A 2010 report by the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister said while C V Raman won the Nobel Prize for the Raman Effect,instruments available in India today using this principle are imported. This is not a lone example. Several good Indian scientific discoveries either remain only on paper or have been converted into marketable products by firms outside India,and an innovation by faculty of the Indian IIT Bombay,is facing a similar challenge of converting its research into a product.
The Government of India had asked IIT-B to develop a device to enhance security and detect IED and traces of RDX that an existing machine cannot.
The team headed by professor V Ramgopal Rao from the Department of Electrical Engineering has also incubated their company at IIT-Bs Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The government wants us to develop our product soon. A prototype has been demonstrated to user agencies. Two more prototypes will be ready for testing in the next three months. Though the Government of India sufficiently funded our research,now that we have developed the product,we are looking for private and government participation to scale up the processes and set up manufacturing facilities. This is still a massive challenge in India. We are in talks with some private companies for setting up a manufacturing unit to scale up the process. Simultaneously,we are in talks with government agencies to devise ways to protect this technology and prevent it from falling into wrong hands, said Rao.
Experts said this is a common problem in India,which does not have the eco-system to facilitate commercialisation of a good technology into a product. Converting research back into money is difficult. This translation process is extremely weak in India, said a academician.
Chandrasekhar Nair,who works closely with academic institutes and has a lab at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc-Bangalore) and focuses on taking products and low-cost healthcare diagnostics to rural India,said there is very little support for manufacturing in India. The amount of government investment in innovation is huge,but you create an IP and then theres nowhere to go. This makes Indian innovation ripe for acquisition by multinationals and the product may no longer be low cost and may not reach the common person, said Nair,one of the founder-directors of Bigtec Labs.
Yet another project developed by Rao and his team,a low-cost point of care system,which can diagnose cardiac or heart diseases that go undetected in 40 per cent cases,faces similar obstacles.
While US universities have been successful in this aspect because of its ecosystem and access to dedicated funding from venture capitalists,similar mechanism doesnt exist here. Its only recently that the government has woken up to this problem and now mechanisms have been put in place so start-ups can get grants of up to Rs 50 lakh from government agencies. However,this amount is very less if one is looking at setting up manufacturing facilities, he said.