Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bangalore innovation forum and Pasteur’s quadrant

Bangalore Innovation Forum Launch: We had the kick-off event of CII organized Bangalore Innovation Forum at IIMB last Wednesday (23rd Sept). Kris Gopalkrishnan, Chairman of the forum, presented his vision of making “Bangalore an innovation hub”. Prof. Balaram, Director of IISc, gave a special address on the role of basic and applied research in innovation. I am summarizing below what I understood from Prof. Balaram’s talk.

Pasteur’s quadrant: There are some basic questions when it comes to research and more importantly funding research. This is especially important for policy makers. If you have Rs.100, how much to allocate for basic research (which may or may not have any real life application)? And how much to allocate for applied research? Typical assumption is that one can focus on either of these but not both. Donald Stokes questions this assumption by creating following 2x2 in his book “Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic science and technological innovation”:



Bottom left quadrant represents most of us (“common-man”) who are doing neither basic nor applied research. Top left quadrant is epitomized by Niels Bohr whose work in quantum mechanics was inspired solely by understanding “what is?” rather than “what is useful?” Bottom-right quadrant is epitomized by Edison who worked (and extremely productively) on only those areas which are useful (like light-bulb). Well, what is not commonly known, is that Pasteur has made significant contribution to both basic research (crystallography) and applied research (pasteurization process). The question is: how can we make Pasteaur’s quadrant more populated? It is interesting to ask this question at a time when American economy which epitomized its emphasis on basic and applied research is going downhill in spite of all the funding. See recent Businessweek article: Can America invent its way back? (end of Prof. Balaram's talk summary)

Bangalore innovation ecosystem: Forums such as this can go a long way in strengthening the innovation ecosystem. It was evident from the discussion that various academic institutes, research institutes, industry and government are all working in isolation. Currently the participant profile looked more “engineering and researchy-type” (an important element of the ecosystem). However, I hope it becomes more diverse over a period where brand managers, product managers, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists, venture capitalists, government representatives etc. participate. Looking forward to it.

5 comments:

  1. Vinay, I agree with you. In fact, innovation transcends traditional categories of people and we need to have more people who view the world differently. Rishi

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