Several state governments are belatedly realising that without harnessing the power of imagination, innovation and incubation in the society, long term sustainable development is unlikely. Among various groups, the role of technology students remains least appreciated in the current scheme of policy and institutional support. I gave examples earlier of how technology students in Gujarat developed solutions to the problems of the small industries and in informal sector without much support from the state. I will illustrate many more examples in the weeks to come so that we can realise what can students create. Irony is that in some cases, even when industry benefits from the solutions developed by the students, they do not reciprocate by rewarding the students. Techpedia.in, a platform of SRISTI has tracked dozens of examples where student teams have generated lot of efficiency even without getting any support for meeting basic cost of prototyping or patenting or developing a business model. On one hand, several incubators have no incubatees and on the other, we have the paradox of dozens of innovators suffering for want of incubation support.
S-create is a model where students solve problems creatively without the support of external institutions, through their self-reliant strategies. Milan, Sachin, Nilesh and Parthiv from BVM College of Engineering designed and fabricated a low cost machine for automatic assembly of nut and bolt at AEP Company, Vidhyanagar. They modified the design and reduced the cost of existing solutions apart from making them safer. There were about 200 workers where 1200 assembles were put together by each worker every day. The new solution has increased their productivity to 3200 assemblies per day per worker. The students pooled money from their own pocket and developed this machine in ` 7000/=. Their faculty guides were not sure that working on a small problem of a small company they would go very far in their career. A fear was expressed that they might get much less marks. But, students did not care and decided to solve the problem. The congenial environment created through the partnership between SRISTI and GTU emboldened the students to take the risks and develop a solution in a time-bound manner. I wish the industry had considered compensating, and in fact, rewarding the student team and paying their cost besides some incentives. However, the enhanced confidence of students is a gain by itself. But, when will the confidence of the senior policy makers increase in the capacity of technological youth of our country? Abhayraj, Sidikan, Kinal and Kushagra at the same college have a developed a fixture which can use to make a square hole using lathe machine. The cost of making a square hole using a dedicated machine was about ` 2000 – 3000 per hole. The cost has come down to about ` 400 by using the new tool. Jimil, Ramkrushne, Ranvijaysinh and Bhavik have developed a solution at Valia Institute of Technology, Bharuch to run a retrofitted single cylinder 4-stroke motorcycle engine by using compressed air as the fuel. Prof. Pandey from M S Univeristy, Baroda guided them and motivated them externally and internal guide Mayank provided all the support at the college. NIF has about seven different models using compressed air for car, scooter, irrigation pump, etc. If informal sector innovators can work with such students, the speed and scope of finding solutions can perhaps increase. We have not yet succeeded in forging such partnership but we hope to do so in the coming year. With Punjab and Karnataka taking interest, I will not be surprised if many new models emerge building upon the initiatives at GTU. While some students could file patents, thousands more still await this opportunity. With the small support, the funding agency can acquire equity in thousands of such patented technologies and hopefully create a viable business model. SRISTI does not have resources to do so. But, it is possible that if various industry associations organise one or two conference less and use saved resources for helping young students, a great deal of good can come out. Inertia, hopefully will give way to some initiatives soon. Even high net worth individuals can contribute to this cause.
“S”, thus stands for students, self-reliance and sustainable solutions without support from formal institutions and the state. S-create is working and that perhaps is the problem.
Anil K Gupta