Six charts that show the state of Innovation in India


Economists, academicians for long have recognized the role of innovation in a country’s economic growth. National innovative capacity is defined as the ability of a country – as both a political and economic entity – to produce and commercialize a flow of innovative technology over the long term.

As India takes on its path to economic recovery, the time is apt to look at the state of innovation in India, reflected in its R&D capability. Though the growth of R & D services has been consistently high at around 20% in the last few years, but India ranks low in its capacity for innovation as compared to developed nations as well as other BRICS nations. In the global gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) of US$ 1.6 trillion for 2014, India’s share is around 3%, which is around five times lower than that of China.

The Economic Survey Report of India 2013-2014 has highlighted the current state of R&D services in India. A look at the following charts reveals the determinants of India’s innovative capacity and the opportunities for improvement in this area.

Capacity for innovation

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14 released by World Economic Forum in Sept 2013, India’s capacity for innovation has been lower than 3 of the other BRICS countries (Brazil, China, and South Africa).

Innovation Capacity
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

University–industry collaboration on R&D

Though India scores better than China, Brazil, and Russia on quality of scientific research institutions, its poor score on university–industry collaboration on R&D as compared to some other BRICS nations like China and South Africa, indicates that research undertaken in such institutions is not percolating down for commercial usage.

Quality of Scientific Institutions
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

Company spending on R&D

In terms of company spending on R&D also, India is far below China.

Company Spending on R&D
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

 Availability of Scientists and Engineers

Whereas India scores better than all BRICS nations on availability of scientists and engineers, owing to its large population, the country has one of the lowest ratios of scientists and engineers per million people. Part of this shortage is attributed to less number of quality higher education institutions. Even with a large population base, India is projected to have 25% shortage of engineers in the country by 2025.

Availability of Scientists
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

 Patents granted per million population

In terms of patents granted per million population, India fares badly compared to other BRICS countries.

Data:  Economic survey 2013-2014
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

In the Budget 2014, the Finance Minister has proposed to set up

  • 4 more AIIMS in addition to the 6 new AIIMS that have recently have become functional.
  •  12 more Govt Medical colleges with dental facilities.
  • 5 new IIMs and 5 new IITs.

This is a step forward towards addressing the skill gap in higher education.

However, there still is the compelling need to have industry bodies to improve upon the University – Industry collaboration and facilitate the exchange of knowledge.

Additionally the, it remains to be seen if the ease of FDIs inflows or competition will incentivize companies to increase spend on R&D.

One thought on “Six charts that show the state of Innovation in India

  1. Somali,

    Your article highlights some blunt truths about the dismal state of R&D in the Indian system that is an open secret for all of us who have gone through it during our formative years. Lest I seem to be dismissing the valiant efforts of a handful who still work through the same system and come out on tops, let me state that I am aware of many individual R&D accomplishments, especially by scientists and university professors. However, institutionalized R&D can be said to be virtually non-existent in India. One example of this is the low number of new drug discoveries by the Indian pharma industry!

    However, whereas institutionalized R&D in India is dismal, the same cannot be said for Indian innovation. India is known the world over for its ‘frugal engineering’ and ‘jugaad engineering’ practices. Carlos Ghosn, head of Nissan, has publicly acknowledged Indian engineers for their frugal engineering abilities. The Tata Nano is the perhaps the most visible and iconic example such abilities. However, I am constantly amazed at the frugal engineering abilities of even the most common citizen. Refer this CNN article – – to see some examples.

    Therefore, I urge you to draw a clear distinction between Indian R&D and Indian innovation!


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