Could you kindly give a brief overview of how NIF, SRISTI and Honey Bee are interlinked, and the work of each body connects with the
Honey Bee Network was the first to come about more than 21 years ago to essentially recognize, respect and reward knowledge rich, economically poor people at the grassroots level. Cross-pollination of ideas through local language version of newsletter, acknowledging the knowledge rights of knowledge providers and sharing benefits became the cardinal principles much before CBD or TRIPS were around.
In 1993, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) was set up to provide backstopping to the Network. SRISTI has eventually become the incubator of institutions. The entire eco-system from scouting, documentation, validation and value addition, IPR protection, business development and dissemination [on commercial or social basis] was developed at regional level through Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) in 1997 and at national level through NIF (National Innovation Foundation) supported by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India in February 2000.
The Honey Bee Network primarily creates awareness through shodh yatras every summer and winter in different parts of the country and helps in scouting of innovations, traditional knowledge and ideas through volunteers. It also provides an oversight over all the institutions so that core values remain central to the working of respective institutions.
SRISTI anticipates future needs, articulates policy changes, experiments with models and where possible tries to institutionalise them through autonomous decentralised structures. It has its own responsibility of scouting, documentation, dissemination in different languages, etc. It has a natural product lab, SRISTI Sadhbhav Sanshodhan which pools the best practices and develops new products for agriculture, livestock and human applications. It also works on microbial diversity as indicator of eco-system health. It has developed several databases on innovations, TK practices, common property resource institutions, library, open source softwares for school children, a portal on cultural creativity [sristi.org/cultural] besides capacity building in India, China, Brazil and many other countries. It has created a virtual academy viz., AASTIIK (Academy for Augmenting Sustainable Technological Inventions, Innovations and traditional Knowledge) for enabling people to do research themselves besides formal studies. It also is building capacity among researchers in China through a three-year partnership with Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, supported by IDRC, Canada. Earlier, with the help of APCTT, it developed a manual on scouting and documentation and also organised capacity building workshops in China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.
SRISTI Innovations is a Section 25 Company which publishes Honey Bee, Soojh Bhuj, Lok Sarvani newsletters in English, Hindi and Gujarati languages respectively. In addition, it also publishes books, pamphlets and commercialises herbal products.
NIF is a national body which is responsible for technological innovations, TK and ideas pursued by children and adults from informal sector. It provides support for validation, value addition in traditional knowledge and commercialisation of grassroots innovations besides strengthening the capacity for scouting and documentation. It also files patents on behalf of the innovators and coordinates with SRISTI and Honey Bee Network and shodh yatras, Traditional Food Festival, Sattvik and other activities. It organises biennial competitions for scouting innovations and rewarding outstanding creativity at the hands of Hon’ble President of India. It also organises IGNITE awards for school children for which awards are given by former President, Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. NIF also has a Micro Venture Innovation Fund [MVIF] which provides risk capital to innovators under single signature for commercialising innovation based products.
GIAN is an incubator which connects the golden triangle for rewarding creativity comprising innovation, investment and enterprise. The transaction cost of each actor has to be reduced and interests of the innovator have to be protected while mediating various agreements. There are two GIANs at the moment, for western region in Ahmedabad and it was supported by Gujarat government. For northern region, there is a GIAN at Jaipur. In addition, NIF has GIAN cell in Sri Nagar and a few other institutions.
2) Please place in perspective the significance of the work of innovators as in the Honey Bee network? How valuable is it to India and the Indian economy?
The most important contribution is to establish the notion that poor people are not so poor in all domains of life. They should not be treated as a ‘sink’ of aid and advice only. Instead, their role as a ‘source of solutions’ needs to be appreciated. Frugal, flexible and affordable solutions are the most pervasive outcomes of creativity and innovations at grassroots.
Anil K Gupta