National Innovation Foundation – India (NIF) is an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology (India), Government of India. It was set up in February 2000 at Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India to provide institutional support for scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up the grassroots innovations across the country. It is a national initiative to serve the knowledge-rich, economically poor people of the country. It is committed to making India innovative by documenting, adding value, protecting the intellectual property rights of the contemporary unaided technological innovators, as well as of outstanding traditional knowledge holders and disseminating them on a commercial as well as non-commercial basis.
NIF conducts a biennial national competition for grassroots green technologies developed by farmers, mechanics, artisans and others through their own genius without any recourse to professional help. NIF then gets these innovations validated with the help of experts, and, ascertains the novelty in these innovations by conducting prior art search. If the innovation is deemed novel, NIF files a patent on behalf of the innovator in his/her name. NIF also funds value addition initiatives in these innovations to upscale them and make them more useful for a larger segment of people.
To determine the feasibility of the commercializing of technology, NIF conducts market research and test marketing. Those technologies which are found to be commercially viable are licensed to willing entrepreneurs. A Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF), sponsored by Small Industries Development Bank of India in 2003, supports the activities of prototype development, test marketing and pilot production.
IGNITE is an annual competition for student’s ideas and innovations conducted by NIF in partnership with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Some State Education Boards also partner in the same. All students up to the 12th class from any school (and of the same age group but out of school also) in India are eligible to participate in IGNITE. The IGNITE awards are announced on October 15, the birthday of Bharat Ratna, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, which is celebrated as the children’s creativity and Innovation Day by NIF. In 2015, NIF renamed IGNITE competition as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE competition in Dr Kalam’s memory so that the creative children continue to draw inspiration from his spirit.
NIF is mandated to build a national register of ideas, innovations and Traditional Knowledge (TK) practices related to agriculture, plants, animal health, and human health. With the help of the Honey Bee Network, NIF has been able to scout and document over 2,11,500 examples of technological ideas, innovations and traditional practices. Since its inception, NIF has also recognised over 815 grassroots innovators, young students and outstanding traditional knowledge holders in its various national award functions providing them a platform to showcase their creativity. Through the collaborations with various R&D and academic institutions, Agricultural and Veterinary Universities and others, NIF has helped in getting thousands of grassroots technologies validated and value added. It has also set up a Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) with the help of MIT, Boston, for product development apart from strengthening in-house research and development facilities for the initial validation of herbal technologies. Pro bono arrangement with patent firms has helped NIF to file over 740 patents (including eight filed in USA and twenty seven PCT applications) on behalf of the innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge holders of which thirty nine patents have been granted in India and five in the USA. It has also filed applications for thirty seven farmers’ developed plant varieties at the PPV&FR Authority. Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) at NIF has provided risk capital to 193 projects, which are at different stages of incubation. NIF has received over six hundred product inquiries from around fifty five countries for various technologies and has succeeded in commercialising products across countries in six continents. NIF has transferred 89 technologies to different licensees and setup a Joint Venture Company with BVG India Ltd. NIF has also set up 37 community workshops at innovators place throughout country.
NIF has proved that Indian innovators can match anyone in the world when it comes to solving problems creatively, where they perform better than rest is in generating greater sustainable alternatives by using local resources frugally. The Grassroots to Global (G2G) model that NIF is propagating is all set to change the way the world looks at the creativity and innovations at the grassroots.