Is India really at a technological crossroads? The answer, surely, is yes.

This perhaps leads to more questions than answers, especially because the nature of the technology leap (as opposed to leap) that India is experiencing has yet to be documented in a way that can undo the established wisdom of industrial revolutions in either the West or in the East. .

The UNESCO Science Report from 2021 suggests that in terms of purchasing power parity, India now spends more on research than France, the UK and Italy. The same report said that there is apparent lethargy in these countries and in Japan. While China is catching up with the US, Germany and South Korea continue to demonstrate a strong appetite for innovation.

The Government of India often projects achievements stemming from its initiatives that have increased technology adoption in India. I believe the sum is more compelling than the sum of the parts.

India registers the largest number of real-time digital payments globally and has left China and advanced countries far behind. India activated Aaddhar-based JAM

, followed by UPI and the digital health stack. The country is now exploring the extremely ambitious Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) and the Digital Ecosystem for Skills and Livelihoods – the DESH-Stack eportal – which have the potential to deliver services to citizens and businesses quickly and efficiently.

India’s technology efforts are increasingly engaging in broader capacity building that is contributing directly to knowledge creation in the short term, providing sustainable economies for departments beyond science ministries to aggressively explore technology opportunities .

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None of this would have been possible without re-igniting local capabilities in recent years with stronger public-private partnerships in knowledge creation. Creating space for individual ingenuity to flourish through startups and knowledge networks has been supported by important reforms.

Citizens and small businesses increasingly appreciate the benefits of digital technologies, which are becoming more affordable. India, as the world’s pharmacy, has been manufacturing cheap generic drugs for decades and supplying them domestically and abroad.

Creating more value requires further resource mobilization and internal adjustments within the sectoral innovation ecosystem. India indigenously developed and manufactured vaccines and ventilators to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than two billion doses administered.

India is known to be a major vaccine hub and is attracting international attention for its public policy, market and regulatory mechanisms that support vaccine research and commercialization.

The International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure are other valuable initiatives catalyzed by India.

What has perhaps been India’s most successful initiative in recent times is enabling the large-scale deployment of digital technologies to address development challenges and spur investment in renewable energy equipment, from green hydrogen to storage of energy.

While industrialized countries seem to have turned to energy-intensive industrial policies in recent times, careful implementation of subsidy schemes linked to India’s own manufacturing – from semiconductors to EVs and advanced cell chemistry – will facilitate participation largest private sector R&D and will promote technology collaborations through joint ventures.

According to media reports, Ola Electric is investing $500 million in R&D and its focus on cell innovation suggests a growing appetite for R&D among industry players.

Complementing the government’s efforts, such private sector investment in R&D would provide significant opportunities for India if they are aligned with India’s long-term needs. It is increasingly recognized that India’s affordability-driven technology solutions across sectors generate positive externalities beyond its borders.

From the perspective of R&D and innovation pipelines, global partnerships for knowledge co-creation will remain important despite domestic efforts. The emerging challenges are all global in nature and technological solutions are emerging from various sources.

The old innovation systems, which were considered costly by some developing countries, are being replaced by more democratic structures that should be supported by appropriate incentives and regulations.

India can lead the way in this direction, with policy innovations taking shape through multi-level engagements between different arms of government and a range of technology actors, including businesses, startups, social entrepreneurs, community institutions and , above all, the citizens.

The author is an associate professor at RIS

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