Grassroots innovations are innovations that emerge from local traditional and informal knowledge systems, with or without blending with formal knowledge. Grassroots innovation has yet to be fully understood or exploited in China and India. This grant will support a detailed study of grassroots innovation in the context of national innovation systems in the two countries.

Researchers will look at why and how some grassroots innovations evolve to a successful outcome and others do not. And, they will examine the external environment in which an innovation serves a public good, finds a market, gets scaled up or otherwise finds expression as a socially and economically valued product. 

The overall premise is that national innovation systems can only benefit the poor and other excluded sections of society when they do not rely entirely on formal science and technology (S&T) systems.

Both states recognize that new ways and institutional arrangements for reducing poverty in the rural hinterland are urgently needed, and both have espoused national policies that seek to balance rapid economic growth with social equity. It is expected that the findings will provide input toward these goals. Learn more


The Centre for Agricultural Management of the Indian Institute of Management has been involved in documenting indigenous innovations and promoting information exchange among communities and institutions through its newsletter, Honey Bee. This work is based on the principle that the link between formal and informal (indigenous) knowledge systems must be forged in such a way that gains accrue to the innovators and originators of ideas and that intellectual property rights of local communities be respected to encourage innovative approaches to problem-solving.  

Work has evolved into a move to constitute a centre of excellence for research, product and idea development, consumer education and collaborative learning, and information dissemination. 

The centre of excellence, which is in the process of obtaining NGO status in India, is called the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies (SRISTI).  

This project will support SRISTI to establish a link between formal or reductionist science with holistic or informal science underlying local ecological knowledge systems. The key objectives are to strengthen the capacity of grassroots level innovators and inventors engaged in conserving biodiversity to protect their intellectual property rights; experiment to add value to their knowledge; evolve entrepreneurial ability to generate returns from this knowledge; and enrich cultural and institutional basis of dealing with nature.


The project resulted in the establishment of SRISTI as a centre of excellence for research, product and idea development, consumer education and collaborative learning, and information dissemination in the area of indigenous knowledge. SRISTI supported the activities of the Honey Bee Network in documenting and promoting the creativity and innovations of farmers, artisans, and others at the grassroots level in more than 75 countries and built a database of several thousand innovations with the names and addresses of the innovators. It also experimented with various models of incentives and methods of adding value to local initiatives and innovations. 

The project supported numerous issues of the Honey Bee newsletter and a large number of publications by project members. Over 1 000 groups became members of the Honey Bee Network. The project introduced approaches sensitive to indigenous knowledge into Indian government agencies, as indicated by the grant to a local innovation fund made by the Gujarat state government. SRISTI has become recognized globally as an innovative leader. The institution convened in January 1996 more than 400 professionals in the International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at the Grassroots for Sustainable Natural Resource Management. Support continued in a second phase (003267/96-0023). Learn more