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Witnessing the future of innovation policy

As the member of the UK government’s team in New Delhi tasked with building collaborations between the UK and India on Science, Technology and Innovation through the Newton-Bhabha Fund, a central part of my job is to build connections between UK and Indian innovation communities.

So I was delighted that at the end of May 2018 I was able to travel to London to join nine very senior policymakers and influencers from India’s central Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Maharashtra’s State Government to take part in the opening of the Indian iteration of the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator. The Policy Accelerator is an executive development programme seeking to build a global network of innovation policy entrepreneurs. It is funded by the Newton-Bhabha Fund through innovation agency Innovate UK and is delivered by a Nesta-led consortium of UK organisations, with local support from the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Economic Research in India.

The Policy Accelerator is designed to bring together the best of UK innovation policy expertise and capability, and connect it at a leadership level with innovation systems in India. It was an intense programme that gave Indian policymakers the opportunity to engage with a strong consortium of UK innovation policy experts, including Nesta, the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, Oxentia, 100%Open, Uscreates, and with UK practitioners from key institutions such as the Digital Catapult and the Policy Lab. I found the work of Policy Lab to be quite ‘out of the box’ as they operate like entrepreneurs within the constraints of government systems.

The week was filled with interesting activities, presentations, debates and discussions, enabling the participants to think about the future of innovation: from data, evaluation and evidence, to foresight methods and all the way through to design for policy approaches and stakeholder engagement techniques. As an observer, the week was a stimulating learning experience, being part of practical discussions with government officials to better understand and tackle their policy challenges.

Indian Global Innovation Policy Accelerator participant presenting

The policymakers were split into two teams, based on central and state-level priorities. Each team was asked to build a Project Manifesto, answering six key questions: What, Why, Who, How, Where and When. The Manifesto is a tool designed to give a strategic rationale and the outline of a development plan for the projects the teams will complete together over the nine months of the Policy Accelerator, supported by coaches, mentors and experts from the UK.

The teams will return to the UK for another week-long training in early September 2018, building closer links with UK experts working on similar topics as to their chosen policy projects. At the end of the programme a final conference will be held, showcasing the strong innovation policy collaboration between the Indian and UK governments.

Overall, the programme for the week was engaging and helpful, both for gaining a better understanding of the UK’s innovation system and thinking through ways to improve the Indian innovation system. The best way to illustrate this might still be to hear it directly from participants, so below are just a few snippets from their feedback on the first milestone of this programme:

The Policy Accelerator programme has helped to streamline the thoughts and learnings from field experience that will lead to a new line of thinking for policymaking.

Mr. Ranjit Singh Deol, Managing Director, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, Government of Maharashtra.

The Policy Accelerator has helped us see beyond our own capabilities. It helped us question our beliefs and apply ourselves in new, better ways. With able guidance received in London, we have set for ourselves the daunting project of getting innovation accepted as a normal policy tool in the Government of Maharashtra. If nothing else, this programme has really shaken us out of mediocrity and challenged us to achieve excellence by way of dedicated team work.

Mr. Ruchesh Jaivanshi, Commissioner for Persons with Disability, Government of Maharashtra.

This first week gave us the opportunity to learn new techniques and actionable concepts. It was a very insightful experience and terrific use of my time. Information acquired and skills learned during this period will greatly help me achieve my goals in work.

Mr Gaurav Sharma, Principal Research Scientist, Digital India Corporation, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

We believe that innovation is a key to our success as a digital economy. Our participation in the Policy Accelerator helps us weave together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single, comprehensive vision, so that each thought or idea is seen as part of a larger goal. We believe that our learning through the programme will promote inclusive growth that covers products, devices, manufacturing and job opportunities in our country.

Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, Scientist-C, International Cooperation Division, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

Author

Tamil Chandru

Senior Adviser for the Newton Fund at the British High Commission in New Delhi