Techpedia.in ( techpedia.sristi.org ) : A portal of technology projects by students to link the needs of industry and grassroots innovators with young minds and to promote collaborative research
There are about six lacs technology students who spend at least six months in their final year for doing a project. And yet, nobody knows the fate of these projects. There is no requirement from UGC or AICTE that every student put at least the summary of their project on a national portal ( some day it will become obligatory for every student to do so before they graduate). Neither the problems of small and tiny industries are posed to the students nor get the good projects of the students used by the industries. The grassroots innovations already developed in the informal sector also do not get an opportunity for being valorized by these students.
What will such a portal do: promote originality, and eliminate incentives to purchase the projects from third party vendors. The problem is that once a technical mind cuts corners and gets projects done by outsiders, he/she may not have compunction to cut any corner in future. At the same time, every time a person solves a real life problem, he/she becomes a better human being.
Further, the students cannot create a relay or kho kho model of project development by building upon each other’s ideas without a portal of such projects. Let us say, an idea which came to a particular stage at place ‘a’ could be taken forward to next stage in place ‘b’ and then further developed at ‘c’ and may be in a few cycles, it will become a product. Let us hope that through our collective efforts, at least one per cent projects will lead to 6000 new and innovative products in 2009. This portal will promote originality and give stimulus for the investment in such startups promoting entrepreneurship.
Incentives can be given to the students who work in teams within the institutions or across the institutions to address the problems of micro and small enterprises
By creating a techpedia, we are trying to solve these problems and also identify the centres of excellence among thousands of so called B or C level technology institutions [apart from similar hotspots in “A” Class institutions]. Ranking by the peers and by the experts will also generate information about places where inspired teachers have guided innovative projects. The experts can be of two kinds, one by invitation and the other on one’s own. Their comments will enhance confidence and also indicate direction in which the said technology can be taken forward. Prospective employers will go to such Hotspots of creativity and hire young bright students, at the same time companies which wish to outsource problems could also approach such inspired teachers. The Techpedia.sristi.org might create market for such hidden, less recognized but outstanding centers of excellence in various technology colleges. There is a need to allocate more space and resources to such colleges, students from where really stay in the country, and join manufacturing sector, giving the real growth impulse to our country.
Similarly, incentives and awards can be given to the students who find outstanding low cost process and products options for the industry or add value to grassroots innovations or develop business plans to become entrepreneur based on technologies developed by them or other students. See SRISTI YuvaYantriki Awards announcement below. Last year, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam gave the awards to such engineering students at a function held at IIMA on Nov 26, 2008 along with children innovators, part of Ignite 08.
Retired scientists, professionals and technopreneurs can be engaged to mentor a mission to mentor the country wide half a million small enterprises through such students. This initiative has already been started with the help of student volunteers from Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, and the faculty and students from SVNIT, Surat.
Entrepreneurs in Micro and Small-scale industry cannot often hire experts from top institutions and this could become one way for getting their problems solved. They could motivate students to tackle their problems. This will also reinforce linkage between academia and industry as well as informal sector. Large number of technical problems has remained unaddressed in our villages, towns and slums. Who will sponsor their problems to the top technology institutions? How will these problems be addressed unless we motivate the young tech students? We have to harness idealism still available among young hearts.
We could in due course post technology challenges from large companies in private and public also at such a portal so that simultaneous attempt is made by many students at cracking their problems. Their advantage will be that (i) they will learn about multiple heuristics aimed at solving same problem, (ii) identify bright young students who they could hire for their in house R and D projects, and (iii) strengthen departments in which promising mentoring and guidance is being provided. Today the top institutions get far more attention even when we know that Chandrayan Moon Mission of ISRO and Tata Nano did not have any one practically from so called top institutions. It is not that these Top institutions do not deserve support. They do. But not just that they do. We have to develop distributed capacity for nurturing talent in hundreds of small towns and villages through a network of large number of second and third tier of Institutions. Many of these institutions may have top quality departments of specific subjects which will be uncovered through Techpedia.sristi.org. Synergy between all kinds of technology institutions will emerge in due course.
India can become an innovation based incubator of the world. Ideas from all over the world may come to India for incubation, product development, design and fabrication. Let us pool our spirit and resources to make this happen.
Anil K Gupta