We have all been fascinated in our childhood by chasing the fireflies in the late evening and night.  The fireflies of creativity and innovation are obviously not visible in the day time, though they illuminate their surroundings the same way as they do in the night.  Perhaps, the darkness which makes them visible signifies the contrasting eco systems.   Over the years, NIF and Honey Bee Ntwork  have made them more and more visible nationally and internationally.  And yet, the institutional ecosystem still does not recognise their sparks as much as it could.  Neither have the text books of children incorporated any lessons based on their life struggles and contributions nor have public media allocated even an hour or week on radio and television regularly.  How else can we challenge the mass inertia involving continued adaptation to the high level of drudgery and inefficiency involved in many of the technologies used by women and several other disadvantaged social groups.    I hope that very soon we will see the fireflies not only in the night, but will develop an eye to see them around us in the day light of our nurturant sprit and collaborative culture.

The sixth  round of unaided grassroots innovation and outstanding traditional knowledge practices was pursued during 2007-08 helping us discover 36000ideas, innovations and practices.  The contribution of the Honey Bee Network volunteers was as always most significant in scouting new ideas. However, the quality ofentries directly received also went up very significantly during this round.  On one hand it is a tribute to the awareness the Honey Bee Network and various campaigns of NIF have created in the nooks and corners of the country, on the other, it is also a challenge to the Network.  New methods have to be found to look for creative people and support their innovative ideas and outstanding traditional knowledge.  One of the experiments being started in the current year is reaching out to all the 6.5 lacs villages through a postal network of 1.5 post offices.  We hope that through this Network, we will achieve much greater efficiency in both scouting and disseminating the innovations, ideas and functional and viable traditional knowledge practices.

The shodhyatras pursued in different parts of the country will also have to involve new pedagogies for reaching out to the unheard and unseen voices of our country.   It has taken us much longer for organising the award function this time for various reasons beyond our control but we hope that we will be able to organise the seventh round award function next year.

Some of the lessons from the innovations recognised this time are:  [a] the feedback from the formal R&D system in many cases is not only very positive but also conducive to the continuing collaboration between formal and informal sector of innovation, [b] the definition of national innovation system has transformed forever to include the grassroots innovations as a inalienable part of the national polity, [c] the energy technologies ofplant varieties and solutions for physically challenged people are the ones which diffused the most followed by herbal technologies, [d] some of the national awards have gone to the young students who earlier received  recognition only under the student category.  This shows the emerging youthful face of innovative potential, [e] the partnership awards signify the contribution oflegal firms, design school, Indian Institute ofTechnologies, fabricators and small firms.  We hope that many more such partnerships will be forged in future to take the innovation movement forward.

This is the first time we are giving national awards for herbal technologies for communities whose knowledge had withstood the test of rigorous scientific scrutiny in an unambiguous manner.  It is likely that in future many more technologies will be recognised in this category.  It may be worthwhile to mention that for the last eight to ten years, we did not recognise many herbal technologies for animal and human purposes because of the long time it takes for validation.  It is a belated recognition of the vibrant and viable traditional knowledge systems of the country.

NIF seeks very active help from designers, fabricators, R&D institutions, mentors and other marketing and media support agencies for giving new wings to the ideas and imagination of the common people.  Some ofthe new initiatives begun by NIF in the last few years are: creating of Technology Acquisition Fund [TAF] for expanding public domain and strengthening open innovation platform; creation of innovation based incubators through setting up of community fabrication workshops at the place of different distinguished grassroots innovators to nurture innovation in their neighbourhood; mobilising CSR resources from international companies such as Alstom for diffusing technologies such as low cost  windmill amongst from the poorest people such as salt workers; establishment of Fab Lab with the help of MIT Boston which is slowly and slowly is being used by the innovators both young and old;  and partnership with not only R&D institutions but also large marketing firms like the Future Group for taking ideas forward through the market channels.  The social diffusion of innovations is also receiving much more support than ever before becauseof augmented resources of NIF after its becoming an institution of Department ofScience and Technology, Government ofIndia. 

I take this opportunity to thank all the stakeholders including the Directors on the Governing Board [both past and present], Department of Science and Technology, various R&D institutions belonging to CSIR [Council of Scientific and Industrial Research] , ICMR [Indian Council of Medial Research] and ICAR [Indian Council of Agricultural Research] and other universities and colleges, private designers and design institutions, intellectual property firms and large number of Honey Bee Network volunteers.  I must particularly thank all the members of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad without whose support it would have been impossible for NIF to have made so much progress. Everybody including students, staff, faculty and administration has supported all initiatives of NIF wholeheartedly and with a great sense of collegiality.

I hope that more and more entrepreneurs and scientists and public and private companies will come forward to join hands with NIF for making this Decade of Innovation as truly an inclusive one.

I must, however add at the end a small regret for which we have not found any answer.  And this is about extreme imbalance between the available resources and the tasks ahead.  Even if we stop scouting any further innovations and ideas, at the current rate ofthe budget, it might take us few  centuries to just properly screen, validate and value add in the people’s knowledge.  The fact is that flow of knowledge will continue may be even at higher rate.  If such is the case, then how will we be able to do justice to the aspirationsof creative communities and individuals ofour country?

I thank all the staff members and volunteersof NIF, SRISTI, GIAN and other partner institutions for their unstinted support to make grassroots innovations movement of our country a global benchmark.  I hope that we will be able to make a small difference in the lives of common people by disseminating widely the knowledge, innovations and practices of creative communities and individuals being recognized in the award function.

Anil K Gupta