India's economic progress will depend on capability to innovate: President

Asserting that India lags behind major economies in terms of innovation, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the country's economic progress will depend on our capability to innovate.

Updated: Apr 25, 2013, 21:14 PM IST

Bhubaneswar: Asserting that India lags behind major economies in terms of innovation, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the country's economic progress will depend on our capability to innovate.

"Though Indians comprise one-sixth of the world population, only one in 50 patent applications in the world are filed in India. We do not lack the capability to innovate but we lack the systems to encourage and generate innovation," he said

President Mukherjee, who was speaking on the occasion of 45th Annual Convocation of Utkal University here, said 'our academic environment must be conducive for promotion of research'.

"Increasing the number of research fellowships, supporting inter-disciplinary and inter-university research partnerships and establishing industry incubation parks are some of the important steps that are necessary. Our system must run flexibly to attract Indian researchers working abroad to return and work on short-term projects," he added.

President Mukherjee said innovations should benefit the common man.

"There are grass root innovations that require technical and commercial assistance for converting them into economically viable products. Our Universities and Industry should form linkages to support such initiatives," he added.

President Mukherjee said the drive to expand higher education in quantitative terms must be matched by adequate efforts at quality improvement.

"It is a matter of deep concern that no Indian university, according to an international survey of universities, is ranked within the top 200 universities in the world. The National Knowledge Commission had identified quality deterioration in higher education in its Report in 2006 as a 'quiet crisis that runs deep'," said President Mukherjee.

"We must direct our energies at developing Indian universities to meet global benchmarks. There is a need to promote a culture of excellence in them. This calls for a dynamic higher education system with space for reforms," he added.

President Mukherjee said the increasing number of academic institutions is not sufficient to keep pace with the growing demand.

"Despite India's higher education system being the second largest in the world, the enrolment rate for the 18-24 years age group in India is only 7 percent. Compared to this, it is 21 percent in Germany and 34 percent in the US. This effectively denies many bright students the opportunity to acquire higher education. Building accessibility will be an important exercise in inclusion," said President Mukherjee.

"Our universities should resort to innovative ways of teaching. Technology can be harnessed for collaborative information sharing. The infrastructure of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology should be put to greater use. Transmission of important lectures to students studying in institutions located away from cities and towns can become commonplace," he added.

Point out that with several competing demands on public funding, President Mukherjee said the task of meeting the growing demands in the higher education sector will have to be in part shouldered by the private sector.

"Many private institutions have earned international reputation for quality and standards. We should encourage the participation of private sector without compromising on the social objectives and the quality benchmarks," he added.

President Mukherjee said the success of inclusion in higher education also depends on affordability.

"Meritorious students in difficult economic circumstances should be helped to pursue education by measures like scholarships, student loans and self-help schemes," said President Mukherjee.

"Our attention must also be focused on our colleges, as a very large chunk of students - about 87 percent - are enrolled in affiliated colleges in the country. The affiliating universities have a great responsibility to guide these colleges to maintain high standards in curricula and evaluation," he added.

President Mukherjee further said that shortage of faculty is a major hindrance for delivering quality education in our universities.

"The standard of education cannot be allowed to suffer due to this constraint. Filling up vacancies must therefore be given higher priority," he added.

President Mukherjee congratulated all the students getting their degrees today.

"Please remember that learning is a continuous process. Life will give you many opportunities to learn. Keep an open mind and be ready to meet the challenges of life with poise, sincerity and courage. My best wishes for a successful life ahead," he said.