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A Shot in the Arm for Innovation and IP: Budget 2022

The past two years have brought to the forefront the paramount importance of technology. The Economic Survey 2021-22 was a precursor to the Union Budget that built a foundation for a wave of innovations by incorporating a tech-forward and futuristic outlook across various relevant sectors. Drone technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the issuance of a Central Backed Digital Currency (“CBDC”) were a few of the issues that were highlighted.

The Finance Minister mentioned the word ‘Atma Nirbhar’ approximately six (6) times in her address. The vision of self-reliance, or ‘Atma Nirbhar’, has been a rallying call for the government in the last few years, hence manifesting the importance of this philosophy.

Green India

 
There has been increased awareness of both the ill effects of climate change as well as the various pollutants that are damaging the environment. The Union Budget took note of this with announcements for the implementation of Energy Service Models (ESCO) as well as the development of business models for batteries or energy as a service. The Finance Ministers’ mention of a battery swapping policy as well as interoperability standards for charging electric vehicles indicates an urgency for innovation in this space to reduce the carbon footprint. With an increased focus on electronic vehicles, the future is indeed bright for battery makers to bring forth further innovation to reduce costs for battery replacement as well as tackle the inadequacy of public charging infrastructure. Such innovation will lead to an increase in patented technology in the field of green energy. In addition, the impetus given through the additional allocation towards solar equipment manufacturing and the issuance of green bonds for boosting green infrastructure are big steps towards a green economy driven by technological enablement.


The 5G connection

 

The much-anticipated 5G spectrum auctions are set to be conducted in 2022 to facilitate the rollout of 5G mobile services. As a part of the PLI Scheme, a designed-led manufacturing framework is proposed to be launched to build a strong 5G ecosystem in the country. The technology will be a catalyst to innovation in several sectors such as healthcare, automotive, research, defence, manufacturing etc. Additionally, 5G and R&D shall prove to be a stepping stone into the new era of businesses being more appreciative of the complexities and importance of the IP regime to gain maximum benefits amidst a growing tech-friendly and driven market.

Wearables

 

With the announcement of a graded rate structure of the customs duty rates, the focus on ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ is very much prevalent to facilitate further domestic manufacturing of wearables. This can be an impetus for further innovation from both existing domestic companies as well as the genesis of newer ones. Wearables have garnered a lot of attention in recent times and there is a lot of scope for newer players in this field with unique trademarks whose innovations will give rise to numerous patents.

Eye in the Sky

 

Climate change has adversely impacted the farming sector and the need of the hour is sustainable land management and a change is required in the manner of farming. The announcement of the ‘Drone Shakti’ scheme as well as the use of drones to assist in spraying of insecticides and nutrients and for crop assessment heralds the advent of e-agriculture which is important for an agriculture-based country like India. A drone can assist farmers with crop production, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction. Additionally, the drones–as–a–service (DRaaS) model will act as a fillip for startups in this nascent sphere of activity and increase innovation and adoption of drone technology for e-agriculture in the coming years.

Blockchain Technology

 

Months of uncertainty ended with the announcement of the CBDC, which will act as an impetus to the digital economy. The CBDC will be based on blockchain technology, thus also welcoming the use of blockchain technology in the future as a building block for the digital economy. The introduction of the digital yuan in China heralded the incorporation of new mechanisms to adopt CBDC’s among apps and providers of payment solutions. The government intends to launch the digital rupee from 2022- 2023 and therefore, this year will be a watershed moment for the adoption of blockchain technology.

The advent of the blockchain will increase its utility in various other sectors as well such as sports, NFT’s, smart contracts, etc.

 

Edtech

 

Education has moved from the erstwhile hallowed classrooms to the living room in the last two years. Classrooms became virtual and education too was touched by the Digital India initiatives. Into this space came EdTech companies with tie-ups and a range of courses to upskill not only students but professionals as well. The Union Budget proposed the launch of a digital university to enable access to education to all at one’s doorstep. Additionally, the Budget announced a skill-development initiative in a digital ecosystem called the DESH stack e portal. The use of technology in the education sector will not only increase, but we will see further innovation in both the medium of dissemination of information as well as the advent of artificial intelligence-based learning tools and the issuance of certificates via the use of blockchain technology to name a few changes one could see. With each platform wanting to garner the largest consumer base, the protection of intellectual property will be at the forefront of this sector.

HealthTech

 

The pandemic has not just intensified the need for health-related technological innovation, but the digital support offered by AI and automation during the crucial period has also punctuated the future of HealthTech with burgeoning prospects. This has been acknowledged in the budget with the introduction of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem consisting of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, a unique health identity, consent framework, and universal access to health facilities. This would legitimize, increase access as well as boost consumer confidence in the sector’s offerings, thus leading to more investment and more innovation. Moreover, the recognition of mental health issues, as well as the support system, proposed to be established to address them in the form of a ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ and Tele-mental health centres of excellence makes this discipline, which was hitherto marred by discomfiture, lucrative.

The Future

 

With path-breaking changes in both the technology at use as well as the improvements in the current technology at use, we will see a huge number of intellectual properties being created. The renewed focus on ‘Atma Nirbhar’ will encourage startups to push forward with innovation in varied fields that will optimise a market ecosystem that deploys the use of drones, e-agriculture, EdTech, blockchain etc.

There has always been a direct correlation between innovation and the protection of intellectual property. The views of John Locke through the Labour Theory and Hegel through the Personality Theory are of utmost relevance considering this forward-looking union budget. Intellectual Property and its protection will not only reward the creator for their work, but will also protect their personality in the work, resulting in continued innovation.

With the stage set for some landmark innovations in the upcoming years, and various actors waiting in the wings, intellectual property and the challenges of enforcement will take centre stage.

References:

Image Credits: Photo by kiquebg from Pixabay 

There has always been a direct correlation between innovation and the protection of intellectual property. With the stage set for some landmark innovations in the upcoming years, and various actors waiting in the wings, intellectual property and the challenges of enforcement will take centre stage.

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Education in India: Time to Connect the Dots and Look at the Big Picture

In the last few days, I read news reports that are seemingly unrelated on the surface. However, I think there exists a deeper connection for those willing to think outside the box. I thought I would use this article to articulate my thoughts on the connections and their possible implications for India. 

India’s New Education Policy expected to gain traction

The first item was about various initiatives announced by the Union government on the first anniversary of India’s National Education Policy (NEP). While internationalization, multiple entry/exit options, and digital education will be key pillars, one other important component is to enable students to pursue first-year Engineering courses in Indian languages.

In the context of the broad-brush changes envisioned to India’s education system, it is time to rethink the role of the UGC as a body that enables the nation’s higher education system in ways beyond disbursing funds to be recognized universities. There also ought to be more harmony between the various Boards that govern school education. The roles of bodies responsible for governing professional education in India- e.g., AICTE, NMC (which replaced the MCI), ICAI, ICSI, ICWAI, Bar Council of India etc. should also be redefined to ensure that India’s professionals remain in tune with the needs of a fast-changing world.

English will play an important role in our continued growth

The second report that caught my attention was on two main points made by Mr. Narayana Murthy (the Founder of Infosys), in a recent media interaction. He stated that it is high time that English be formally acknowledged and designated as India’s official link language, and greater emphasis is given to its teaching and learning in Indian schools. He said that his opinion is based on his first-hand knowledge of many technically qualified students in Bangalore/Karnataka who lose out in the job market largely because they lack a certain expected level of proficiency in English.

In the same interview, Mr. Murthy went on to say that on a priority basis, India needs overseas universities and vocational educational institutions to set up facilities in India to train students and teachers in key areas like nursing. This too makes sense because our healthcare infrastructure needs massive upgrades- and human resources will be critical.

China’s tightening regulations threaten its US$100 Billion EdTechc industry

The third report was on China’s recent decision to tightly regulate its online tutoring companies. The new rules bar online tutoring ventures from going public or raising foreign capital. There are also restrictions on the number of hours for which tutors can teach during weekends and vacations. In fact, the rules go so far as to make online tutorial businesses “not for profit”.

Different views have been expressed on why Chinese authorities have taken this step. Some see it as a means to reduce the cost of children’s education- and thus encourage couples to have more children. They point to this as a logical enabler of the recent relaxations in China’s two-child policy. Others view it as a step designed to clip the wings of Chinese tech companies that are deeply entrenched in many consumer segments, and have, over the past decade, acquired significant financial muscle.

To put into perspective the size of Chinese EdTech companies, consider this data point: Byju’s, arguably India’s largest EdTech company, was valued at over US$16.5 Billion as of mid-June 2021. Despite this high valuation, Byju’s would have been smaller than the top 5 Chinese EdTech players (on the basis of valuations that existed before the recent draconian rules came into effect).

Implications for India

The majority of China’s EdTech ventures are financed through significant venture capital investments from the west. Analysts expect that China’s sudden actions will, at least in the short run, divert capital to other locations. India could be a potential beneficiary because it already fosters a large EdTech ecosystem.

Given our demographics, we have a significant domestic market for education across all levels- primary, secondary, and college. Since digital education will likely become the norm, this space is ripe for newfangled innovations in the days ahead. If online education can bridge the gaps that employers currently perceive in our fresh graduates, unemployability rates shall notably decline. . This will not only contribute directly to our GDP but also indirectly stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship.

India has a large technical skill base. Some of these resources can easily be harnessed to develop next-gen education solutions using cutting-edge technologies such as AI, ML, Language Processing, Augmented Reality, etc. To begin with, Indian start-ups can build, test, and scale EdTech platforms and solutions for our domestic market. Over time, these can be refined and repurposed for global markets. Similarly, features built for the global market can be adapted to Indian markets, thus creating a virtual cycle. Such a trend will not only proffer legs to implementing India’s NEP but will also enable us as a society to improve access to education to underprivileged sections of the society. This is critical to sustaining our growth on the path of socio-economic development.

By taking the right decisions now, we can attract capital, talent, and world-famous institutional brands to this critical sector. EdTech in India has the potential to become a powerful engine of growth for our services sector. Done right, I have no doubt that in a few years, India can become a “Vishwaguru” not just in the spiritual sense, but also literally.

PS: As with many other sectors in India, the legal framework that governs education too needs to be made more contemporary and relevant, but that’s for another time.

Image Credits: Photo by Nikhita S on Unsplash

By taking the right decisions now, we can attract capital, talent and world-famous institutional brands to this critical sector. EdTech in India has the potential to become a powerful engine of growth for our services sector. Done right, I have no doubt that in a few years, India can become a “Vishwaguru” not just in the spiritual sense, but also literally.

 

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