R&D is India’s big ticket to becoming an innovation powerhouse

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India has been on a steady climb to the summit of innovation over the past several years. From a rank of 81 in 2015 to 46 in 2021 in the Global Innovation Index (GII), India has made a continuous headway in developing technology solutions such as AI, cloud, mobility, green tech, and health tech.

This digital revolution has opened the nation to a golden pipeline of new opportunities around mission-driven research, innovation, and technology development while simultaneously navigating the talent crunch rocking the tech world impacted by the pandemic. India now ranks third as the most attractive investment destinations for technology transactions globally, which is a testament to the strides made in becoming a global leader in industrialization and technological development. Adding to the maturing capabilities of the Indian Engineering Research and Development (ER&D) ecosystem, the establishment of Global Capability Centres (GCC) has also played a big role in the development of Indian engineering and innovation excellence. Infact, GCC is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6-7% to over 1,900 by 2025, according to a report by IT industry body Nasscom.

The scale and depth of the engineering talent has enhanced the enterprises’ confidence in the Indian ER&D to own and deliver products for the global, regional, and local markets. With the world’s spotlight on our tremendous tech ecosystem, it is more important than ever to highlight the value of R&D in leveraging Indian ingenuity, as this is where we begin to chart the steps for the future.

Businesses Must Tap India’s Enthusiasm for Innovation

India‘s accelerated advancements in technology has aided businesses across industries to develop products that cater to the global markets. Products that are now vying neck-and-neck with its powerful global counterparts.

According to the Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh, the Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) has grown; India continues to be an investment hotbed for multinationals for Information Technology (IT), Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS), engineering, and research & development (R&D) services delivery. Safe to say that the future is now, and the future is in India.

Another feather in India’s cap is its position as the third-largest startup ecosystem globally with over 80,000 startups, and has the fourth-largest number of unicorns at 56 (as of June ‘21) and 45% of the top 500 global R&D spenders have their centres in India. This clearly shows India has no shortage of talent and increasing R&D spend will fire up the nation’s corporate sector, strengthening India’s economic, technological, and strategic ambitions.

With more than a peripheral focus on R&D, businesses will have a well-defined roadmap to discover and create new knowledge around specific topics that can stand to transform society for the better.

For example, during the peak of the Covid pandemic, it was primarily due to the innovations that came out of the healthcare industry that helped people weather the crisis worldwide. There is untapped knowledge waiting to be churned out into life-altering innovations, and the way to get there is through R&D.

R&D to Unlock India’s Superior Talent

R&D is a critical component in strengthening the productivity and economic growth of a nation. Empirical data shows that a robust R&D infrastructure directly contributes to a nation’s sustained growth and creates employment opportunities.

One of the essential criteria to establish a flourishing R&D center has been identified as skilled personnel. As per multiple studies, India is globally recognized as a trustworthy source of talent for IT, software development, and positions requiring high technical abilities. According to recent studies, technology hiring for FY22 will be anywhere between 3.7 and 4.6 lakh. This can be leveraged by innovation centers across the country to accelerate overall value creation.

Given the availability of a vibrant and diverse talent pool in India, whose full potential is yet to be leveraged, a full range of skills must be cultivated in the workforce, from the creative to the complex cognitive capabilities. Adding to the pool are the gig economy freelancers, amateur entrepreneurs, and inventors, contingent workers, part-time employees, self-taught programmers, or household innovators.

Investments in R&D from the government and private sector will help in retaining this talent in the country. An exaggerated focus on experience-based skills development, like on-the-job learning and apprenticeships, mentoring circles, externships, reskilling initiatives, will provide a structured environment to experiment in real settings thus bringing hidden innovators into the formal economy.

India is an Innovation Hub Like No Other

India’s robust technical landscape can not only boost innovation but also make the Indian research ecosystem more attractive destination for research globally. India has scaled up its global IT value with the help of State support to become pioneers of technological revolution over the years. The enormous growth of GCCs over the years have been a catalyst in reshaping the business of global organizations and cementing India’s technology leadership. According to Nasscom, as digital transformation gains momentum across industries, India continues to be the most attractive destination for setting up Global Capability Centers (GCCs). Despite its myriad initiatives to bolster investment from the private sector, there is still lots to be achieved to increase private contribution to research.

The Decade of Innovation witnessed India’s mettle in the international innovation landscape and has firmly held its position as a global innovator. Both the government and the companies need to work closely like hands-in-gloves to realign and reshape their go-to-market strategies by strengthening their commitment to scientific development. With this commitment and resilience, India can become a critical stakeholder in the global product development value chain over the next decade.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.