With every passing day, the journey for grassroots innovators is becoming slightly easier due to multiple efforts by the central and the state governments. However, there are several significant gaps still which require urgent reforms at different levels.
The advantage of public procurement has still not been obtained by the majority of grassroots innovators. There are several steps required for such a thing to happen.
Multilocation testing and trials: We need to provide special funding window for multilocation, multi-year trials of all innovations having shown social impact at the micro level. This can happen by a provision for test-procurement so that the innovator can be given opportunities for making 100-1000 prototypes for widespread trials under different user conditions to generate data that will get public agencies confidence in its eventual large-scale procurement. Most start ups can not afford such trials, particularly from rural regions where even angel funds don’t have much reach at all. Public R&D agencies should also facilities this by waiving testing fees or charging only a nominal fee. There must be a national /state level fund to underwrite such expenses by innovators who have met minimum performance condition at micro level. Most agencies don’t have any special provision for such concessional testing except Honey Bee Network institutions.
Multilocation demonstration and social diffusion: it is easy to complain that many grassroots innovations don’t scale up but in how many cases, have we provided support for large scale demonstration after prior trials have shown basic worthiness of the solution for that region or sector? Private sector companies spend so much on promotion, sponsor so many cultural and other events to create awareness of their new products particularly among youth. We don’t use the platforms like railways which have the captive audience of about 25 million passengers every day including suburban commuters in metro-cities. Nor have we used postal network of 1.5 lac post offices covering 6.5 lac villages for social diffusion of preventive health, pest control, livestock care, nutrition and so many other agro-processing and micro industrial technologies. Every month, every single village of the country can be reached by relevant ideas, innovations and information on low cost safe, sustainable way of dealing with various human, livestock, agricultural, environmental and hygiene-related stresses. We can also use this kind of channel for learning from the communities, seeking their ideas, new developments but also doubts, map persistently unmet technological and institutional needs.
Pooling for half-baked ideas, student projects and patents to create new innovations: unless we update and pool more than 200k students projects at, techpedia.sristi.org, 0.45 million abandoned US patents at gian.org/patent.php, with the ones also at CSIR sites and Indian patent office, how will we harness the potential of million of hours that inventors in India and around the world have spent in creating these knowledge-public goods. The Honey Bee Network has provided so many open-access databases of different kinds of solutions so that search cost of emerging innovators and entrepreneurs can go down and they can assimilate viable ideas from these databases. Besides they can also contact the students or their guides and get support in solving their own problems. A market for merit has been created through these open technological innovations and project databases. I acknowledge the help of Devika and Zaigham, two former students at IIMA who helped in creating the abandoned US patents. Soon, we will be sharing patents filed globally on ayurvedic knowledge so that our own experts and scholars start creating novel innovative claims in this rich traditional knowledge systems without restricting access to what is already in public domain. Knowledge/technology Volunteers are welcome to make India, the largest provider of open source solutions to various grassroots challenges.