MHRD innovation cell: Identifying and solving pressing concerns

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Dr Mohit Gambhir

Idea generation is the most crucial step for innovation. We are trying to inculcate the habit of thinking out of the box, looking at things from different perspectives and keeping the curious quotient alive by bringing in lot of interesting and different programmes, says Dr Mohit Gambhir, Innovation Director, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Innovation Cell, Government of India, in a conversation with Chandan Anand and Debajyoti Mohanty of Elets News Network (ENN).

MHRD Innovation Cell (MIC) has made some big strides in promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. How has been your journey so far?

Our journey has been phenomenal so far. It has been almost one and a half years and the initiatives that MIC had started since August 2018 are making waves in the existing ecosystem. I believe we have been successful in penetrating the system so as to have a multitudinous impact on our education system.

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India has improved its Innovation ranking from being at 86th place, five years ago, to 52nd place in 2019. How far do you think is the target of Top 30?

Firstly, I must congratulate all the stakeholders who are working day in and day out to improve innovation ecosystem in the country and in turn making strides in Innovation rankings. I believe that these rankings are the validation of our efforts to improve the overall innovation landscape of the country. Now, as far as the question of coming in Top 30 is concerned, it may take us two more years to reach that mark, following our consistent practices at par with global innovation ecosystem.

Idea generation is crucial for innovation. How do you handle this aspect?

Idea generation is the most crucial step for innovation. We are trying to inculcate the habit of thinking out of the box, looking things from different perspectives and keeping the curious quotient alive by bringing in lot of interesting and different programmes such as Smart India Hackathons, establishment of Institution’s Innovation Council (IICs), and Leadership talks to motivate our youths in higher education institutions.

The past three Smart India Hackathons (SIH) have been a grand success. What are your expectations from the 4th SIH 2020?

The Smart India Hackathon (SIH) is a kind of initiative that has become a rage among students. Just to give you some background, the first edition attracted around 40,000 registrations. In the second edition, we had around 70,000 registrations and in the last edition, we had around three lakh student registrations. You can imagine at what humongous pace this is growing. And I referred only to the registered figures, the actual impact and reach would be much more. This year we would be hosting the 4th edition, which will be conducted in two parts just like last year, viz. software and hardware editions. Software edition event is slated for April 4-5, 2020 and hardware would happen sometime in the first half of July 2020.

This year we have encouraged all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to organise internal hackathons so as to attract and impact more students, developing these activities as a culture among all the students, expecting much better ideas from the student community for problem statements. In the 4th edition, which is being jointly organised by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), MHRD Innovation cell, Persistent and i4C, we have a gamut of associate partners supporting us in this initiative, like Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), Doordarshan, Amazon AWS, Cisco Devnet, KPIT, and Suma soft.

I believe we have come to a stage where we should start looking at better ideas and solutions for a much better tomorrow and that is the basic essence of this year’s SIH.

MIC has encouraged creation of Institution’s Innovation Council (IICs) in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). What is the potential of this initiative and how do you see it going into the future?

Establishment of IICs is one of the path breaking initiatives of MIC. Through IICs we are trying to develop a strong framework in order to provide students in HEIs with various cutting edge technologies and new age thought processes such as Design thinking, Cognitive skills development, Pre-incubation, Entrepreneurship, Intellectual property rights etc. IICs have immense potential in building a strong and vibrant local innovation ecosystem and ultimately, I believe it is need of the hour for all the HEIs to establish IICs and develop a robust start-up and entrepreneurship support mechanism.

How is MIC approaching student entrepreneurship and job creation, keeping the target of a USD 5 trillion economy in mind?

MIC is working with a clear mandate to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by supporting them to work with new ideas and transform them into prototypes while they are in their formative years. There are few other initiatives that MIC brought in such as International Hackathons, Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) and National innovation and start-up policy. Through NISP, we are trying to bring in a fundamental change in modus operandi of majority of our educational institutions by recommending them to have a concrete start-up and entrepreneurship policy framework for not only their students but their faculty members as well.

We also know that everyone cannot become an entrepreneur but at least an individual can try so if they do not become a successful entrepreneur, they may become successful an intrapreneur. So, once this ecosystem start showing the results of the efforts we are putting in today, I am sure lot of new ventures would be formed, ultimately generating lot more jobs thereby contributing to achieve the target of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy.

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