Today, when I read ReadWriteWeb’s article on The State of Innovation
a thought struck me about the relationship between innovation and
universities. Everyone knows the story of about how many companies
like Yahoo!, Google, Sun Microsystems all started at Stanford
University, how FreeBSD came out of Berkeley University, and so on.
I hope you also know how the great Nalanda University in the 5th
century was a hotbed of
advancements (more on that in another story).
Is it that a strong ideas culture is instilled only in a good
university environment and the ecosystem around it which includes
startups and businesses? Perhaps this explains why there is such
amazing stuff being incubated at the TeNeT, IITM.
India’s real infrastructure problem–with no solution in sight–is
not airports or electricity; it is the virtual nonexistence of
graduate education and research in information and other crucial
technologies. Consider this for starters: The U.S. produces about
1,400 Ph.D.s in computer science annually and China about 3,000. By
stark comparison, India’s annual computer science Ph.D. production
languishes at roughly 40. That number is about the same as that for
Israel, a nation with roughly 5% of India’s population size.
Now you may ask why is this important? That is best explained by
C.N.R. Rao, Science Advisor to India’s Prime Minister speaking about
why money is spent on moon rockets when there is poverty to address:
You cannot be industrially and economically advanced unless you are
technologically advanced, and you cannot be technologically advanced
unless you are scientifically advanced.