India needs creativity, innovation to address poverty: PM

"We have made innovations in areas such as space technology, atomic energy and automobiles. But innovation in our country has focused mostly on the needs of the rich and not adequately on solving problems of the poor. We wish to change this state of affairs," Singh said while releasing a report of the Innovation Council of India.

Innovation, Singh said, can be "a game changer to move from incremental change to radical change. And therefore, it is our resolve to build an enabling environment for innovation to flourish."

The country, he added, needs models for innovation to address problems in areas such as poverty alleviation, health, rural communications, agriculture, animal husbandry, green energy and so on.

Noting that innovation has a critical role to play in India's growth and development, the Prime Minister said, "The set of challenges that we as a nation face is not only diverse, but also unique. It is only through creativity and innovation, by coming up with novel solutions appropriate to Indian context, that we can meet these challenges effectively."

The country, he added, was currently witnessing innovation in rights-based delivery through the Right to Work, Right to Information and Right to Education, while a Right to Food Security was on the anvil.

Speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that the government would provide Rs 100 crore for the India Innovation Fund, which would fund low-cost innovation.

India's diversity, Singh said, is an advantage and innovation will happen if people with diverse talent come together for a common endeavour.

Demographically, India is a youthful nation, the Prime Minister said, adding, "The young are restless, impatient for change and innovative. We need to fully exploit these advantages."

Recalling the tradition of innovation in the country, Singh said, "We were the first to realise the vision of universities at Nalanda and Takhshila. Our freedom struggle that we won without arms was a social innovation in peaceful resistance."

Singh also welcomed the initiative of the council to set up a "meta-university" -- a collaborative platform where a network of universities would offer students the opportunity to pursue various disciplines of study.

Pointing out that venture capital funds do not cater to solving problems of the poor, Mukherjee said, "I propose to make an initial contribution of Rs 100 crore to kickstart the Indian Innovation Fund... The fund will pioneer low-cost innovation."

Innovation, he stressed, could significantly help in raising productivity of the informal sector, which suffers from various problems.

"Our informal sector, where the majority of our workforce employed has low productivity and low skilled activities... They could benefit from innovation if they would exploit the existing knowledge base, including product design and connectivity with markets," the Finance Minister said.

The government has taken various initiatives like tax concessions for encouraging scientific research, he said, adding that the first multi-disciplinary meta-university will be rolled out in 2012.

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