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[NEW DELHI] India should pursue an "innovation ecosystem" to drive the country's development over the next ten years, prime minister Manmohan Singh has said.

Speaking at the Indian science congress — the country's largest annual gathering of scientists yesterday (3 January), Singh called for an environment in which scientific establishments, industry and agencies provide start-up funds for innovative ideas, and regulators set high standards for new products.

"Innovators must be challenged to produce solutions our society needs. And innovative solutions with potential must be nurtured and rapidly applied," he said.

India's planning commission, which develops five-year roadmaps for the country's economic growth, set up an innovation expert group in 2009 to identify sectors where innovation could help India achieve more inclusive economic growth.

But much more needs to be done, Singh pointed out.

Indian scientific establishments, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), must change their mindsets to promote an innovation culture, said Singh.

For example IIT's research goals should be aligned with the expectations of the industrial and social sectors, while Indian scientific institutes need to improve their "outward orientation" by strengthening links with industry and increasing international research partnerships.

Singh also mentioned that although the outcome of the climate summit in Copenhagen last month (December 2009) was "disappointing", India should be clear about its strategy to meet the challenges of climate change.

Instead of a "single-minded focus" on carbon reduction, India should aim for carbon reduction to coexist with other equally important goals such as water resource management and strengthening food security.

Recent science ministry initiatives include 'Technology Mission: Winning, Augmentation and Renovation of the country's water resources', a scheme analysing technology solutions for 25 different water-related challenges with pilot trials in 60 locations across the country.

Successful solutions from the trials will be applied to 100,000 population clusters. The end of the project, in 2011, is expected to demonstrate the benefits of investment in scientific solutions to economic and social problems.

Similarly under the national solar mission launched in 2009 to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar power by the year 2020, the science ministry launched a pan-IIT programme for solar energy research to drive down the costs of solar energy technology options through research and development-led innovations.

India's science ministry has also launched joint development programmes on solar energy research with the European Union and the United Kingdom.