ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From the Linear Model to Incremental Innovation Research and Industry in India

In the course of the first 45 years of India’s post-independence development, the focus of research activity was changed from research into methods of raw material survey and extraction, oblivious of any industrial imperative, to research into the process of material production, aimed at inducing technological awareness within industry. This change in focus was accompanied by policy hesitation, and faced reverses. The result was a diversified industrial base together with considerable, albeit highly uneven, levels of technological competence. The subsequent 25-year period is characterised by a reliance on the market mechanism as the channel directing research activity and industrial energy. Market fundamentalism is dismissive of the necessity of creative thought on the contemporary dialectics of the science and industry relationship. This, let alone providing the basis for further advance, has led to the degradation of achieved capabilities in comprehension of the changing dynamics of this relationship.

In the historical process of evolution of production systems, the industrial revolution was the great marker. It was the turning point after which scientific knowledge became, to an increasing extent, an organic part of the knowledge of the production process, or of technology.1 In other words, scientific research became the driver of technological advance. However, the relationship was not one way; increasingly, technological demands began to set the agenda for scientific research and science and technology became two interacting, if not interpenetrating, systems of knowledge (Anchiskin 1987: 101–205; Rosenberg 1982). In the period spanning a century and a half between the industrial revolution and Indian independence in 1947, there were two further milestones in developments in technology, and in the nature of the science–technology interaction: the chemical or continuous processing revolution of the late 19th century and, above all, the Scientific and Technological Revolution (STR) of the post-World WarII period (Bernal 1971b; Heinman 1981; Teich 2008).

It has been argued, perhaps provocatively, that the STR is not merely a milestone in technological development, but marks a truly epochal change from the dominance of the mechanical mode of processing material (cutting, forging, stamping, shaping, and so on) to the increasing use of biological, chemical and, in general, molecular- and atomic-level transformations of the materials used in production (Kolontayev 1981). For countries such as India, the significance of such a qualitative change in the basic processes underlying technology was that they had now not only to achieve comparable levels of expertise in the domain of pre-STR production processes; if they were truly to achieve world parity as nations with developed systems of industrial production, they had also to manage the transition to the new forms of material transformation.

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