Innovation in Higher Educational Institutions

Premier higher educational institutes in India have always been a gateway to secure and prosperous
life for many. However, over the last decade a cultural change has begun in these institutes.
• These institutes have been transforming themselves to produce the next generation leaders who
are willing to take up entrepreneurship, foregoing assured income; thereby creating multiple jobs for
the society.
• At the root of this transformation is the culture of innovation.
Catalysing Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship
• The Atal Innovation Mission under the aegis of NITI Aayog is promoting the formation of Atal
Tinkering Lab (ATL) in schools to promote innovation.
• At IIT Madras (IITM), an after-class activity called the Centre for Innovation (CFI) transformed the
students from passive listeners to active learners. CFI was set up to provide an outlet for the students
to try-out their passion without the burden of grades or exams.
• The centre was set up with the motto “walk in with an idea and walk out with a product”.
Few achievements:
• Recently, the CFI team “Aavishkar” became the only Asian team to qualify and was placed within
the top 25 in the hyperloop competition held at SpaceX.
• Similarly, there are many student formula racing car teams in the country (such as the IITM Raftar)
that routinely participate and win in competitions across the world.
Innovation as a Catalyst
• These innovation centres also fosters team spirit and the ability to work beyond classroom lectures.
• It prepares the students to take collective ownership of outcomes and work on multi-generational
products.
Innovation Eco-system:
• The innovation ecosystem can be divided in to four buckets: 1. Ideate 2. Pre-incubate 3. Incubate

  • Support
    • Among these, the incubation and support ecosystem are highly instrumental.

Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) in IIT Bombay is one of the earliest incubator
in an academic setting in India supporting tech start ups and socially relevant projects.
• IIT Madras established India’s first university based research park, collocating established companies
with start-ups.
Where are the Problems?
• The challenge for our higher educational institutions is to enable routine transformation of these
intellectually stimulated individuals to deep tech entrepreneurs and innovators solving societal
problems of today and tomorrow.
• It is often very hard to take a step back from a narrowly defined academic problem definition to identify
broad opportunities where the research or technology developed might meet a market need.
Role of Incubation:
• Incubators offer mentoring, networking, and funding support for early stage start-ups along with
business acceleration support.
• Ideation and technology development is taken care of by the research and tinkering lab.
US’ Success Story
• In the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) had pioneered the concept of lab to
market through the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.
• I-Corps accelerates the economics and societal benefits of NSF funded basic research programs by
training scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and look at
commercialization.
Way Forward:
• Our institutions will have to imbibe the spirit of entrepreneurial thinking, which includes rapid
adaptation to the societal needs, developing and scaling in resource constrained environments and
serving as focal points or nodes of innovation and entrepreneurship, to reach our national goal of a
$5 trillion economy.