An Assessment Of Nanoscience And Nanotechnology (NST) Initiatives In India
Watve, Neelima S
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Technology is the ‘engine of economic growth’ and technological progress is the most important factor driving a nation’s sustained economic growth. New technologies assume significant and long term role in this process of economic development. New technologies can trigger new cycles of economy, provide windows of opportunity for less developed countries to catch up with the more advanced nations and are important from the wealth creation point of view. However for this to happen, the technology should be able to reach society in the form of new products, processes. Nanotechnology is a new and emerging technology that can play important role to promote India’s economic development. Wide ranges of applications are claimed for nanotechnology and it is considered to be the next big wave of technology after information technology and biotechnology. Government of India has started a mission on nanoscience and nanotechnology in May 2007 with an allocation of ~ 200 million USD for 5 years. However, if one looks at the ‘Nanotechnology’ from the wealth creation point of view, then, research efforts alone in this field, are not sufficient. The research efforts should lead to new products, new processes, and new platforms. Management of technology can assume significant role in this process. It is generally agreed upon that management of nanotechnology is necessary to create economic advantage at the national level. However, the macro level understandings namely, policy at the national level, must result in ground level organization performance. In order to facilitate innovation in the field of NST (Nanoscience and Technology), the process of innovation in this field must be well understood. Infrastructure and management of R&D is a key aspect and entrepreneurship is vital for the development of a new technology. The aim of this study is to do the assessment of nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives in India. Emerging technology assessments for nation building to meet societal objectives is an extremely complex task. Challenge lies in understanding complex R&D requirements and likely innovations at the lab level. Further challenge lies in assessing initiatives of the start-ups, individual entrepreneurs and comparing them with the Government research initiatives. Understanding the resource requirements of different research initiatives in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (NST) will greatly assist in facilitating innovation in this field. Further understanding of human, cultural issues, education and training aspects, technical and market uncertainties faced by nanoscience and nanotechnology research initiatives will be an added advantage for the policy makers to facilitate innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (NST). Review of Literature A critical literature review in the field of Technology Management; Innovation, Technological Innovation; and nanoscience and nanotechnology from a business perspective gave researcher a strong foundation to define nanotechnological innovation and understand the process of nanotechnological innovation. This literature along with the literature on the emergence of a new industry helped identify factors that would facilitate innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. While understanding importance of management in developing nanotechnology to realize its benefits, no study has attempted to link the management processes with the innovation output in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Also, there are very few empirical studies in this area. Thus need to empirically determine various management processes that can facilitate innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology and their causal relatedness to output measures of innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology is identified as a research gap. Aims, Objectives This study aims at conceptualizing the challenges of developing appropriate framework for assessment of emerging technologies in a particular domain. It further aims to use this framework for assessing nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives in India and to come up with set of alternatives for policy makers at the national level. The objectives are 1. To develop a framework for the assessment of a new technology initiative with a view to enable innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. This further gave rise to two objectives viz, a. Measure the innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. b. Identify factors that enable innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. 1 To use developed framework to assess nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives in India. 2 To make suggestions for effective institution building and develop interventions for efficient management of nanoscience and technology research and development initiatives. Conceptual Model The conceptual model links two major aspects viz., output of innovation and factors facilitating innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (NST). This model is used as a tool to assess nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives in India. Output of innovation is measured at three levels, namely, Focused NST initiative -an initiative where with clear goals, deliverables and resources work on NST project has started. Newness of NST initiative -which measures generation of new products, new processes in the field of NST and Dissemination of NST initiative -which measures publications and patents in the field of NST. Factors facilitating innovation include Organization context, presence of Basic resources, Leadership, Strategic research partnerships, Link with venture capitalists, Technology characteristics and Innovation culture. These factors were thought to be positively linked with the output of innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Methodology Based on a critical literature review, a preliminary study entailing in-depth interviews with strategy experts and a pilot study, a structured questionnaire was developed, to measure constructs and variables in the conceptual model. The main study consisted of data collected from 112 researchers from private as well as public organizations engaged in nanoscience and nanotechnology research and development. Results and Discussion The first part of the analysis began with factor analysis. Based on the factor loadings 31 factors were obtained. These factors were considered to be facilitating innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Similarly output of innovation in the field of NST got loaded onto 3 factors, namely Focused NST initiative, Newness of NST initiative and Dissemination of NST initiative. Non-Hierarchical K-means (K = 2) cluster analysis resulted in two useful clusters among respondents; Cluster 1 primarily represented academic institutes whereas, Cluster 2 mainly represented private sector start-ups in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Factors facilitating innovation and output of innovation were compared across two clusters of the organizations. The student’s t-test was used to compare means of factor scores and items under it across two clusters. Based on the statistical significance of the difference between the factor scores across two clusters, conclusions were drawn as to whether the presence of factors facilitating innovation and output of innovation differ across academic institutes and private sector start-up firms. Significant differences were obtained between the two clusters of organizations with respect to availability of finance, technical and industrial experience of the leadership, strategic research partnerships, market uncertainty and link with the venture capitalists. Output of innovation also differed across two types of organizations, wherein, academic institutes were more active in producing “dissemination” output of innovation and private start-up firms are more active in producing “newness” output of innovation. The next stage of analysis dealt with finding out what among these factors actually contribute to innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Multiple linear regression technique was used to for this purpose. Thus, for three levels of innovation output, three regression models are obtained. Industrial experience of the leaders, Finance, Market readiness of the products are some of the factors facilitating ‘Newness’ output of innovation, whereas, Academic experience and Link with the technical communities are some of the factors affecting Dissemination of NST Initiative. The next stage of analysis dealt with simultaneous estimation of dependent variables. Structural equation modeling in the form of path analysis (AMOS software from SPSS) was used for this purpose. This also helped in explaining how different variables (dependent as well as independent) are related to each other. At an aggregate level, causal model could be fitted between factors facilitating innovation and output of innovation in the field of nanoscience and technology. Chi-square, Normed Fit Index (NFI) and Root mean square error analysis (RMSEA) were the measures used to accept the model. Path analysis also helped to find significant covariances among the independent variables. Concomitant with the quantitative approach of data analysis, qualitative approach using case study was also used to assess nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives in India. Case study was conducted in two different types of organizations; a premier academic institution and a private start-up firm. Case study revealed that private sector organizations indeed struggle to raise finance. However, high entrepreneurial attitude motivates these young engineers. In case of academic institutions it was noted that in an academic environment there is no real motivation for commercialization or taking research to the market. Performance and rewards for faculty depend to a large extent on publications and to a very small extent on patents. Culture of industrial R&D is not very strong in India and not many companies are willing to experiment. Major conclusions of the study Major conclusions of the study pointed out differences between academic institutes and private start-up firms with respect to availability of the resources, leadership of the people, strategic research partnerships. It also pointed out differences in the types of output of innovation produced by these two firms. Causal analysis in the form of regression and path analysis pointed out factors actually contributing to innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Case study analyzed qualitatively challenges faced by researchers from academic institutes and private start-up firms. Major Suggestions to organizations From the data analyzed in the study, it can be seen that private sector firms in India are facing the problem of raising finance as compared with academic institutions. Similarly, analysis of the data shows, significantly less Industry – Government interactions as compared with Academic institutions – Government interactions. Understanding the importance of private industries in developing applications of new technologies, Government needs to come out with appropriate practices to build a good “ecosystem” for nanotechnology innovation. At the national level, efforts are undertaken by the Government to increase and encourage research initiatives in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Substantial investment can be made in developing technology managers and also build technology entrepreneurs who would commercialize the products and build new products from the new technology. Thus, formation of start-up firms can be encouraged. This will absorb the manpower trained by academic research institutes and will enhance technical and market experience among researchers which was noted as a important factor for enhancing ‘newness’ output of innovation. Detailed analysis of various programs initiated by Government of India does show presence of various mechanisms to promote private sector initiatives in field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. However, present study shows that the private sector is finding it difficult to raise finance through various Government schemes. Academic sector is the major beneficiary of Government funding however, the research results stop at publications in these organizations. Private sector is able to bring new products, new processes, however, struggles to raise finance. Thus private sector start-ups could be funded with Government funding mechanisms. These mechanisms can be made less cumbersome for the start-up firms. Academic sector on the other hand should be encouraged by way of incentives for generation of new products. Considering importance of strategic research partnerships, institutional mechanisms could be put into place which will enhance Government – Industry and Industry-Academia research interaction. Contribution of the study The main contribution of this study includes, a conceptual model involving resource based view of innovation. The conceptual model is further used for measuring output of innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (NST) at three levels, namely newness of NST initiative, dissemination of NST initiative and having a focused NST research initiative. Factors which may promote and facilitate innovation in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (NST) are also measured. Comparison is made across different types of organizations to see availability of these enabling factors in Indian nanoscience and nanotechnology initiatives. Using regression analysis and path analysis, factors which actually contribute to innovation in the field of NST are identified. The main implication of the study is towards a better policy formulation in strengthening human resources, organizational capability, increasing funding for research and enhancing academic – industry interaction for better innovative performance. Limitations of the study The present study does not include all the types of organizations in the technology environment, this includes, namely nanoscience and nanotechnology R&D initiatives in large sized organizations and Government research organizations like Defense research and Development Organization (DRDO), Indian Space research Organization (ISRO). These organizations were contacted for data collection for this study, however they denied permission. Directions for future research Present study involved cross section of researchers engaged in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Future studies can be longitudinal that can track changes in leadership, organizational structure and organizational processes. This study provides a conceptual model that can be used for the assessment of other new technologies in India e.g. defence or manufacturing related technologies.
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