.
In an attempt to help more inventors make money off their inventions, the government has launched a $500 million (Rs2,010 crore) National Innovation Project (NIP). The government usually allots Rs500-600 crore for such projects every year and actually ends up spending Rs250-300 crore. The ministry of science and technology plans to seek the assistance of the World Bank to fund the project.
People familiar with the matter, who do not wish to be identified, say that while NIP is expected to begin next year, details on the types of projects to be financed, intellectual property issues, and the administrative power of the supervisory committee that will be set are yet to be finalized.
The highlight of the programme, according to government officials, is the level of funding involved, rather than any new approach to funding projects. World Bank officials declined to comment on NIP on the grounds that it was premature.
The government already has programmes to fund and support inventors and promising entrepreneurs. Currently, grants under the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, provide officespace and financial support up to Rs25 lakh for entrepreneurs interested in starting businesses, and the Technopreneur Promotion Programme (TePP) funds inventors for developing prototypes.
A.S. Rao, who heads the TePP, said that a number of other schemes were also in the pipeline to promote innovation. However, “things would really get moving only after the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (the government body in charge of the entrepreneurship programmes) appoints its new secretary,” he added.
The post, which has been vacant ever since R.A. Mashelkar retired last December, is yet to be filled up. The DSIR secretary plays a crucial role in obtaining funds from the Planning Commission, which has to sanction the projects.
N. Sevanthi, member of the Venture Capitalist Association of India, said that the scheme, if cleared, would help “spur innovation growth in India.”
The government has always maintained that innovation, or putting a new idea to commercial use, is high on its agenda.
Patent filing—often seen as a measure of a country’s progress in innovation—from India have seen a steady growth, though it still lags major patentees such as the US, Japan, China and Korea.
For example, 462 patents from India were filed in the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2003 and 2004, as opposed to 1,66,525 patents by the US, according to India’s National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies.