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Scouting around for innovations

Akhila Seetharaman

IIT-Madras to provide technology back-up

CHENNAI: A fortnight after launching a Statewide search for innovations with a social purpose, the Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Programme, L-Ramp, has received 45 applications and is still looking for more.

"We now want to spread awareness among `influencers' — people who interact with grassroots innovators on a daily basis," said Rajeev Natarajan, Project Officer of the Rural Innovations Network (RIN), a partner organisation in L-Ramp. "People from the government sector, patent office, and rural and agricultural banks can identify and help bring potential innovators to L-Ramp."

To spread word about the programme, RIN, along with its partner, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, held a half-day seminar for innovators and people who influence them at IIT-M on Saturday.

The people who first thought of useful technologies such as the solar water harvester, Venus burner, Varun cultivator and banana stem injector spoke of their experiences in developing and marketing their innovations and the hurdles they faced along the way.

Many innovators lack the versatility required to detail and optimise their products, according to Rathin Roy, chairperson of RIN. "Then there is the chance they may be reinventing the wheel. They don't always know what is already available," he said. "Also, many don't know the market and how to mesh their needs with the needs of the people."

Backup

V.R. Muraleedharan, Project Coordinator of L-Ramp said IIT-M would provide innovators with technology backup by networking with other technical institutions across the state.

Programmes like L-Ramp and organisations like Rural Innovations Network look at widening markets for innovations that have emerged in very specific contexts, as well as improving the innovation with technical and expert inputs, said Paul Basil, Chief Executive Officer, RIN.

For instance, milking cows is a strenuous activity for dairy farmers," said Mr. Basil. "While automated milking devices have been around for long, they are beyond the means of the small and medium-size dairy farmer." Also, machines developed in Scandinavian countries do not suit Indian cows.

L-Ramp, sponsored by the Lemelson Foundation in the United States is a mentoring programme for anyone with an idea for innovation, which could improve the quality of life in areas including food, water, shelter, education, health or employment. For details contact 22578382.

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