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India can break into the top-25 rank in the next 10 years: WIPO Chief

Business Standard:  August 22, 2016

New Delhi: In India to launch the Global innovation Index, 2016, Francis Gurry, director-general at the World Intellectual Property Organization, tells Subhayan Chakraborty what India needs to do for being known as an innovator. Edited excerpts:

How many years will be required for India to get into the list of the top 25 nations in the Global Innovation Index, at the country’s current pace?

Difficult to guess but I feel India would reach there within the next 10 years, a good pace. India's latest ranking reflects a steady progress and, this time, it’s a huge jump. It’ll be difficult to recreate that every year. Especially for a large, complex economy like India's.  Smaller countries with a homogenous economy generally tend to find it easier to align their innovation goals. I expect India's progress to be incremental  and the accruing benefits will have cumulative effects on innovation.

Which are the areas where more progress can be made?

Better funding of universities for research and development would be one. Creating the linkages between industry and the research sector is important.  While there’s an idea at universities, their job is not to be in the productive sector but I believe their job is to transmit knowledge. If such transmission happens through products and services, it improves the quality of people’s lives.

The biomedical sector is huge and there’s a lot of interest emerging in this country. Also, there is information and communications technology (ICT). Most innovations will have an ICT component, such as computer-aided design, and India can leverage its strength in this sector. It also has important social repercussions for a country like India for the production and storage of clean energy.

The government has announced it will create a body looking at how to better position India’s innovation drive. What should it keep in mind?

India has a long history of creativity and innovation is the expression of that creativity, through commercial products and services which can be successful. While the government needs to have the right policies in place to enable creativity to thrive, it also has to be addressed by the private sector. Also, the patent system can be of immense help in this regard. Through looking in the database, one can understand the areas which need attention in innovation. It’s an immense source of economic intelligence.

Why do Indian corporates take so long to understand the importance of research and development (R&D?

Returns on investments into R&D are not immediate and corporates everywhere are generally under pressure to demonstrate return on equity to shareholders. If there’s a history of investments into R&D, the returns show after, say, five years.

What is your take on India’s IPR (intellectual property rights) policy, issued in May? Do you feel there’s a disproportionate emphasis on IP generation, rather than creating innovation?

The policy focuses on generation of IP and that sends a positive signal to investors. But, after that crucial first step, you also need to find how to use it. This involves finding the mechanisms for how to use that innovation to generate revenue in a market system or reduce government expenditure or even find funding. It is, thus, imperative to find out how to link the generation of IP to distribution of its benefits to the people.

India is yet to join WIPO's International Design Treaty. On the other hand, it is actively interested in a treaty on protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore. Any update?

The objective of both treaties are important for India and go hand in hand. They are significant for this country, with centuries of traditional design forming the rich base for contemporary design. The design treaty is coming along well, with the details being studied, and we are hopeful of next year. We are still searching for an international consensus on the traditional knowledge treaty, which is a new mandate.

For a middle-income country such as India, do you feel IP is a hurdle towards achieving social goals, by focusing such rights into a few hands?

IP can help in achieving goals such as eradicating poverty, by incentivising healthy innovation. Again, getting the distribution of the benefits right is important.

How do we bridge the gap between rich and poor nations on innovation?

Innovation is a long process and industry has to be convinced of its effectiveness in the long term. There are no  things which can radically transform innovation performance overnight in a country. Improving awareness measures, focusing on research, securing funding — all are important.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.