15 Jul 2015

India’s variable performance across patent metrics is perplexing. But innovation-specific indices provide a clearer picture. The Global Innovation Index (GII) has recently released its seventh annual edition. India’s performance is dismal, flattening after a precipitous decline during the 2008 crisis, but more recently continuing its distressing trend.

The performances of China and India in the innovation input sub-index offer a hint. The ranks for India and China are 82 and 67 in government effectiveness, 108 and 92 in regulatory quality , and 111 and 74 in information and communications technology (ICT) access.

India’s reliance on pharma for a near majority of patent grants says little about the country’s innovative prowess. The US, other developed countries and China have a balanced patent profile, exhibiting creative capacity across multiple sectors and reflecting high-quality education, institutional facilitation of innovation, and entrepreneurial drive.

A diversified innovation portfolio is also more economically sustainable for reasons long held canonical. If pharma companies discover more favourable conditions elsewhere, how will India recover the loss?

Furthermore, India’s reliance on pharma is indicative of corporate dominance in patentable innovation. Although pharma MNCs base R&D centres in India, output reflects their ability to marshal global talent more than India’s ability to innovate at the citizen level. India should think long-term about building innovative capacity beyond a singularly dominant industry .

Asit K. Biswas, Distinguished Visiting Professor and founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, and Kris Hartley, PhD Candidate, in The Times of India, 8 July 2015.