Ahmedabad-based National Innovation Foundation – India is a national level premier organisation, promotes knowledge-rich but economically poor people, protects the intellectual property rights of unaided technological grassroots innovators. DR VIPIN KUMAR Director NIF talks to MOHD MUSTAQUIM on their several initiatives
What role does NIF play for promoting grassroots innovations?
The NIF is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology. It is a national initiative to serve the knowledge-rich, economically poor people of the country. It is committed to making rural India innovative by documenting, adding value, protecting the intellectual property rights of the contemporary unaided technological innovators, as well as of outstanding traditional knowledge holders and disseminating them on a commercial and non-commercial basis.
What are the current activities going on?
With the collaborations with various R&D and academic institutions, agricultural and veterinary universities and other labs in public and private sector, the NIF has helped in validating thousands of grassroots technologies and also adding value in them. It has also set up a Fabrication Laboratory with the help of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston for product development, apart from strengthening in-house research and development facilities for the initial validation of herbal technologies.
We have received over six hundred product inquiries from around 55 countries for various technologies. We have succeeded in commercialising products across six continents. The NIF has transferred 83 technologies to different licensees and set up a JV with BVG India.
Apart from ensuring patent, does NIF also arrange financing to the innovators for setting up manufacturing plants?
Yes, we provide support through our Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) scheme. Under the scheme financial support is provided under single signature without any collateral or guarantee. The MVIF, with the support of SIDBI, has provided risk capital to 193 innovation projects, which are at different stages of incubation.
What impact Honey Bee Network has made so far?
The Honey Bee Network strengthens people-to-people learning and networking by pooling the solutions developed by individuals across the world in different sectors and sharing them in local languages. The network acknowledges the innovators, knowledge producers and communicators so that they do not remain anonymous. It also tries to ensure that a fair share of benefits arising from commercial exploitation of local knowledge and innovations reaches the innovators and knowledge providers.
How was the journey so far with regard to your Shod Yatra?
Shodh Yatra is a journey on foot in search of knowledge, creativity and innovations at the grassroots. Supported by NIF, it is an attempt on part of Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies (SRISTI) along with other partners to reach out to the remotest parts of the country with a firm belief that hardship and challenges of natural surroundings are the prime motivators of creativity and innovations. Shodh Yatra aims at unearthing such traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations that have not only simplified the lives of men, women and farm labourers but have also significantly contributed towards the conservation of bio-diversity. It is a journey of mutual exchange and sharing of knowledge. Whatever knowledge and practices that we have pooled in, over the years are shared with the villagers during the yatra. In the Shodh Yatra, about 80-100 people from different walks of life-scientists, academicians, students, farmers, innovators, journalists etc walk together.
What are the future plans of NIF?
President of India gives away the awards to the grassroots innovators during the National Biennial Presidential Grassroots Innovations and outstanding Traditional Knowledge award function. Since 2010, the Foundation has been organising an exhibition of grassroots innovation at Rashtrapati Bhawan to expose the pervasive culture of creativity and innovation at grassroots. To leverage the uniquely frugal and empathetic model of innovations developed in India, NIF organised the first Festival of Innovation (FOIN) at the Rashtrapati Bhavan during March 7-13, 2015. As part of the FOIN, a number of activities were planned every day.