The success of Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) 100th space launch is an important innovation milestone for India. Over the past five decades, India’s space programme has gone from strength to strength. It is becoming visibly more ambitious, with missions such as Chandrayan to the moon and the proposed mission to Mars. However, the space programme is an outlier, and India remains a technological laggard in many other areas, in spite of increasing budgetary allocations to science and technology. I recently had the opportunity to be on the screening committee of one of the country’s prestigious national technology awards. The convener introduced the awards by saying that the applications would give a snapshot of where India stands on technological innovation. The picture turned out to be quite sobering. There were hardly any applications on the cutting edge of technology. Most companies reported process improvements, and an overwhelming majority of these were based on known technologies or tweaking and optimisation of established processes.
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