The World Affairs Council of Atlanta in August partnered with the Atlanta chapter of the American India Foundation for a discussion on how scientists and researchers from both countries work together to drive innovation.
The visiting speaker had a privileged position in this regard: Rajeev Tayal of the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum has worked for decades connecting scientists from both countries at the grassroots level for joint research projects, bilateral workshops — sometimes held virtually — and knowledge exchange.
“We are a very small organization, but we are very effective,” said Dr. Tayal, who noted that the organization has no primary research funding, but instead focuses on providing a forum for researchers with complementary projects to work together.
The organization has also begun to provide support for commercialization of new ideas, especially in the realm of medical devices that have broad potential for lowering the cost of care for a large number of citizens. Among new innovations are artificial knee joints and hand-cranked defibrillators.
“What we support is the very last mile of the value chain,” Dr. Tayal said.
Dr. Tayal focused heavily on the mission of the organization, its sources of funding and its achievements during his talk, but during the question-and-answer session it delved more into a discussion of the strengths and deficiencies of India’s innovation ecosystem.
Fragmentation is one of the biggest challenges: “All the segments of the research and development value chain are not connected from one end to another,” Dr. Tayal said.
Indian Consul General Nagesh Singh, who provided introductory remarks, said one thing is for sure: innovation and the shrewd use of technology is essential to the continued advancement of the world’s second largest country by population.
“Technology, science and innovation are the best ways to leapfrog development challenges,” he said, adding that it’s also important to note that too narrow a view of India — in effect, maintaining a one-sided view of the country as poor — could detract from seeing its value as a “natural partner” with much to offer in the form of intellectual capital and innovation potential.