Bridging the Valley of Death with AGNIi

By : Sidharth Choudhary

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Agnii

Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations or AGNIi  is a program to help commercialise innovations and take entrepreneurship to the next level in India. Many people on finding out that I work on the project, ask me why another program for innovation has been initiated by the government especially since programs like Startup India and Atal Innovation Mission have been running successful thus far.

Before I explain the rationale behind the implementation of AGNIi, it is important to understand the work being done by the Government to push India towards an innovation-led growth strategy through various initiatives and reforms:

Atal Innovation Mission is an initiative of the NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the length and breadth of the country. It has adopted a holistic framework in the achievement of its objectives by setting up of mechanisms to promote industry-academia-government collaborations, setting up of incubators and grassroots tinkering labs, and promoting challenge-based innovation and problem solving.

Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and start-ups in the country that will drive sustainable economic growth and generate large-scale employment.  In addition to increasing awareness about innovation, design and entrepreneurship, the government has simplified the tax and regulatory regime including self-certification of compliance to various environmental and labour laws, fast-tracking of patent examination, enabling faster exits for failed startups and funding support through the ten thousand crore “Fund of Funds”.

Further, recognising the need to create a robust Intellectual Rights Protection Regime in the country, the government has, after intensive stakeholder consultations, come out with the Policy for National Intellectual Property Rights. It aims to increase IPR awareness through outreach and promotion activities across the country, IPR generation, strengthening the legal and legislative framework by aligning national IP laws to global best practices and multilateral organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), augment manpower for quick disposal of backlog and reduce the time taken for examining of IP claims, enforcement and adjudication.

Moreover, different government departments have created their own innovation challenges and programs to push the innovation and problem-solving agenda forward. These efforts include the Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Confederation of Indian Industries tasked with encouraging industrial R&D and leveraging bilateral and multilateral research agreements to create advanced R&D clusters in the country. Then there are a host of challenge-based programs such as the Ministry of Defence’s iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence), EESL’s Innovate to INSPIRE challenge for innovations in the energy sphere and DST & Texas Instruments India Innovation Challenge Design Contest, among others.

All these efforts have resulted in words like startup, incubator and innovation entering the lexicon of the youth today. In terms of numbers, India has been propelled to the 2nd largest ecosystem of startups in the world with more than 49,000 startups, 270 incubators and accelerators and 26 unicorns (startups with valuations greater then USD 1 billion) in sectors ranging from e-commerce, healthcare to food delivery. Further, after the implementation of the National IPR policy in May 2016, there has been a 32% increase in patents granted with the average processing time reduced from 7 years to 18 months.

However, experience shows that there still exists a critical gap in the ecosystem. While many ideas are generated in the supply-side of the innovation pipeline in startups, government laboratories and universities, only a few are successfully commercialised. In startup parlance these lost ideas are technologies and solutions which fail to cross the “valley of death”. AGNIi has been set-up specifically to address this gap, to enable more and more innovators to reach the market. In the event of an innovator owning the IP rights of the technology, AGNIi will provide guidance on establishing a startup/enterprise. In other cases where IP ownership is held by institutions or the innovator does not want to set up their own enterprise, AGNIi will enable pathways for licensing and transfer of technology.

AGNIi will fulfil its function by identifying and creating a repository of market-ready innovations in the country and facilitating beneficial partnerships across its network of government and industry partners. Further, dedicated cells will be created to work exclusively with government labs (2500+) to help commercialise their existing market-ready innovations. Besides identifying existing innovations, AGNIi will encourage industry-academia collaborations on solving societal problems, in effect, creating a mechanism to link specific needs to industry to research laboratories, to spur development of cost-effective marketable products.

Coming back to the innovation pipeline, AGNIi intends to be the final piece of the pipeline enabling innovations which have gone through the various iterations of research, design and development to finally reach the market thereby creating economic prosperity for the innovator as well society.

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