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National Innovation Foundation (NIF) India

The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) - India was set up in March 2000 with the assistance of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It is India's national initiative to strengthen the grassroots technological innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge. Its mission is to help India become a creative and knowledge-based society by expanding policy and institutional space for grassroots technological innovators.

Vision and Mission

Vision

To make India innovative and adding value to India's outstanding traditional knowledge base.

Mission

To help India become inventive and creative, and to become a global leader in sustainable technologies without social and economic handicaps affecting the evolution and diffusion of green grassroots innovations.

Objectives of NIF

The primary objectives of NIF are:

  • To help India become innovative and creative, and to become a global leader in sustainable technologies by scouting, spawning and sustaining grassroots innovations.
  • To ensure evolution and diffusion of green grassroots innovation on a selective, time-bound and mission-oriented basis so as to meet the socioeconomic and environmental needs of our society.
  • To provide institutional support in scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up grassroots green innovations as well as outstanding traditional knowledge and helping their transition to self-supporting activities
  • To seek self-reliance through competitive advantage of innovation-based enterprises and/or application of "people-generated sustainable technologies" at grassroots level
  • To build linkage between excellence in formal scientific systems and informal knowledge systems and create a knowledge network to link various stakeholders through application of Information Technology (IT) and other means
  • To promote wider social awareness and possible applications of the know-how generated as a result of these initiatives in commercial or social spheres and encourage its incorporation in educational curriculum, developmental policies and programs

Activities of NIF

Scouting, Documentation and Database Management (SDDM)

Thousands of examples from India and elsewhere have shown that the people at the grassroots, farmers, artisans, mechanics and the like have been relying on their own ingenuity to solve their local problems. In absence of an external aid, the only option left with them is to come up with their own solutions, which, in many cases, may be able to solve similar problems elsewhere.  Since time immemorial traditional communities have been optimally utilizing the available bio-resources for medicinal and other uses. The need is to properly identify such unique herbal practices and innovations, and document them. Apart from preserving bio-diversity and promoting the culture of creative thinking, such documentation serves another very important purpose, which is to preserve fast eroding knowledge about optimal use of bio-resources and of contemporary technological innovations. Scouting or looking for such knowledge/innovations is the first step towards attaining this goal and is undertaken to discover and recognize grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge practices from rural and urban areas. The nature of problems is different in these areas and so is the focus of innovations. But, what is worthy of underlining is that even in most developed regions, urban fringe areas, slums and other places, viable and functional traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations can always be found. Local knowledge systems help in seeking solutions to such problems in a spontaneous manner individually or collectively.

Scouting means looking for creative indigenous ideas/innovations/traditional Knowledge. Scouting of the innovations is the first step towards the fulfilment of the mission of NIF. The art of scouting involves the extensive fieldwork; travel in rural and urban areas, search for 'odd balls' the experimenter, local community and knowledge experts in the society. Students in summer vacation also are encouraged to scout such creative people. In order to achieve the scouting and documentation of the innovations the following activities are required:

  • To coordinate with various governmental and non-governmental agencies to mount national campaign to scout innovations with the help of grassroots level functionaries of education, agriculture, rural development, small scale industry, Panchayati Raj institutions, etc.
  • To screen, document and verify the claims about these innovations through various networks of scientific and other institutional initiatives as well as through Honey Bee collaborators, existing databases and field visits.
  • To generate mechanisms for graduated incentives for innovators and involve them in scouting process itself.
  • To provide assistance in forging decentralized networks of inventors/knowledge experts and strengthen the Honey Bee Network.
  • To obtain Prior Informed Consent (PIC) of the providers of knowledge.
  • To share the innovations permitted in public domain with the knowledge providers through Honey Bee newsletter and other media to enrich the repertoire of the local communities and informal knowledge experts and to support shodh yatras in different parts of the country.

Value Addition Research & Development (VARD)

Most of the innovators and/or traditional knowledge experts need optimization in design process or product formulation by merging with modern science and technology inputs. Market prospects for many innovators will be very low without proper value addition. Creating technology networks can make efficiency gains. Value addition through research and development is a key focus of NIF and it provides a platform for the synergy between formal and informal science and technology, institutions and knowledge system.

As per the prioritization advised by Scouting and Documentation section, VARD section technically scrutinizes innovations (exploratory and accepted category) to ascertain the novelty in each innovation. VARD section conducts a brainstorming session with the internal value chain members from IPR and BD division. Members from GIANs are also involved during technical assessment. Innovations that are potential for improvement and value addition are identified. A prior art search is conducted followed by market analysis through field visits, focus group discussions and consultation with market leaders, entrepreneurs in industrial clusters etc. Some innovations are also either tested in leading laboratories or their efficacy is tested through on-farm trials or in field-testing. On completion of the primary assessment, the innovation is placed before the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) for their expert advice. Prototyping support is given in many cases where prima facie case appears to be strong even before these technologies are put up to RAC.

Key tasks performed by the Value Addition Research and Development team with the ultimate objective of commercialization through new business models are:

  • Coordination with public and private sector R&D institutions, academic institutions, private associations, industry clusters and innovation intermediaries
  • Formulation of strategies, undertaking detailed product planning and prototype development while maintaining a WBS (work breakdown structure)
  • Mobilization of support for product development proposals through the DST's TePP fund and other similar programs/projects either at local or international level
  • Creation of a contractual value chain through either benefit sharing or through an up-front fee as suitable in the specific context
  • Establishment of grassroots incubation centers like GIANs or GIAN cells to coordinate regional product development activities jointly with local advisory committees
  • Recommendation of domain expert members for Research Advisory Committee (RAC) to scrutinize the innovations for their novelty value, cost effectiveness, social impact etc. Further the process of incubation is tracked through an Incubation Advisory Committee (this process needs considerable strengthening) so as to increase the probability of commercial success of the innovations or traditional knowledge

Intellectual Property Management (IPM)

Knowledge matters and so does its protection. NIF recognises the true value of intellectual property rights in the spawning of grassroots innovations, traditional knowledge practices by empowering the knowledge rich, economically poor grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders.

To enable the progress of this mission, the IP Management division receives innovations from various sectors namely engineering, human health, veterinary health and agriculture. The innovations are submitted by both, grassroots innovators and student innovators (from IGNITE program). With regards to Engineering, innovations from broad engineering sectors are received and processed for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

The team of Intellectual Property Management (IPM) is actively engaged in conducting prior art searches, drafting & filing of patent applications, coordinating with various IP firms/attorneys globally for mobilizing pro bono or paid support for grassroots innovators in filing patents, trademarks and other means of IP protection on their behalf. From time to time, IPM team also provides legal assistance to the innovators in negotiating and drafting licensing arrangements, providing legal assistance to the innovators in dealing with issues of infringement of their IP rights, screening of patents & patent applications based on Indian traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations, so as to oppose the improper applications / granted patents, particularly those dealing with practices entered in the National Patent Register.

IPM team also prepares and submits applications to National Biodiversity Authority, India for obtaining clearance for applying for patents of technologies and innovations employing bio resources (herbs and other plant material).

Business Development

Grassroots innovations offer a huge business potential, primarily because these solutions originate from people having a first-hand experience of all the problems involved. This need-based, cost-effective and sustainable solution-centric approach acts as a key differentiator and increases the probability of their acceptance in the market, not only within the country but also in the global markets.

NIF is committed to making these innovative products available to the masses through a market mechanism or otherwise. The basic goal of BD department at NIF is to build a value chain around these innovations which could facilitate their transition into self-supporting sustainable enterprises.

NIF Incubation and Entrepreneurship Council (NIF-ientreC)

With financial support from the DST (Department of Science and Technology), NIF Incubation and Entrepreneurship Council (NIF-ientreC) is registered as a Technology Business Incubator (TBI), a sec 8 company.

Idea is to nurture grassroots innovators and technology youth  in  a 'sanctuary of innovation' distributed all over the country through ex and in situ incubation by hand holding, mentoring, linking them with designers, fabricators, contract manufacturers etc., to convert innovation into social and/or economic  enterprise by linking these with investments

NIF-ientreC envisage to undertake the following functions:

New Venture Creation: To promote new grassroots innovation based technology ventures through mentoring, financial and networking support

Technology Commercialization: To provide a platform to grassroots innovators and others eligible for speedy commercialization of their innovation on mutually agreed terms is per the informed consent of the innovators

In situ Incubation: To promote distributed entrepreneurship by supporting innovators in different villages/towns where they come from so as to keep their connections with families and local communities intact

Interfacing and Networking: To create knowledge network around each innovation or group thereof,  and link innovator and entrepreneurs with  experts in technology, finance, design, manufacture, supply chain management and logistics etc., 

Value Addition: To provide a platform to build synergy between formal and informal science and technology, institutions and knowledge system to add value to original proof of concept or prototypes to convert these into a finished market ready and friendly products 

Other Assistance: Technology related IPR issues, legal and quality assurance services, formulation of marketing strategy, preparation of business plans and support in obtaining other legal clearances etc.

Dissemination and Social Diffusion (DSD)

NIF has a large database of over 315,000 technological ideas, innovations and traditional knowledge, including proprietary, open source and common public knowledge. While the percentage of proprietary traditional knowledge (individual or community) and innovations where NIF has filed patents in the names of the individuals or communities is quite low, much knowledge is available (common or open source), which can be disseminated without any IP considerations. Social diffusion may be defined in context of physical introduction of innovation (machinery, herbal products or improved plant variety seeds) in relevant areas among identified beneficiaries either directly or through a partner.

The Dissemination and Social Diffusion (DSD) department works in close coordination with the S&D, VARD and BD departments. The specific tasks undertaken to further dissemination activities include coordination of publication activities of NIF online as well as in print and developing content for newsletters, books, compendiums, posters, CDs, kiosks, websites etc. NIF also participates in workshops, seminars, exhibitions and various events like India International Trade Fair, Indian Science Congress, India International Science Fair, etc. for the purpose. It also facilitates demonstration of technologies for their possible uptake by relevant stake holders. Establishing linkages with other institutions and networks for dissemination and/or social diffusion is also one of the important activities of NIF.

Such activities are being actively taken up all across the country particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, the North Eastern States and in other remote/ backward/ tribal regions.

NIF team undertakes activities related to diffusion of grassroots innovations all across the country with special emphasis in tribal, backward and far flung areas of the country. A large number of useful innovations viz. natural water cooler, coconut tree climber, multi-tree climber, hand operated pump, paddy husk stove, multipurpose tool, head load reducing device, mileage enhancer, bicycle hoe cum spade, fruit nipper, cow dung pot making machine, cow dung log making machine, seed cum fertiliser dibbler, egg incubator, multi-purpose drier among others have been diffused across a large number of states and Union Territories including Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Many innovations are fabricated locally so that people can improvise them to suit local conditions. Innovations like Sanitary Napkin Making Machine, Multi- purpose Processing Machine, Incense Stick Making Machine, Incense Stick Rolling Machine, which provide livelihood opportunities were diffused across many states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya.

NIF has also facilitated the diffusion of a large number of farmers' developed improved crop varieties viz. paddy, wheat, pigeon pea, mustard, carrot, apple, mango, brinjal, cauliflower, onion and others through a network of thousands of farmers across the country.

Initiatives of NIF

Grassroots Innovations Design Studio (GRIDS): Grassroots Innovation Design Studio (GRIDS) facilitates formal design inputs to the grassroots innovations at premier institutes viz. National Institute of Design (NID) - Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar, National Institute of Technology (NIT) - Srinagarand Srishti School of Arts, Design & Technology, Bengaluru.

Students' Club for Augmenting Innovations (SCAI): A nationwide student movement, comprising students from India's best management and technology institutes. SCAI provides product development, mentoring and monitoring support to innovators and traditional knowledge holders at the grassroots.

Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF): One of its kind of dedicated risk fund in the world, setup with the support of SIDBI in October 2003 and operationalised in January 2004, MVIF provides financial support to grassroots innovators. It is extended under a single signature on a simple agreement of understanding without any collateral or a guarantor.

Grassroots Technological Innovations Acquisition Fund (GTIAF): Sanctioned in 2011 and operationalised in 2012, GTIAF obtains the rights of technologies from innovators after compensating them for the same, with the purpose of disseminating and diffusing them at low or no cost for the larger benefit of the society.

Gandhian Inclusive Innovation Challenge Awards: The Award aim towards developing new solutions for three challenges - paddy transplanter, wood stove and tea leaf-plucking machine.

Grassroots to Global (G2G): NIF has proved that Indian innovators can match anyone in the world when it comes to solving problems creatively. They perform better than others in generating greater sustainable alternatives by using local resources frugally. Those who see poor only as the consumers of cheap goods, miss the richness of knowledge at grassroots level. The G2G model propagated by NIF is all set to change the way the world looks at creativity and innovations at grassroots.

In situ Incubation: NIF provides in situ incubation of grassroots technologies to the innovator at his/her place. All incubation facilities (financial or technical support, mentoring, etc.) are extended to the innovator at his place where he continues to work on his/her ideas or innovations.

Community Workshops: NIF has established community workshops in different rural areas of the country at the premises of seasoned innovators so that other grassroots innovators of the region can have access to fabrication facilities locally. Also, they could learn from the experiences of seasoned innovators. This is expected to promote the conversion of an idea into a prototype faster.

Inverted Model of Innovation: The inverted model of innovation implies that children invent, engineers & designers fabricate and companies commercialise.

Innovations' Exhibition at the President House and The Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FINE): Since 2010, the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been hosting an exhibition of innovations near its Mughal Garden to showcase the creativity and ingenuity of common people. Since 2015, NIF and Rashtrapati Bhavan is organizing a Festival of Innovation which comprises of roundtables on various topics in relation to Innovation in addition to the Exhibition.

Publications of NIF

Source: The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India

 



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