The National Innovation Council, set up in 2010, was a great idea to help create a roadmap for transforming India into an innovative nation. One part of the exercise, announced in November 2011, was to create an India Innovation Fund, a Sebi-registered venture capital fund that would, in Silicon Valley-style evangelize innovation across the country in critical areas like healthcare, agriculture, education and energy. Such was the half-hearted nature of the exercise, it was kick-started with a R100 crore contribution from the budget, though given how government works, that may not have been a bad thing—imagine the CAG questioning a R25 crore investment in a tiny start-up that didn’t deliver and the CBI following this up with a preliminary enquiry into worthies like Sam Pitroda who heads the NIC.
What is horrendous, however, is that in its third report, the National Innovation Council talks of how it has managed to get in-principle commitments/support of a mere R375 crore from a multilateral agency, public sector banks and financial institutions. Given the fund-raising still required, the Fund is expected to be operational by the beginning of next year. Now you know why Bharat Ratna awardee CNR Rao was so upset the other day about the state of research funding in the country.