Strengthening grassroots innovation ecosystem: ideas for action


Strengthening grassroots innovation ecosystem: ideas for action

Over the last three decades, Honey Bee Network volunteers and institutions spawned by it  viz., SRISTI [Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions], GIAN [Gujarat Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network] and NIF [National Innovation Foundation] have proved that economically disadvantaged people are not creatively constrained.  They can solve local problems, some of which have regional, national and even global applications.  And yet, the mechanisms and processes for scaling grassroots innovations and more importantly the principles underlying remain  to be strengthened further.  In this note, I will like to make some suggestions for three kinds of solutions/innovations [a] open source, [b] IP protected and [c] open source for fellow farmers/mechanics but IP protected for companies:


There are five steps required to test and explore open innovations at large scale.  First, we should create financial and institutional mechanisms for large scale testing and evaluation of the solutions under real life conditions of farmers, workers, craftsmen, artisans and other potential users.  Just as large-scale trials of new crop varieties and practices helped in their diffusion and bringing about green revolution, we have to create a similar process for cost reducing and productivity enhancing DIY non-farm grassroots innovations/solutions.  Secondly, in addition to testing at user level, we should also use KVK {Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Farm Science Centre] of ICAR located in each one of  700+ districts for testing the solutions under supervised conditions.  Thirdly, we should form community experimenters’ group or clubs to monitor and evaluate these trials at different stages.  Fourthly, we should provide support through one-minute videos and other audio-visual inputs to build the capacity of the potential users in adapting and improving the solutions.  And fifthly, those who improvise the solutions and make them even better should be recognized along with the original innovators.   Through these steps, we can create our whole country and the world into an shared communitywide experimental lab.


Depending upon the relative costs of such innovations, one can support the conversion of these innovations into enterprises, facilitate  their transfer to potential entrepreneurs at mutually agreed terms and acquire the IP rights by paying innovators reasonable  amount and make these solutions open source to go through the five steps mentioned above.  While licensing these technologies to different entrepreneurs, one should also facilitate capacity building of the licensees.  In some cases, pooling of such IP protected technologies may be necessary to make them viable and functionally more effective.  The reformed District Innovation Fund can also be used to facilitate transfer of such technologies to small and micro entrepreneurs.


A portfolio of such innovations should be shared with small, medium and large industries through fair and just licensing agreements.  Government can facilitate where applicable for all the three kinds of technologies and give priority to efficient users and entrepreneurs. 

The use of public media such as radio and television has not been fully exploited for the purpose.  The diffusion on internet platforms also needs to be facilitated through promotion and reviews in the print media.  Somehow, despite huge disparity in the digital economy, because of limited access to smart phones and internet, we have not paid due attention to radio.  It is one of the most democratic and affordable medium of communication.  Though it is one-way communication, with the help of toll-free number, it can be made two way. The process of discovering and disseminating innovations must continue hand-in-hand.

HBNCRIIA [Honey Bee Network Creativity & Inclusive Innovation Awards] is the competition open for all, people of any age, anywhere.   People can send their ideas, innovations, prototype and products whether IP protected or otherwise at by Nov 30, 2020.   They can also send this information through Whatsapp N0 +916353549983 or to The award will be announced on December 11, birthday of our former President, Bharat Ratna Shri. Pranab Mukherjee.  The Festival of Innovations organized during his tenure provided a unique opportunity for hosting the innovators at Rashtrapati Bhawan (The President’s House) for more than a week.  Never before any Head of the State had hosted grassroots innovators and students including children at his residence.  Similarly, the Festival of Innovation and the exhibition alongside was open to any citizen of the country besides the school children, ex-servicemen and others.

UNDP Innovation Acceleration Network in 108 countries can provide wings to grassroots innovations through horizontal diffusion across the globe to help achieve sustainable development goals.

I hope that we can invite philanthropists, high networth individuals, corporations and others to join hands in strengthening the inclusive innovation ecosystem spawned by the Honey Bee Network and several other institutions and state and central governments.  It is not important as to who gets what credit so long the good ideas can grow and help millions of creative people whose talent and spirit still remains under-recognized and under-supported.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place