09.07.2019

Ananya Chandra: "SICF’s work opens paths for collaboration between Spain and India"

Accelerating Growth of New India´s Innovations (AGNIi)

Ananya Chandra is the co-founder of the startup Just Move and the person responsible for the expansion in South-East Asia of Sheroes. She collaborates with the government initiative AGNIi (Accelerating Growth of New India´s Innovations), which connects entrepreneurs with the industry and the market, helping them sell their innovative solutions.

How important is it that the Government of India is involved in the development of the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Innovation lies at the heart of economic growth in the modern world. In this regard, India has come to realise that devoting resources to R&D and to marketing the results of that innovation is as important as everything else.

In the past few years, the Government of India has launched several initiatives linked to innovation, including the Startup India programme, which works to develop what is currently the second largest startup ecosystem in India. We have also launched Atal Innovation Mission, which is creating an incubator network across the country to nurture the great ideas to be found at our universities.

Last year, the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor launched yet another innovation programme called AGNIi, where I work. The programme focuses on developing and scaling up R&D.

Generally speaking, as we can see, the Government of India focuses on turning innovation into our main economic driving force.

What is the main challenge faced by India when it comes to developing innovative ideas?

It would be difficult to boil it down to a single challenge. When it comes to developing economies, we must be careful about how we use our resources. One of the challenges India faces is that R&D expenditure in relation to GDP is still behind other developed economies.

Ananya Chandra is the co-founder of the startup Just Move and the person responsible for the expansion in South-East Asia of Sheroes. She collaborates with the government initiative AGNIi (Accelerating Growth of New India´s Innovations), which connects entrepreneurs with the industry and the market, helping them sell their innovative solutions.

That said, the Government and the public sector are currently behind up to 70% of India’s total investment, so we can see this is being balanced out.

I believe that a major challenge for innovation is a lack of places to go to for advice, and that could be the next thing to change in India.

Players such as our patron CDTI carry out numerous cooperation programmes with Indian institutions such as the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA)  and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). What do you think about this kind of collaboration between the two countries?

International technological collaboration between India and other countries such as Spain has been very positive. It is really encouraging to see the progress made by these programmes, including those between CDTI and Indian institutions.

I believe this kind of collaboration will have two main results. Firstly, at the moment a large part of R&D and technology development in the countries takes place in isolation, regardless of what happens in the rest of the world. It benefits no-one if no country is aware of what is happening elsewhere. This kind of programme encourages us to discover each other’s competitive advantages.

Secondly, the main contribution of these programmes is that they allow for the co-creation of new solutions and for very different perspectives to come together to produce something that would not have been possible in isolation. That’s the beauty of innovation, and I believe it flourishes and improves through collaboration.

Have you noticed any similarities and differences between the way Spain and India work to promote access of innovations to the market?

One of the things that struck me the most was the amount of similarities between our countries when it comes to how we think about innovation and the importance we afford it in our systems, as well as the kind of incentives we consider to promote innovation.

It has been very instructive; I have learned about some very interesting resources that Spain uses to promote innovation. For instance, I was impressed by CDTI’s entrepreneurs support programme, since it meets a basic need in the sector: early stage funding for R&D with the goal of reaching the market.

They identified a gap and tried to bridge it through investments and by becoming a fund of funds, which is a very interesting approach.

There have been many other interesting cases, such as the technology centres we visited in Valladolid, namely CARTIF and Fundación Cidaut. I believe they are an interesting model of how these industry-oriented organisations should work. India has its own organisations, but a lot can be learned from this experience.

Apart from what you’ve already mentioned, what has been the most interesting thing about the programme?

I think the most fascinating takeaway of the programme has been realising how much has been invested in building Spain-India relations through SICF with patrons such as Acciona, Indra and the rest of the corporations. They are investing in bilateral relations, bringing in Indian specialists and exposing them to the assets of the Spanish ecosystem so that we can find new opportunities for collaboration.

Everywhere we went (CDTI, the University of Valladolid, Casa de la India), every experience opened up new paths for collaboration. It has given us new energy, and the whole group of Leaders will take this back with them to India.

Report: 7th Indian Leaders Programme 2019

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