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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Our Frugal Future: lessons from India's innovation system

Today we're launching a comprehensive new report on the Indian innovation system- the result of a partnership with the FCO Science and Innovation Network, Research Councils UK India and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative.

It's an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses and shifts in Indian research and innovation over the last decade, and what they mean for the UK.

India produced double the number of scientific publications in 2011 as in 2001, and the report charts the rapid change in the last decade. We compile the latest data on investment, research performance and patenting into some brilliant infographics, including for the first time, mapping hotspots of research excellence across the country.

The research also draws on 130 interviews with policy makers, entrepreneurs and scientists in five Indian cities - analysing those shifts, which, while just as important, are hidden from traditional metrics.

One such striking theme throughout the research was India's growing expertise in frugal innovation.

This is a distinctive kind of innovation in both means and ends. Frugal innovation describes a range of approaches which respond to limitations in resources - be they financial, material or institutional - and turns these constraints into an advantage. Through minimising the use of resources in development, production and delivery, or by leveraging them in entirely new ways, frugal innovation results in highly scalable, and dramatically lower-cost products and services. Extreme conditions, when combined with conducive environmental factors and new technology and business models, spur radical innovations which can be just as relevant for Birmingham and Manchester as Bangalore and Mumbai. We profile a range of examples, from profitable cardiac surgery at a fraction of the standard cost, to government efforts to crowdsource drug discovery.

As the UK seeks to deepen collaboration with India on innovation - findings suggest despite considerable growth in commitment from the government, the UK is a way off being the 'partner of choice' to India it aspires to be in research and innovation - the report suggests that frugal innovation could be one overlooked strategic area for collaboration.

Nesta will hold an event in late September to present the findings in detail and debate how to enhance collaboration on research and innovation between the UK and India. We'll be inviting some exciting special guests, and look forward to sharing more details nearer the time.


Kirsten Bound

Kirsten Bound

Kirsten Bound

Executive Director of Research, Analysis and Policy

Kirsten was an Executive Director at Nesta and led Nesta’s Research, Analysis and Policy team.

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