A DoraCrea Initiative
Innovation at global level is a great challenge. We have gone down in the global count. There is obviously need, and room, for improvement
Invention means something completely new is brought about. Innovation implies extending the use of the object to fresher objects connected with it. The telephone was an invention. All other vocal means of communication at distance are innovations. The latter takes place in every field of life. A simple example that strikes one’s imagination is the collection of public garbage. The collectors, these days, move around the region where the work is to be done, removing the wastes and placing the containers and bags by the roadside. As soon as this part of the job is done, the lorry moves along and the stuff is loaded without obstructing normal traffic.
Mauritians are innovative people. Over the years, mainly after independence, they have been improving their lot marvelously. They have dealt with violent cyclones by erecting concrete buildings. Mechanization has made agricultural exploitation easy. And the list goes on. The important thing is that the Mauritian innovates when the fruits of his labour benefit him personally. In fact, he has his own secret ways of doing things that lead to his personal advancement. Daneswar Sarjua and his breadfruit flour had struck the public’s attention. Moringa tea from Goodlands is another example.
On the 20th July, DoraCrea of Bipine Gokhool organized a day-long seminar on the subject of innovation at Le Meridien Hotel. Soumitra Dutta from the USA, Raymond de Villiers and others pleaded for the enhancement of the Mauritian position in the field of innovation at the world level where it has fallen from the 49th to the 75th position. They have found that insufficient knowledge and technology are responsible for this discomfiture. It is innovation on behalf of firms and industries they are working for or corporate innovation that they are calling for. The employees will innovate or come forward with new ideas to keep their jobs. According to the speakers, Singapore which has become the capital of South-East Asia, is the model we should emulate. Singapore sends officials all over the world, even in the deepest confines of China, looking for the brainiest people to develop its economy and pays them astronomical salaries. On the other hand, Mauritius is losing its best brains to Canada, Australia and elsewhere. No wonder we are worlds apart in the field of innovation.
Soumitra Dutta has come forward with seven proposals to take Mauritius to a better position at global level although it is already second after South Africa at the level of Africa. He recommends that we must have a national vision to achieve our goal. There is a need for high level advisers. Key actors need coordination. We have to build a brand name like Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” to push our innovation drive. Tourism and software are two examples where our country is already excelling. There must be knowledge transfer with key firms and ministries. We must also support further knowledge creation.
The government is invited to develop a national vision about the importance of innovation. Investment in human capital is essential with a focus on education, training, and pedagogical reforms up to university level. The approach to innovation has to be inculcated at school level. At present each one is innovating in his own corner. All such actions need coordination, and it is the duty of the State to do so. In fact, many great leaders are talking about innovation in every domain.
Former President of India and renowned scientist Abdul Kalam used to address students in India after his retirement, emphasising the importance of innovation. The Father of Indian rocketry knew what he was talking about for, during f the execution of the huge scientific projects of India, he had hundreds of engineers and scientists innovate in order to achieve their goals.
They sent a satellite to planet Mars at the lowest cost in the world. They had to invent the toughest and lightest metal for use in their rockets. That metal could also be used to make prostheses for handicapped people. Dr Kalam also made stents for use in cardiac surgery. He made many more things available for use in our everyday life. It was praiseworthy that he used to offer them free of charge to institutions.
He came to Mauritius as an official guest during one of our Independence Day celebrations and made a few suggestions that went unheard. For example, he said that Mauritius could easily do away with fossil fuels by replacing them with renewable sources of energy whose profusion in our atmosphere caught his attention. We had but to ask him to draft the scientific approach to attain the goal and it would have been done willingly and free of charge. What a loss.
Innovation at global level is a great challenge. Mauritius is asked to compete with giants like China, India and others. We have gone down in the global count. There is obviously need, and room, for improvement. The pieces of advice tendered to us by DoraCrea can stand us in good stead for the concern showed by the participants is genuine.
* Published in print edition on 27 July 2018