India is the second largest population in the world, which makes it a country abundant with untapped human resource. A resource which is primarily young, innovative and have a go-getter attitude. Still, the country continues to lag when it comes to other developing nations.

A recent survey conducted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a US based think tank, ranked India at the bottom of a list of 56 countries. The survey called the Contributors and Detractors: Ranking Countries’ Impact on Global Innovation also revealed that the main contributors to India's poor ranking were its stringent intellectual property laws, export subsidies and balkanized market in services. Also, a closer look at the study revealed the fact that the country’s continuing poor performance in developing human capital has also not helped its rankings.

One thing is for sure, if the Indian government wants to boost innovation in the country, it will have to start investing a larger portion in higher education instead of the things that it is currently doing, like rolling back scholarships.

The study by ITIF listed India at bottom of the average education expenditure per primary and secondary student (purchasing power parity, or PPP, dollars) list. Chart 1 reveals that the country is spending only $1,248 per student, which is much behind what countries such as Vietnam and Colombia are doing for their students.


Further, the country isn't doing much great when it comes to higher education. The Indian government's per capita funding of university research is extremely poor as compared to its other developing counterparts. The country is occupies a position among the bottom six, behind countries like South Africa and Brazil. The country's poor investment in higher education is directly proportional to its research outcomes.

Chart 2 below reveals how the per capita government funding of university research in India is only $12. According to the ITIF report, India takes the 35th position out of 51 countries when it comes to calculating the number of top-ranking universities in a country. The country houses only 17 of the world’s top 800 universities. Global university rankings are calculated based on quality of research conducted by universities and this is where the Indian universities lack focus. This results in reducing them to just teaching shops when it comes to international rankings.


Well, it's not all dark when it comes to the research scene in the country. India has some of the most reputed research names in the world in the Indian Institute of Science, the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

When it comes to government expenditure on research and development per capita, India with $464 acquires a middle rank.

A closer look at Chart 3 reveals that India is among the bottom six countries when it comes to Citable Documents and Total Citations per thousand citizens.

Furthermore, the country also does not have a technology transfer legislation in place that would allow the transfer of know-how from university research labs to the private sector for commercialisation purposes. This makes it behind not only the advanced economies but also the developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa which have a legislation that enables the licensing and transfer of economically significant innovations to commercial markets.

According to a study by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, there is a strong relationship between domestic innovation capacity of a country and its contribution to global innovation. A country which has strong policies that boost in house innovation also automatically contributes to increasing innovation globally.

Hence, it is time that the Indian government pulls up its socks and focus on the state of higher education in the country.

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