Op-ed by Chargé d’Affaires MaryKay Loss Carlson
A neo-natal resuscitator that saves newborn children’s lives. An organic bio-stimulant that increases crop yields while simultaneously reducing fertiliser requirements. A device that provides a dignified solution for bowel function to bed-ridden patients. What do they all have in common? All are Indo-American innovations that are making a difference in people’s lives.
As we celebrate the 17th World Intellectual Property (IP) Day on Tuesday, this year’s theme, ‘Innovation: Improving Lives’, could not be more appropriate. With its robust economic growth, youthful population, and growing influence around the world, modern India is at a consequential moment in history. There is a growing sense that across this large, diverse country, India’s innovative spirit is awakening.
The US is proud to play a part in that awakening. The US’s most innovative companies have had a strong presence in India for many years and we are seeing more innovative Indian firms invest in the US. In government, our extensive bilateral dialogues and cooperation on issues such as public health, education, cyber, and military relations reflect the goals that Washington and New Delhi share.
One particularly noteworthy aspect of our relationship is our work together on science and technology cooperation, including through the US-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF). The fund is a joint effort between our two governments that provides grant financing, up to Rs 2.5 crore, to Indian and US innovators for jointly developed, socially relevant innovation and entrepreneurship.
Over seven years, the programme has supported 25 projects in a variety of fields. It was this fund that provided crucial capital and support for the NeoBreathe neonatal resuscitator, Aquasap bio-stimulant, and the Qora fecal incontinence device. These and many other projects, developed jointly by innovators in India and the US, provide solutions that benefit not only the citizens of our two countries, but the global community.
Innovation relies on creativity. To sustain creativity in today’s international economy, we need a comprehensive framework of IP rights (IPR), where innovators can be assured that their ideas will be protected from theft. Innovators need to know that they will be compensated for their creativity and hard work.
Investors too, look for IP protection as they seek opportunities that will yield commercial rewards. These truths form a cornerstone of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative.
The US has a strong record on protecting IP. Nearly a third of our workforce is based in industries that are afforded robust protection of their innovations, such as aerospace, information technology, entertainment, and life-sciences. We believe every economy can benefit from rigorous and balanced IP systems that protect ideas, incentivise innovation and investment, and safeguard creative output. India’s steps to strengthen its own IPR environment, heralded in 2016 by the release of its first National IPR Policy, is welcome. More action is to be encouraged.
Protection of IP is critical to the development of an innovative knowledge economy and unlocks vast economic benefits by supporting the creative potential of our people. On World Intellectual Property Day, let us take a moment to recognise and celebrate our countries’ enormous creative potential, pledge to respect and protect each other’s IP, and celebrate Indian and US innovators and their ability to improve lives.