The alarming situation in the world has challenged the breathing, living and working of people. The COVID-19 outbreak has agonized the life of children and adults. However, humans have known to adapt to their environment and learn, the same conditioned fed into Emerging Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. While innovation is an inevitable process, it prospers in difficult times. Be it survival or sustenance, we have become a part of innovation.
On 18th August 2020, Big Innovation Centre launched its India operations with a webinar on ‘Exploring Innovation in these Difficult Times’. This webinar not just marked the initiation of building an innovation hub for India and the rest of the world, but it also discussed the relevant concept of ‘Culture of Innovation’.
The webinar began with an introductory addressal by Mr Abdul Rehman (Head of Big Innovation Centre, India, Hyderabad – INDIA), elaborating the vision and objective of Big Innovation Centre, India as an organization. This was followed by an introduction to Prof Birgitte Andersen (CEO – London, UK).
Prof. Birgitte Andersen being the Keynote speaker emphasized the role of Big Innovation Centre. She said ‘As a whole, BIC is a unique band of doers, researchers and thinkers who have come together to build purposeful economies, societies and achieve shared goals with creative solutions.’
While discussing the vision of BIC, she also talked about the collective goal of becoming one of its kind world-leading service providers and the largest innovation centre by 2025. Creating an Innovation Hub and Think-tank that relentlessly works for a better tomorrow.
First Session Theme: Importance of Innovation in the low touch economy
The Low touch Economy is a newly coined term by Philippe de Ridder, the CEO of Board of Innovation. It refers to the economic and behavioural shifts caused by COVID-19 and how it demands to adopt the ‘New Normal’. While the world has been challenged in the first and second quarter of the year 2020, people have found solutions to resolve issues in the next quarter. This can be cited as innovation. However, is that enough to familiarize with the situation or do we need to dig deeper?
The importance of Innovation in the low touch economy was the theme of the webinar and this was taken up by none other than our Keynote Speaker, Prof Birgitte Andersen. She reflected on her perspective of the pandemic and how innovation can help tremendously in the healthcare and medical front.
In her session, Prof Andersen talks about the essential need for innovation and technology in caregiving and healthcare. She suggests that in present times when the world is in desperate need of a vaccine that could slow down the curve, innovation can take the lead. Mobile Health, quite literally to its name, the use of mobile apps to keep a check on the health of people.
“We need not start with a clean slate to combat this issue, rather the use of mobile apps in checking on health”. These Health apps not just monitor your health but keep a track report that could benefit medical practitioners get a detailed medical history. While she talks about various mediums to help individuals stay healthy and fit, she also mentions the challenges that might hinder the practical use of these apps.
“We need an innovative system that could help data sharing secure and efficient”. The present challenge is there is a massive amount of data that needs to ethically shared among medical institutions, practitioners, and patients. In spite of having privacy policies, there are undeniable occurrences of misplaced or breach in data across the globe. How do we tame the situation?
These challenges are pretty evident in our society. Nevertheless, Prof Andersen proposes to “build taskforces to make Emerging Technologies available and viable to all” for interoperability of information secure and efficient. “We need new infrastructure to support Emerging Technologies. So, Emerging Technologies drives to sustainable ecosystems, better infrastructure and better facility”.
She also says “We, the people are the co-creators of Innovation, we are a part of it”. She ends her session by putting across an open question “While India is great is early internet and digitization, is it ready to translate it into Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Hub?”
Second Session Theme: Culture of Innovation
Upon the completion of the first session addressed by Prof Birgitte Andersen, the second session was taken over by Mr Jay (CSO of Big Innovation, Hyderabad Centre- INDIA) as a Moderator who puts his thought across on Culture of Innovation. According to him it is “An environment that supports creative thinking, advances efforts to extract economic and social value from the knowledge and generates new and improved product services, processes for the betterment of the society.”
The second session marked the beginning of the Panel Discussion with the esteemed speakers, Dr Archana Mantri (Vice-Chancellor of Chitkara University), Prof. Vikas Singh (Executive Director of ITS Engineering College), Mr Kavi Chawla (Managing Partner of Baton Global) and Mr Vlas Lezin (COO of Silicon Valley Innovation Centre, USA).
The session proceeded with the views of our speakers over ‘Culture of Innovation’, starting with Dr Archana Mantri- “I bring an inclusive vision to this topic and ask everyone, what good difficult times can do to us?” Dr Mantri explained that “our grey cells becomes more actives and acts with grit and power to find a solution. When we are challenged, we can innovate more.” She further highlights the parameters an institution should invest upon, to cultivate innovation.
The 5 Parameters of cultivating innovation in Academia:
- Enabling Mechanism
- What facilities can a University provide to nurture the Culture of Innovation?
- What kind of budgetary mechanism we can put in place to support Innovation?
- What is the Entrepreneurial stint available within the university?
According to Dr Mantri, these are the parameters that a university should build upon its innovation strategy.
The Panel Discussion was the shifted to know the views of Prof Vikas Singh, who very beautifully in simple words put across his personal experience and establishes the fact that the times have been changing. While once the priority was given to receiving certification and getting a respectable job, presently the focus has been provided to innovation. He says “There is a growing culture of innovation among the students.”
However, innovation is a humungous concept and simply put, it is finding solutions to problems and for our country, as Prof Vikas says “finding solutions to problems in the context of India”. Agreeing to Dr Mantri, Prof Vikas also says that it is solely the responsibility of the educational institutions to provide students with the essentials. “We, as custodians of innovation should take responsibility to encourage students and lend them a helping hand to provide scalable solutions to convert into successful businesses.”
The third panellist Mr Vlas Lezin is the COO of Silicon Valley Innovation Centre, USA. Since Mr Vlas has been associated with innovation and innovation partners for a long time and thus put across a different picture for us. He rightly stated that “innovation can be small- just solving small problems”. It necessarily need not be grand and widely known. If it fixes the problem for even a small group of individuals, it is the innovation that needs to be applauded.
By considering the sub-theme ‘Culture of Innovation’, Mr Vlas renders two facts that he has learned over his experience.
Facts about Innovation Culture
- Culture of Innovation takes time
- Academic Institutions research in Innovation is a disadvantage to innovation
By explaining his facts, he elaborated that since the culture of innovation takes time, it must be in the correct direction. As an Academic Institution research from scratch makes the innovation process slower “rather, they can partner with companies who have mastered the procedure to attain something and you focus on being creative to the ecosystem”.
“Combination of good research, focusing on what works, what not, partnering with companies who have done the practices, pushing for the innovation– how big or small is important to establish innovation grow, for both students, partners and governments.”
Mr Kavi Chawla was our fourth panellist and he started his opening remarks with a brilliant quote by “Roger Von Oech– Most brilliance arises from ordinary people working together in extraordinary ways” He seconds Dr Mantri’s opinion on challenging circumstances evokes innovation. He also agrees to the fact that barriers that Academic Institutions face in terms of innovation in governance.
The Q&A Session
The third session was the Q&A session which was followed just after the introductory comments. These questions were put up by the participants and the panellists answered this upon the directives of Mr Jay.
- While higher education seems to be a critical partner for the future of any nation-building, it is also experiencing a tremendous amount of sustainable pressure in recent times. How do we see it overcome this difficult phase and reconfigure itself?
Answers: Dr Mantri- Innovation is no more a choice, it is a compulsion.
Prof Vikas- The New Education Policy by Government of India is tackling the issue in a pertinent way. Online education is increasing. We have a direction and we are catching up with it. The Gross enrolment ratio is 26%. While the Eligibility Enrolment ratio actualises that 11 million students completed their 12th standard and 10.5 million joined higher education. That is an impressive number. Technological innovation needs to be inculcated from school. Young people are the flag bearers of the nation and we should encourage creativity in them through online media education and skill development.
Mr Kavi- Is there any other way to diversify sustainability to the organisation in a cost-effective manner? There is a very sophisticated model of education in the US. So, utilizing it, the education institutions need to monetize and scrutinize their resources and assets. Research Centres can be one of the best assets which institutions should spend money on. One way to increase profit margins is to use data and technology to rationalize their sustenance and deliver the best.
- Vlas, you and Silicon Valley Innovation Centre extend quite a lot of research activities through the academic intuitions which support the corporate necessities. So, how do you see the challenges of higher education sustainability innovatively creating revenue streams?
Answer: First it’s really important to know why higher education is facing these issues? I think it’s a little bit historical as it more about how and what is being educated through those institutions. So, we know a thousand of years ago we were primarily focused on the theories and logic and philosophy. Everyone was focusing on the basics. Nobody was focusing on specific topics. Then it became a trade business, we tried to bring education into a business. But the fact is that the world is moving so fast, that when you start your education, all you get to know is new and latest, but by the time you graduate, the information you received is already out-dated. Because the world is moving so fast, it happens so.
It is really important for education institutions at present to think about what they could do to generate those revenues, how can they make themselves more relevant, to the students. They should provide a direction to the students. Diversifying the education is really important. Universities should create courses that could challenge all the online platforms because you can create the content easily. With all the resources, the courses are much more valuable than any other online courses could provide.
- What defines a university as an innovative university? What it would be needing to have the frameworks and tools to facilitate that?
Answer: Dr Mantri- The greatest advantage is our Manpower and that is the young population. This young population is there in our universities. All we need to do is excite them to innovate. So, how can we excite them? Some possible ways to excite them to innovate is:
The root of meaningful innovation is to solve a problem and a massive country like India has a lot of problems. If we can connect this youth somehow and if we can make them emphasise with the challenges existing in our population, they will be tending to innovate.
Finding real solutions to real problems with the manpower creating an ecosystem where students are rewarded and motivated to find solutions.
Prof Vikas- The Universities’ role is to channelise the energy of the young innovators to give them opportunities to support their excitement. To create innovating universities, you need to give students as well as the faculty scope to channelise their energy.
- How will digital transformation help transform societies in the changing climate of the global ecosystem of business?
Answer: Mr Kavi- Digital Transformation is really transformative. It allows us to understand using objective data what the real ground situation is? The access to have good data in general insight allows understanding needs and behaviour. So, we can have an innovation that is going to resonate and is going to lead to transformation. It is the access and ability to get good data to inform strategic details of the situation.
Mr Vlas- What is important is that what we all need to understand that this digital transformation leads to a lot of great things but also creates a lot of disturbance. As we all see this situation during the pandemic, all of the small retailers got overshadowed by Amazon and Walmart and big chains. Why? Because this digital transformation can reach more people. Digital Transformation enterprises can win much more of their shares. So, it is really important for organizations to understand that if they are not innovative, then they are not left with any other option. It is also important for Academic Institutions to think forward. So, don’t wait for things to go out of hand.
1. Is language a barrier in Innovation?
Answer: Innovation or Innovators should not be seeing language as a barrier. There are ecosystems where people do not feel language is a barrier. The New Education System have mentioned that higher education and school education should be supported in vernacular languages. The greatest example is Speech to Text Conversions with AI.
2. What innovations are possible without technology?
Answer: Technology is a tool. Innovation processes are important to analyse how to address those issues. Ability to know how to change a business model makes technology just a tool.
Innovation is a mindset. How you structure and relook at a problem matter. It necessarily requires technology. Place, Time and Situation helps.
Design Innovation, creative innovation, cultural innovation, business model innovation does happen without technology. Yes, technology may or may not be an enabler but it’s not an absolute necessity.
With this, the session ended and so did the webinar. A last vote of thanks was presented by Mr Jay and Mr Abdul Rehman.
Yes, these are difficult times and since desperate times call for desperate measures, there are quite some opportunities for us to come together for holding hands with innovation and building a fulfilling future for all. The societies we live in is being re-constructed to adapt seamlessly into the future and contribution from one and all is inevitable. While it is no more a question if we want to explore innovation, innovation will find you.