IDRBT Foundation Day Lecture on Innovation's Holy Grail: Getting More from Less for More by Dr. Raghunath A. Mashelkar

On December 19th 2013, Dr. Raghunath A. Mashelkar, National Research Professor, Chancellor, AcSIR; President, Global Research Alliance & CSIR Bhatnagar Fellow, delivered the Foundation Day Lecture on "Innovation's Holy Grail: More from Less for More" as part of the Institute's Foundation Day Lecture Series.

Dr. Mashelkar stressed on the importance of innovation in the progress of mankind and the need for making innovation "inclusive" that benefits the bottom of the pyramid. The key takeaways are as under:

  • Paradigm of Exclusive Innovation: Exclusive Innovation is where you spend more money, create more expensive products for less and less people. On the other hand, industrial enterprises strive for more performance at less cost for more profit.
  • Inclusive Innovation – Bringing Excellence and Affordability Together: Inclusive innovation is about including all those who are excluded, whose income level is less than $2 a day and such population being 2.6 billion (people below poverty line) and provide them with products and services that deliver 'More performance from Less resource for More people' (MLM). Termed as 'Affordable Excellence', wherein less resources mean affordable and more performance leads to excellence. This is in contradiction to the belief that 'anything affordable isn't excellent and anything excellent cannot be affordable'. Scarcity of resources on one hand and aspiration for quality on other hand when combined spurts innovation.
    True inclusion of 2.6 billion people will not just demand low cost but "ultra low cost, not minor redesigning but radical rethinking and creative reinventing". But the challenge is in bringing equilibrium of price and performance.
  • Inclusive Innovation – Bringing Excellence and Affordability Together: Affordable Excellence:It is therefore not about stripping products and services cheaper somehow, it is about giving high quality at affordable prices. Innovation is not confined to technology but innovation should be end-to-end, i.e., innovation should be affordable and reach the end customer. When it is about affordable excellence of either a product or service, excellence must be the front-end and affordability at the backend. To achieve affordable innovation, a combination of these factors is a must: (a) Technology Innovation, (b) Business Model Innovation, (c) Workflow Innovation, (d) Organizational Innovation, (e) Research Process Innovation, (f) System Delivery Innovation and (g) Policy Innovation.

Inclusive Innovation – Achievable?

There are examples of organizations that proved that delivering more from less is a viable business model – Shantha Biotech, Aravind Eye Hospitals, Narayana Hrudayalaya, and Jaipur Foot.

Inclusive Innovation Leadership

The New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) was established with the objective of making India a leader in technology. It catalyzes innovation-centric scientific and technological development. But, change in the mindset to move from incremental to disruptive innovation is a big challenge.

For instance, the goal of frontier innovation that is undertaken by the universities is improving productivity and economic growth but the goal of inclusive innovation is a noble one – changing the lives of people by enhancing their purchasing power and bringing in social harmony. Educational institutions should undergo a conceptual change from frontier innovation to inclusive innovation in their system.

Indian Inclusive Innovation Movement

Inclusive Innovation can be achieved by:

  • Change in the mindset of the policy makers, business leaders, STI community and citizens
  • Conducive government policies to support inclusive innovation
  • Require leaders with a difference – having innovation, compassion and passion
  • Conducive public policy – incentivize public and private sector to undertake R&D to lead inclusive innovation.

Through inclusive innovation, one can create products that benefit people and in order to do that one requires leadership and strategic shift in terms of thinking.

Strategic Shifts for Inclusive Innovation Business

From To
Technologically sophisticated performance rich products with many features Functional but high quality products
Remove features to reduce costs Reinvent the production ground up
Premium price – High margins Affordable price – High volumes
Technology push, Product-out approach Customer-centric, Market-based approach
Current markets – Old money New markets – New money

Inclusive Innovation Leaders have to be different:

  • Set ambitious goals and stretch targets
  • Allow teams to invent the means and reach out the masses beyond the obvious industry practices
  • Invent next practices not just best practices
  • Force project teams to be entrepreneurial and strategy as a stage - what is my man on the moon project?
  • Combine innovation, passion and compassion
  • Access equality despite income inequality
  • Social equity with business competitiveness
  • Doing well by doing good.

In his conclusion, Dr. Mashelkar said, "The combination of affordable excellence is very important because affordability brings equity and excellence brings competitiveness. That is the new paradigm. And I am proud as an Indian that India is showing the way to the rest of the world on affordable excellence."