April 14, 2016 | FICCI Federation House, New Delhi
Good Morning! Let me begin by thanking the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) – Dr. Singh and his team – for hosting this event and for FICCI’s excellent partnership with the U.S. Government on the Millennium Alliance.
I’d also like to specially thank Minister Vardhan and the Government of India for their support. Your government has initiated programs and ideas that are truly inspiring and influencing India in a profoundly positive direction. We value your partnership and are enormously proud of what we have accomplished together.
The Millennium Alliance has grown from three founding partners in 2012 – FICCI, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Science and Technology – to now having eight partners including UKAID, ICCO Cooperation, ICICI Foundation, Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Health (WISH) Foundation and the World Bank. It has been an impressive journey and we are proud to have all of you as part of the alliance.
What began as a seven million dollar initiative is now a 25 million dollar and growing partnership that is supporting nearly 62 innovators through seed funding and capacity building services, as well as an additional 100 innovators with networking and advisory assistance. We are leveraging the best of our partner institutions and the best of private Indian philanthropy to develop solutions to tough challenges, making our joint assistance more efficient and effective. The alliance has proved that when we work together, we’re a powerful force for change.
It is an honor for the U.S. Government to be a part of the Millennium Alliance. Through it, we are able to share ideas, expertise, knowledge –and, yes, resources- that will help source and scale innovative solutions to the toughest development problems in India and around the world. The Millennium Alliance is supporting some amazing innovations and innovators who are making a tremendous impact through the first two rounds of awards.
I was excited to learn that the Millennium Alliance support to a Mumbai based organization – Educate Girls – has increased girl’s enrollment in schools in Jalore district in Rajasthan by almost 60 percent and retention rates by 93 percent, and it has improved key learning outcomes for students by some 30-40 percent. This was achieved through a process innovation where Team Balika (community volunteers) works with school, parents, and village leaders to ensure access to quality education for girls.
Another great example is HaldiTech, which is an innovative technology developed by Science for Society (S4S) for post-harvest processing of turmeric. This cost-effective drying technology has reduced the processing time of turmeric from 30 days to one day, and costs 50 percent less than traditional processing, resulting in increased farmer incomes in the Amravati District of Maharashtra.
And these are just couple of the many great successes that we have supported to date.
I am excited that in this Round 3 of awards, there are many new innovations. We will all have a chance to learn more about these innovations later in the morning, and to meet some of these dynamic innovators that are helping address solutions for those in need.
India has much to offer the world in terms of innovative solutions to development challenges that affect base of the pyramid populations both here in India and around the globe.
Just as India changed the world for the better during the Green Revolution, India continues to pioneer leading-edge innovations that are pushing the limits of what is possible in development. And through the Millennium Alliance, we are leveraging the enormous wealth of knowledge, talent, and resources that exist in India.
The Millennium Alliance is reflective of the U.S. Government’s broader model of development partnership in India, in which we are using partnership platforms to unite diverse public and private stakeholders and accelerate development outcomes.
We have a number of other similar alliances to tackle the challenges of improving reading abilities at the primary level, increasing clean energy options for low-income populations living off the power grid, ending preventable maternal and child deaths in India, improving access in urban areas to clean drinking water and sustainable sanitation, and mobilizing a call to action for a tuberculosis free India.
Under the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership on global food security, the U.S. Government, through USAID, is building capacity, supporting collaborative research and innovation, and developing sustainable partnerships to accelerate the sharing and transfer of Indian agricultural innovations that support food security outcomes in Africa and Asia.
All of these partnerships, including the Millennium Alliance, are a testament to the power of the U.S.-India strategic relationship, and the vast opportunities that can be harnessed when governments, citizens, and enterprises come together to solve the most pressing development challenges of our time, both locally and globally.
I had the great privilege to hear Prime Minister Modi speak on innovation when he was in Silicon Valley last fall. He called for bringing together the best minds of India and the United States, who could use the latest advances in science and technology to solve our two countries’ – and the world’s – biggest challenges. On several occasions, he encouraged all of us to look at ways to harness our great networks of entrepreneurs and innovators to improve the condition of ordinary people.
This vision fits very well with that of President Obama. Last October, President Obama announced a new Strategy for American Innovation and, similar to Prime Minister Modi, he called upon Americans to “harness innovation to help address our Nation’s most important challenges.” Among other things, he emphasized investing in advanced R&D and launched efforts to make the Federal government more innovative to improve its performance.
We need to follow the path that our two visionary leaders have laid out before us.
In closing, I would like to repeat that it is truly an honor for the U.S. to be a partner in this important initiative with all of you. We are so excited and optimistic because there is so much promise in our work together.
Congratulations to this year’s winners – we look forward to watching your innovations grow and scale and appreciate the opportunity to partner with all of you for a better world. Thank you.