Can Indian engineers innovate and create new technology at par with their contemporaries elsewhere?

The competence of our scientists and engineers at the world level is another fact that cannot be taken lightly. All the big international players, be it in software, hardware or applications, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Amazon and others, whose leadership position in business depends on sustained innovation, have a large presence of Indians  in their front-line research groups. Most of them have been trained in India at least up to their undergraduate level and may have acquired graduate degree subsequently from abroad. Tens of thousands of these Indians, many with doctoral qualifications, have been a major contributor in innovation of technology in their respective organizations. This excludes   chief executives like Satya Nadela or Sundar Pichai who also head their respective organizations. The success of ISRO in their space missions is a proof that a small group of dedicated professionals, scientists and engineers, despite their meagre financial support and minimal resources can produce glorious achievements time and again, a feat that has no parallel elsewhere. Sam Petroda with his CDOT broke open the shackles imposed by the government on the telecommunication industry and revolutionized it – which paved the way for the reach and affordability of mobile phones and services that we enjoy today. There are more examples of dramatic success owing to personal leadership and indigenous innovation right in our backyard. But such efforts are few and far amidst mountains of mediocrity and the need of the day is to scale up such initiatives in proportion to our size and competence.     

However, the average quality of a graduate engineer is not at a level that will qualify for contribution to innovation. The indifference and lack of motivation and interest in learning, on part of the student, incompetence and poor teaching practices of the faculty, inflexible and rigid academic model of engineering programs, lack of industry initiative to innovate by means of investments for indigenous R & D,  business practices that promote trading instead of genuine wealth creation, poor social and economic status of resource creators (farmers as a class for example) contrasted with managers of resources are some of the major causes for this sorry state of affairs today.

Dr. Anjan Sarkar,
Department of CSE, Techno India University, WB,
Ex Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IIT)

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