What Makes India a Successful Global R&D Hub

Date:   Tuesday , December 01, 2009

Innovation is a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental and emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. Following Schumpeter (1934), contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice. In many fields, something new must be substantially different to be innovative, not an insignificant change, e.g., in the arts, economics, business and government policy. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value. The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy*.
India’s potential and how we can leverage it.

India has had a very long history in science, going back to the country’s ancient civilizations. It is this practice in science developed so early in history that has formed the bedrock of our current advancements in science and technology. India, as a country has always had scientific and technological talent of the highest quality and has for long been the source of good technical talent for a number of more developed economies.

Today, it is heartening to see this talent not only remain in India, where they believe the best opportunities in the world lie but also return to their homeland; because this is where they believe their future is – creating an environment for technological advancements of the highest level.

To effectively leverage this technical talent to the optimum, it is necessary to begin training early on in life. We no longer can afford the luxury of learning on the job and thereby wasting a couple of years. Technocrats need to jump start their careers, which means educational institutes must give industry ready professionals to industry.

Industry and academia have recognized this requirement and for the last few years are coming together to ensure that a set of industry ready professionals enter the R&D ecosystem every year.

So where does this leave India as a global R&D hub?

India’s evolution as a global R&D hub
India today is a global R&D hub for sophisticated areas such as network equipment, medical equipment, semiconductor design, aerospace and automotive. Not only have multi-nationals set up their own R&D operations in India and partnered with local enterprises but Indian multinationals are also leveraging the talent pool for cutting edge development.

Companies the world over are doing their best, market differentiating work here in India. The complexities in technology being developed in India have increased exponentially and the quality standards can hold their own in a highly competitive global environment.

The teams based in India today are in a position to lead and collaborate with R&D teams across the globe to help define an organization’s leadership position in their respective domains and in the industry as a whole.

However, care must be taken to continue to nurture this ecosystem. Academia and industry must continue to co-operate closely to understand each other's requirements and deliver the same in a mutually beneficial environment.

Opportunities to leverage
Until recently, enterprises used to strive for improvement. Little did anyone imagine that the information explosion and the global economy boom will drive innovation in everyday life. Enterprises no longer pursue incremental improvements but continuously reinvent to remain a step ahead of competition. Innovation is fundamental for achieving profitable and sustainable growth and is the most important criterion for success in the future.

An IDC study clearly indicates that organizations may be looking for value in their software investments, and not just at the cost. Given this, technology firms have to continuously innovate to create sustainable competitive advantage that benefits customers and creates greater shareholder value.

The opportunities for India to leverage are myriad. India continues to deliver world class technology defining the success of a company. Immense progress has been made in science, technology, biotechnology, aerospace, automotives and computation. A great agrarian nation, is today speeding ahead to be a key global hub for innovation in technology.

It is indeed a matter of great pride to say that India is a preferred destination not merely for the cost advantage but also the advantages in the way of talent and IP.

The current entrepreneurial ecosystem
Further fuelling the success of innovation in India in the R&D environment created by the MNCs is the very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Whether in India or any part of the world, entrepreneurship dynamics remains the same. A majority of the entrepreneurs are experienced business executives and have been exposed to a highly challenging business environment overseas. They want to build wealth and make an impact before they retire. Given India’s R&D strength it is only a matter of time before we see enterprising executives action their plans.

These entrepreneurs bring with them a wealth of experience to infuse into their ventures. Operating in their chosen niche areas of expertise they often complement the development process of larger R&D organizations by providing specific and niche technology. While some of them venture into novel unexplored territories others operate independently in their own domain, setting standards of quality and service.

The road ahead and the future
India has the potential to excel in almost any field it enters. This needs capital, direction from industry and academia, and a policy that is conducive to long-term investment and development. Going forward, India will consolidate her position as a significant destination for business and R&D, moving from strength to strength and defining the standards for the rest of the world to emulate.

The author is Vice President – India Product Operations of Symantec Software.