Need to do more to monetise research

India has a huge network of institutes that facilitate research. Research can be pursued at universities and other institutes catering to domains like biotechnology, defence, space, economics, management, etc.
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 22:54 IST

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The research ecosystem in India is improving, but we have a long way to go. Many developing countries are far ahead of us in the research domain. India spends just 0.7 percent of its GDP on research and development activities. Qualitative improvements in research are also needed.

India has a huge network of institutes that facilitate research. Research can be pursued at universities and other institutes catering to domains like biotechnology, defence, space, economics, management, etc. However, research is not often a preferred choice for students. Why this is so is itself a matter of study.

Any formal research requires significant investment in money, time, and effort. This investment would prove worthwhile only if the research outcomes can be put to practical use. Research for research’s sake, more often than not, doesn’t create real value. Of course, not every thesis in India can be converted into a business plan. But honestly, we lack research commercialisation, and it’s time we explore the opportunities it offers.

Commercialisation brings innovations to the market by transforming ideas or research into marketable products. Commercialisation enables researchers to translate their discoveries into products or services that benefit people and society. This may generate revenue streams for researchers and research institutes through licence fees, patents and equity stakes in enterprises and start-ups. The process can be time-consuming and require much effort, but it brings researchers many new opportunities, allowing them to generate impact outside academia.

Engaging in commercialisation fosters collaboration between researchers and industries, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and resources for more robust research outcomes. It also opens new doors for research funding for further commercialisation and technology upgradation. The best part is that commercialisation results in new businesses and industries generating employment opportunities, stimulating economic growth, and improving quality of life.

We must accept that research and commerce are separate areas, and not every researcher is expected to have business acumen. As such, the commercialisation of research carries many challenges. The commercial angle should not divert researchers’ attention from core research activities and academic pursuits. It can be a personal choice if a researcher or researcher’s team wants to take up the commercialisation alone. Still, there is a need to build a resource base of experts and business-oriented individuals capable of taking up such business and mobilising investments.

Risks and rewards

Commercialisation ventures may encounter other inherent risks, including market acceptance, competition, and technological obsolescence, which may cause financial losses or setbacks for researchers and their institutions. Negotiating intellectual property rights and navigating complex legal frameworks also require the services of experts.

The idea of commercialising scientific research has raised the concerns among many who fear that the industry’s pursuit of profit will impact the research projects. Critics say the social contract that cultivates science for the common good should not be at stake. So, mechanisms must be built to promote research and commercialisation in a balanced way.

Research institutes and commercial enterprises must collaborate to leverage the benefits of research outcomes. Even though some may be afraid of the domination of private commercial interests over common scientific study, things are likely not quite that dire because research and commercial interests are not inherently opposed. They can, and often do, work together harmoniously for the good of many rather than just a few.

Research commercialisation cannot occur without first completing the research. A strong public-private partnership is needed to help research and research commercialisation thrive in our country and raise our innovation index.

IITs in the country have taken several initiatives in research commercialisation. Bodies like the Biotechnology Research and Innovation Council have also been involved. We are aware of the start-up culture pervading the country. Many start-ups have chosen to undertake research commercialisation and have been able to produce outcomes that are useful for different segments of society. 

Recently, the Wadhwani Foundation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the All India Council for Technical Education, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Centre of Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) to establish Wadhwani Innovation Network Centers of Excellence (WIN-COEs). These centres will accelerate the commercialisation of academic innovations by Indian faculty, students, and researchers aimed at transforming research into real-world applications with economic and societal benefits.

While areas like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, health tech, etc., offer immense scope for research and research commercialisation, there is a need to ensure that social science research also comes out of the closet and contributes to the larger good of society.

Published 08 July 2024, 22:54 IST

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