nnovations across Himalaya: global trade versus knowledge exchange surplus
It is an extraordinary story of triumph of pragmatic economic interests of both the countries overtaking long term historical problems and tensions. China has about 25 billion dollars worth of trade surplus with India which Indian Prime Minister recently pleaded with Chinese leadership top reduce. But if we were to calculate the knowledge exchange index as a measure of Global Innovation Learning index, then situation might become different. India has shared about twelve thousand grassroots innovations and sustainable knowledge practices at its site with the world as against Chinese three thousand GRIs. Before I dwell upon the meaning of unilateral giving of innovations and exchange of knowledge public goods as new currencies of world economy, I must add that we need new metrices for evaluating our potential as well as capabilities.
The exchange of commodities determined the power of trade in the first phase of economy cycle. Once knowledge began to be deployed as value add in the traded good, the share of knowledge based tradables began to increase. The countries which had huge reserves of primary commodities did not have any advantage any more. Of course Chinese dominance in some of the trace elements which are used in electronic industry does influence the way trade prospects are viewed in future.
The third phase has been of distributed and open source knowledge management. There are many trends whether in software or even some of the other knowledge based industries which indicate that intellectual property seems to weigh a bit less than before in determining new benchmarks of efficiencies and global connectedness.
In this context, how do we see the role of open source, open innovation platform created by Honey Bee Network twenty four years ago. To what extent the intellectual property protection has helped in leveraging the comparative advantages of different innovations ( NIF has field more than 560 patents and trademarks and plant variety protection applications) and how has it taught communities across India and China, two civilizational societies about the merit of blending open source with closed bounded IP protected technologies.
Recently, two books have been brought out by SRISTI Innovations including case studies of Grassroots Innovations Across Himalayas and Crucible of Creativity: a sample of Indo-china cases. We learn that some time same problem faced in both the countries have led to triggering similar solutions by common people. If only we had realised the need for continuing the exchange begun more than 2000 years ago, we could have saved civilizational duplication of efforts. We don’t measure the lag of this kind in calculating innovation index. The policy and institutional lag thus continues.
I suggest that we calculate innovation indices afresh within and among countries with several modifications:
a) Has the unit cost come down in various sectors and spaces over last five years? Unfortunately, in most countries inflation is assumed as an inevitable feature of the economy and unit cost of various operations keep on increasing progressively. The top level of government should track the opposite.
b) How many ideas from the grassroots were learnt, analyzed, abstracted and scaled up in different ministries?
c) How many programmes were stopped, modified or started on the basis of the feedback from the grassroots?
d) Were various barriers to innovations identified for institutionalizing cost saving and effect enhancing innovations?
e) How many patentees were approached to either in-license their innovations for improving public systems or to support their entrepreneurial ventures or to acquire their rights to make those technologies open source for MSME?
f) How many student teams were mobilized in different parts of the country to benchmark the energy, material, waste generation and recycling by MSME and what steps were taken to ameliorate the conditions?
g) How many grassroots innovators have received support from formal R&D, design and fabrication institutions?
h) How many products and services based on innovative efforts at grassroots level received product development and incubation support?
i) How many industries came forward to sign benefit-sharing agreements with the grassroots innovators and communities to scale up their ideas innovations?
j) How many traditional knowledge-holders signed up contracts with formal R&D institutions to develop extremely affordable and safe solutions for agricultural, livestock and human problems?
k) How many communities were supported for in situ conservation of biodiversity so as to keep the local supplies of knowledge based products intact?
l) How many trust funds were created to empower local communities to manage their knowledge systems dynamically and in a socially desirable manner?
m) How many women innovators got support to take their ideas forward in different sectors of the economy?
By measuring our ecosystem strength on western outdated indices, we will get the results we are getting. we will not go very far. This is not a lesson we have learned as yet, despite pretensions to do otherwise.
If Chinese society is willing to learn from Honey Bee Network, why should national innovation council feel hesitant in doing the same?
Anil K Gupta