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Quality Education and Innovativeness Key to Self-Reliance

HEIs must raise their capabilities to collaborate with industry, government and tertiary sector to enable and help to cope with change and businesses and other organisations in improving their productivity.  Prof. Bhagwati Prakash Sharma & Dr. Jaya Sharma


The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared the intent of his government to make India self-reliant as Atmanirbhar Bharat. It has also coincided with the declaration of new education policy under the title of National Education Policy 2020. Indeed the quality and innovativeness of education is key to self-reliance. Today India stands at 48th rank in global innovations index: we spend mere 0.7% of our GDP on R&D, vis a vis 4% by south Korea. Therefore South Korea has 25% share in world ship building. Whereas India has less than 0.5% share, inspite of being among top four nations in steel manufacturing and being endowed with 6100 KMs of coastline. Indeed India is home to only assembly lines largely devoid of manufacturing. We have been thinking of mere skilling to provide manpower for the assembly lines. We have to think of homegrown technologies; of focusing upon skilling alone. 

Under the flagship scheme of make in India of government most of the domestic as well as foreign companies have been assembling then products ranging from mobile phones to metro trains. India has to think of “Made by India” instead of acting as surrogate mother for foreign MNCs. For this, India has to enhance investment in education as well as R&D. the recently presented Union Budget for 2021-22 has provided extremely low outlays on education as well as R&D not well commensurate with the our long awaited goals (awaited since decades) of providing 6% of our GDP on education and of 2 % of the GDP on R&D. 

Innovativeness Makes the Difference

India is home to 17.6% of global population with a highest share 20% of global youth and our 138 crore headcount far exceeds over the combined populations of 76 countries of the twin continents of Europe and Latin America. Yet, the country has mere 3% contribution in world manufacturing. With respect of high technology exports India trails behind even Singapore which is having 7.5 times of our high-tech exports. While Singapore has mere 0.02% of our area. Thus, Singapore ranks 5th, China First and India 22nd in high tech exports. China, with almost the same share of 18.4% in world population has 28.4% share in world manufacturing and 30 times high-tech exports than India. Hence quality and innovativeness in higher education with focus on creating IP needs to be given priority in India as welling. A simple comparision of the patent filings considerably explains this gap. China files around 15.42 lac patents per annum against just 50 thousand patent applications being filed by our innovators. Table 1 clearly brings out this difference well.

Presently, India ranks 48th on the global innovations index (GII) with a minor share of 1.6% in the global patent fillings and a further  negligible share of 0.96% in industrial design registration fillings. Our initiatives in protecting country’s vast treasure of geographical indications (GIs) and in developing integrated circuits (ICs), the two equally important intellectual properties (IPs), is even more dismal. Our weakness of poor design engineering is reflected in Table 2. This problem of low innovativeness needs to be remedied by invoking quality and innovativeness in education.

Quality Education and Prosperity

It would not be out of place to mention that per capita income of China in 1986 was 15-20% less than India. Today Chinese per capita income is five times of our per capita income. This can inter alia be attributed to the quality and innovativeness in higher education. China has 144 universities finding place in top 1000 universities in global ranking against 21 to 24 of India. China has 71 in top 500 universities, 22 in 200, 13 in 150 and 6 in top 100. India did not have any in top 150 and often up to 3 universities find place in top 200.

Nobel Tally: Israeli Miracle in post-2000 Rankings

Nobel prizes won by the faculty members, scholars alumini and other associates of a university is also an acid test for the quality and innovativeness. There are 100 plus HEIs, world over having Nobel laureates affiliated to them who have won Nobels after 2000 in the field of science. But, India doesn’t have single university. An Israeli university, Technion is among top ten universities of the world on the basis of its Nobel tally after 2000 as per the list of the Times Higher Education. Any Indian university including the institutes of national importance like IITs, IIITs, AIIMS too have to open an account for a single Nobel for research in science in India after 1930, after C.V. Raman.  There are 150 plus universities in the world, having 5 or more Noble laureates affiliated with them and 80 universities with 10 or more Nobel laureates. 

HEIs to Build Self Reliant India

The higher educational institutions (HEIs) have to take a cue to evolve fast to constitute a global best education system to transform India into a knowedge superpower capable to build ‘Self Reliant india’ i.e. Atma Nirbhar Bharat. It is the ernest national responsibility of every HEI stakeholder to redeem his or her debt towards the motherland, to contribute to build Atma Nirbhar Bharat. 

Self Reliance: Self-reliance should not be misunderstood as isolation from the world. Presently, India export 7500 commodities to 190 countries and imports around 6000 commodities from 140 countries. But in the pre-Covid period country had a trade deficit of $160 billion had to import 90% of its solar panel requirement and 70% of active pharmaceutical ingredients and most of the original equipments in the downstream value chain to run the assembly lines for producing majority the self-reliance means the country should products be able to meet its import needs from export earning and should not be exclusively dependent upon imports for most of the downstream vale chains of original equipments. The production linked incentive scheme declared last year is going to pollster manufacturing in a dozen employment centric sectors.

HEIs to Pilot the Change: it is no secret that the industry in India largely runs ‘assembly lines’ or ‘formulation units’ based upon imported original equipments or active intermediates of entire downstream value chains. Assembling and formulating as such do not involve much of the R&D. Most of the mobile phones to metro trains and from passbook printers and ATM dispensers to TV Sets and washing machines etc. are being mostly assembled from imported components. As stated earlier almost 70% of active Pharma ingredients (APIs) and 90% of the solar panels being used are imported from China. 

Therefore, the higher educational institutions (HEIs) need to assume pivotal role in rolling out sunrise technologies, help the ailing industry clusters numbering 400 plus suffering from technology obsolescence. “HIEs have to endeavor” to collaborate with industry, government and tertiary sectors to enable and help them to cope with the change and help businesses along with various other organizations in improving their productivity”. ‘University-Industry Consortia’ can help to build a research and innovations ecosystem in the country. Productivity and economic growth are largely driven by innovations which rely on research and human capital. Higher education significantly contributes to the development of both.

Strategy for Turnaround

A strategic roadmap to revamp the curricula and revisit the thrust areas for research is the need of the hour. Curricula should cover indepth on the technologies and products, where India is experiencing fast technological obsolescence or is dependent upon external supply chains for want of appropriate and affordable technologies. Sunrise sectors and sunrise technologies too need to be focused in the PG dissertations and doctoral researches, which would rejuvenate existing sectors and technologies or offer new solutions to a host of present day problems. To sum up, there are four types of major challenges. 

The first challenge is to find replacement technologies for the technologies phasing out. One such example is that fossil fuel based vehicles (petrol and diesel based vehicles) would be phased out 2030. So, the petrol and diesel engines comprising 2000 plus parts and being manufactured by several thousand component manufacturers would become redundant, as these engines would be replaced by an electric drive comprising mere 20 components. India is yet to develop technology for the same. Such examples are legion where the HEIs have to focus for developing replacement technologies.

Second challenge is of technological obsolescence in industries especially MSME sector. A Large number of MSME Clusters, ranging from glass to ceramics and from textiles and garments to foundry products have been witnessing closure of a number of units due to technological obsolescence. 

Third challenge is to place the country ahead in the sunrise sectors, by developing homegrown technologies for all sunrise sectors like nanotechnology, molecular biology, artificial intelligence (including machine learning based predictive analyses), Block chain, IoT, 3D printing, robotics, mechatronics etc. Imported AI products for crop yield prediction, medical diagnostics, therapeutics, self driven cars, tourism, fine arts, performing arts, homeland security, boarder security, defense & armaments and so on are likely to flood the markets where India is yet to endeavour. 

The fourth major challenge is to minimize our external dependence upon import of a large number products and the original equipments of the downstream vale chains of the products being assembled in the country. India is fully dependent upon the import of biomedical equipments, majority of electronic items, computer hardware as well as software products ranging from data analytics, meeting platforms, computer operating systems, GPS and so on. China has developed its own operating system to replace windows (UOS) search engine (Baidu) GPS (Beidu) and so on.  

Therefore, all HEI stakeholders have to change this belief that industry has to lead in enhancing innovativeness in the country. It is the time when the HEI stakeholders must sensitise themselves of the needs of industry for homegrown technologies to minimise our over-dependence on imported original equipments and active ingredients in the downstream value chain in manufacturing. HEIs must raise their capabilities to collaborate with industry, government and tertiary sector to enable and help to cope with change and businesses and other organisations in improving their productivity. The vast net work of HEIs have to focus upon developing homegrown technologies- both affordable and tempting for industry to say goodbye to the imported state of the art technologies.               


Prof. BP Sharma: Vice Chancellor, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
Dr. Jaya Sharma: Assistant Professor, Pacific Academy of Higher Education and Research University, Udaipur, Rajasthan. 


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