Atal Innovation Mission: Objectives, Programs, Significance

ATAL INNOVATION MISSION UPSC
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Continuing its efforts in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, Atal Innovation Mission has engaged in contributing to the society in these times of pandemic through an inter-ministerial working group.  Let us understand the working and program of Atal Innovation Mission in this article.

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What is Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)?

  • Initiative by the NITI Aayog, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship program to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country keeping in mind the innovation and entrepreneurial needs of India in the years ahead.
  • AIM is also envisaged as an umbrella innovation organization that would play an instrumental role in the alignment of innovation policies between central, state and sectoral innovation schemes incentivizing the establishment and promotion of an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship at various levels – higher secondary schools, science, engineering and higher academic institutions, and SME/MSME industry, corporate and NGO levels.

What are the Objectives of AIM?

  • It aims to develop new programs and policies for fostering innovation in myriad sectors of the economy.
  • It strives to provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness.
  • It acts as an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country.
  • Long term goals of AIM include
  1. Establishment and promotion of Small Business Innovation Research and Development at a national scale for the SME/MSME/startups;
  2. Rejuvenating Science and Technology innovations in research institutions like CSIR (Council of Scientific Industrial Research), Agri Research (ICAR), and Medical Research (ICMR) aligned to national socio-economic needs.

What is the framework of action of the AIM?

In order to fulfill its twin functions of entrepreneurship promotion (Through SETU i.e. self-employment and talent utilization) and Innovation promotion, it has developed a holistic framework of action of five programs. Those are as follows:

  • Atal Tinkering Lab
  1. It aims to foster curiosity, creativity, and imagination in young minds; and skilling them in adaptive learning, design mindset, computational thinking, physical computing, etc.
  2. It is aimed at disrupting the current Indian education system, creating a paradigm shift where children as young as 12 years of age are being introduced to the world of technology innovation.
  3. Tinkering opportunities provided at ATLs are
  4. ATL Community day- Invites the community to the ATL innovation ecosystem.
  5. ATL school of the Month challenge- Encourages students to innovate on specific themes.
  6. ATL Festival-promotes real problem solving and the creation of innovative prototypes in the ATL.
  7. ATL Tinkering and Innovation Marathon- An annual nationwide challenge for the ATL students, around areas of national importance.
  8. AIM will provide a grant-in-aid of Rs. 20 Lakh to each school for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
  • Atal Incubation Centers (AICs)
  1. The AICs would create incubation facilities across the country with suitable physical infrastructure, availability of sectoral experts to mentor the start-ups, business planning support, access to seed capital, industry partners, etc.
  2. The incubators will be set up at the levels of the university, NGO, SME, and corporate industry for promoting entrepreneurship in the university and industry.
  3. AIM will provide a grant-in-aid of up to Rs. 10 crores for a maximum period of 5 years to cover the capital and operational expenditures to establish the AIC.
  • Atal New India Challenge (ANIC)
  1. The Atal New India Challenge is an open call to design and demonstrate market-ready products based on cutting edge technologies in identified focus areas.
  2. The current round of Atal New India Challenge, applicants seeking commercialization of products and technologies in the one of the following focus areas are invited to submit their proposal:
  3. Climate-smart agriculture
  4. Fog vision system for road and rail
  5. Alternate fuel-based transportation
  6. Sustaining drinking water sources
  7. Waste management recycling and reuse, etc.
  8. If selected will be awarded grants of up to 1 crore, strictly on a milestone basis.
  • Mentor of Change program
  1. It is a strategic initiative to engage leaders to guide and mentor students in thousands of Atal Tinkering Labs and startups and incubators across the country.
  2. These labs are non-prescriptive by nature, and mentors are expected to be enablers rather than instructors.
  3. Possible areas of contribution could be, but not limited to:
  4. Technical Knowhow: building prototypes,
  5. Innovation and Design: inculcating solution-oriented approach,
  6. Inspirational: leadership and self-motivation, etc
  • Atal Community Innovation Center
  1. It aims to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship in the underserved/unserved regions of India that lack infrastructure and facilitating environments for innovation, AIM has launched Atal community Innovation center program.
  2. The focus area is Tier II, Tier III, and underserved/unserved regions of Tier I cities, North-East, J&K Smart Cities, Aspirational Districts, Rural and Tribal areas.
  3. Eligible applicants
  4. Academic– UGC and AICTE affiliated Universities/Colleges, Educational institutes like ITIs and other technical diploma colleges.
  5. Non-Academic
    Voluntary organizations having good experience and exposure in awareness generation and promotion of Science and Technology.
  6. The centers will be established either in PPP mode or with the support of PSUs and other agencies. The grant-in-aid support will be up to 2.5 crores.
  • Atal Research & Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE)
  1. ARISE is an initiative to promote research, innovation, and competitiveness of Indian startups and small enterprises including Micro, Small, and Medium enterprises.
  2. The program’s objective is to catalyze research, innovation, find solutions to the sectoral problems and subsequently trigger the creation of new industrial sectors, through the support of Central Government Ministries or departments, who will become the first buyer of the solutions/products innovated under the ARISE program by start-ups and small enterprises.
  3. There will be multi-phase, multi-sector, and Multi-stakeholder program to identify, fund, guide, hand-hold, and procure from Indian Startups and small enterprises.

What AIM has done till now to achieve its Goals?

  • Implemented close to 5000 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across 660+ of the 715 districts of the country with over 2.5 million students having direct access to Tinkering.
  • 112 out of 115 Aspiring Districts already have ATLs
  • In the recently held Atal Tinkering Innovation Marathon an estimated 50000+ students created over 6000+ prototype innovations through 1500 schools. The Top 100 Innovation Teams have been recognized and are undergoing special exposure to Student Innovation Bootcamps at Atal Incubators and corporate partners.
  • To date, AIM has identified 102 universities and institutions to establish world-class Atal Incubators in diverse areas (Agri-tech, biotech, water management, e-commerce, Edu-tech, electric vehicles, renewable clean energy, etc..) across 23 states, each of which will foster the creation and nurturing of 40-50 world-class Startups every four years.
  • AIM has launched over 24 Atal New India Challenges in partnership with five different ministries and departments of the central government. 52 winners have been selected for grant aid and hand-holding by Incubators/mentors of AIM out of 950+ applications received for the same., each of whom would receive a grant of up to 1 crore for converting their innovation to a commercially deployable product.
  • Over 10,000 mentors have registered in the AIM portal and over 5000 are directly now associated with ATLs, AICs, and startups. More than 30 corporates have adopted Atal Tinkering Labs for mentoring them. In a connected world remote or distance mentoring can be a reality.
  • In a bid to impart artificial intelligence (AI) basics to students, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in collaboration with the AIM has launched an AI-based educational module for school students. The program is expected to teach AI to around 2.5 Mn students associated with Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL).

AIM and COVID-19

In order to mitigate the impact of COVID19, AIM is facilitating an inter-ministerial working group of the Government of India for identifying startup solutions that can address the current COVID19 crisis. This group includes representatives from various government ministries/departments such as Department of Science and Technology, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Department of Biotechnology, Startup India, Principal Scientific Advisor’s office among others.

What is the significance of the AIM?

  • AIM aims to work on the very root of the lacuna i.e. lack of exposure and interest of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in school-going students.
  • It also aims to bridge the huge gap between what our education system delivers and what industry needs.
  • India is a country of huge demographic dividend with over 4 million+ schools, 10500+ engineering and related institutions, 39000+ colleges.
  • India lacks a holistic innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem that could tap into this huge human resource. The Global Innovation Index (WIPO), 2019 puts India at 57th The continuously improving rank is a result of many initiatives including AIM.
  • India Inc lags behind the developed world in original equipment manufacturing. The innovation industry is necessary to bring sustainable and viable products to improve India Inc’s standing.
  • The program and its structure are enabling and complementary to Startup India and Make in India program. AIM along with Make in India and Startup India can create an innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in India.
  • The ecosystem created that way will usher in huge employment opportunities, higher standards of living, socio-economic empowerment of about 2/3rd of the population.
  • It will result in stopping the brain drain and create an indigenous entrepreneurial hub on the lines of Silicon Valley.
  • Various fields like agriculture, water management, transport, etc are in need of innovative technological solutions that could propel their growth and bring in ease of operations. AIM aims to keep these areas in priority.
  • Through its innovation in the environmental field, it holds the key to India’s climate change response in near future.
  • AIM also provides an opportunity of global collaboration. For example, Last year, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and UNICEF India signed a Letter of Intent (LoI), with the goal to provide an open platform to young children across different communities in India via the Atal Tinkering Lab initiative to orient the burgeoning innovation ecosystem towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on child rights.
  • Students, innovators, and budding entrepreneurs can make use of immense opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence, Automation, 3D printing, Robotics.
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship increase competition in the product market which is in the end beneficial to consumers.

Conclusion

India’s demography is hungry for newer avenues and opportunities. In a highly competitive world, Science and technology holds the key to progress. India needs a human resource that can solve outstanding issues related to different sectors of the economy and propel growth. The multi-stakeholder cooperation platform i.e. AIM gives the youth, policymakers, corporate sector to come together and strive towards the nation-building activities through innovation.

 

Practice Question for Mains

What is Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)? Explain the significance of AIM in nurturing innovation and Entrepreneurship in India. (200 words)

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