Tata Group to Fund Innovation Fund in Israel; India’s #fail moment?

Innovation BulbThe Tata Group, one of India’s largest diversified conglomerate, is fishing for high growth technology companies in Israel.

Late last month, the group announced that it will be the lead investor in a $20 million technology innovation fund based in Israel.

Tata Industries partnered with Ramot, the technology transfer company of Tel Aviv University to fund and “generate leading edge commercialization ready technologies.”

The investments will be made through an overseas subsidiary, the company said. The Tata team has seen over 70 “promising innovations,” according to KRS Jamwal, Executive Director, Tata Industries.

India’s Terrible Innovation Failure

The sheer number of innovations out of Ramot is worthy of note. We can’t really recall a single top tier engineering institution in the country which has 70 near commercial innovations ready or almost ready for deployment!

According to Israel21c, a website which tracks technology and innovation in Israel, Tata will invest $5 million to begin with. The site reports that the university invests more than $150 million in research and development every year! Ramot has more than 600 active patent families licensed to some of the largest companies such as Microsoft, Pfizer and Google.

A couple of months ago, Deepam Mishra, the CEO of i2india Ventures (backed by Tata Group) who spent a couple of years looking for near commercial innovations in Indian colleges and research institutions, gave us the blunt truth: There aren’t any. At least not in enough numbers worthy of anybody’s attention. (Read the full interview here).

Investors who have moved back from the Silicon Valley also echo the sentiment. Last week, Pradeep Tagare, the director of Intel Capital told us: The biggest difference is that the bay area is driven by innovation, new ideas, business models. Whereas in India, its really executing a business model rather than innovation. Given the nascent nature of the industry its not surprising. In other words, we aren’t innovating enough. (Read the full interview here)

Sadly, some of the things that get us noticed are failed attempts at innovation and programmers copying code at Google code jam!

Perhaps the answer lies in a major policy drift of the past that is now ingrained deep into the Indian mindset. Indian labs, research and government funded establishments were all about the so called “indigenisation.” The other term coined for it was “import substitution.” Perhaps proper for Nehru’s India. But not any more.

That alone can’t be causing all the trouble. There could be the often blamed cultural aspects that stifle innovation. You know, the jugaadu nature of things. Whatever it is, we really need to move on and jump start our innovation engine. The brains need to come together, think up big a plan and put it to work, lest we lose sight of the vision of our forefathers.

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