Welcome to Alumni & Corporate Relations

The Innovation Sutras | (Sutra 1) Innovation bridges the gap between ideas and practical implementation: Prof. Prabhu Rajagopal

The Innovation Sutras | (Sutra 1) Innovation bridges the gap between ideas and practical implementation: Prof. Prabhu Rajagopal

IIT Madras has become the foremost hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the deep-tech space in the country, led by its pioneering incubation cell and fed by channels including the student-led Centre for Innovation, pre-incubator Nirmaan, and Laboratory-to-market focused Gopalakrishnan Deshpande Center (GDC).

Passionate about technology transfer and finding solutions to practical challenges, several faculty members including the author are enthusiastic participants in this trend, balancing IP commercialisation and spin-outs with teaching and research.

IITM startups are today making a difference in diverse, socially, and industrially relevant sectors taking digitalization solutions down the district levels in the country. IIT Madras has thus been topping the Ministry of Education, Government of India’s Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (or ARIA) listings for several years in a row.

For those familiar with Indian philosophical systems, the Sutra literature presents vast and complex ideas condensed in the form of terse statements. This article series distills the learnings from experiences in the form of some essential maxims so that those interested in innovation in the context of product development and startups can quickly access and adopt them.

While the textbook meaning of ‘innovation’ means any process of ‘new creation’, in the context of startups, it is important to have a clear conception of Innovation as the pathway to new products and solutions.

In the race to the development of an elegant solution to any given problem, several candidate approaches always emerge.

For example, at the beginning of the era of internet search engines, at least a dozen different websites offered them. In the end, it was only Google that managed to capture the popular imagination and market, to the extent today, we even use the phrase ‘Google it’ to refer to searching for something on the internet.

In the world of sensors, for example, although there are many ways of generating and capturing sound, the one using piezoelectricity has gained wide currency due to the ease of fabrication of lead zirconate titanate (or PZT) which in turn made it widely scalable.

Therefore, innovation, more formally, can be seen as the power of a solution to overcome the ‘valley of death’, or the chasm between ideation and field deployment.

Many technologies perish in this chasm straddling the challenging field of work beyond the initial proof of concept which is often exciting with many funding options and disruptive advances with scope for high-impact publications.

However, at higher technology readiness levels (TRLs), the scientific advances may not be as significant as those required to productize the solution and make it deployable on the field.

At this stage, typically funding from traditional academic or research sources dries up: but even industry or the market may not step in immediately until the technology reaches maturity.

However, if the solution is well crafted in terms of its innovation quotient vis- -vis the customer requirement, elegant and cost-effective to implement, and scalable in its realisation, it is sure to attract the funding and support to reach the market.

It is not enough to create something afresh or recreate it ‘here’, but to make it in a way that is mindful of the market needs, costs, and scalability.

Thus, innovation must be seen as the inherent ability of a solution to organically overcome challenges and outcompete other possible approaches addressing the same problem, racing away to productization and field deployment.

– Article by Professor Prabhu Rajagopal, Faculty in-charge, Centre for Innovation (CFI), IIT Madras; recipient of prestigious early career awards including the IEI-National Design Award, and the National Swarna Jayanti Fellowship

Original News Link