Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN): a sustainable alternative

In 1997, an International Conference on Creativity and Innovations at Grassroots (ICCIG) was organised at IIM, Ahmedabad, co sponsored by SRISTI, FAO, World Bank, NABARD etc. It identified the need for an institutional framework that would provide handholding support to the rural innovators and link them to the formal systems of technical, financial and marketing services. In 1998, the Government of Gujarat came forward to set up Gujarat GIAN with the missions of sustaining the spirit of innovation. Since then GIAN has learned to facilitate the transition of innovators into inno-preneurs, arrange formal negotiations with the prospective licensees and also organising interactions with critically appreciative peer group on behalf of the innovators. GIAN-G has successfully converted few green technologies into viable business models.

The lessons of GIAN-G (now GIAN-West) leads to a new model of innovation based enterprise development. Conventional models of development have built upon the resources in which people were often poor or inadequate. In the GIAN model, emphasis is on a resource in which economically poor people are rich that is their knowledge, innovations or practices. GIAN tries to add value to this knowledge and facilitate the commercial and non-commercial diffusion. This generates rewards for the innovators and more efficient green choices for the consumers and people struggling with same or similar problems.

Encouraged by the GIAN-G success, NIF decided to setup four more GIANs in four regions of the country with the help of respective local governments. Besides GIAN (West), two other GIANs viz. GIAN (North-East) and GIAN (North) are operational now.

Setting up of GIAN (North)

To strengthen the spirit of creativity and to give voice to the hitherto unnoticed innovations of the region, Government of Rajasthan joined hands with NIF to set up a GIAN for the north Indian States and Union Territories viz. Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Delhi and Chandigarh.

Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of Rajasthan has provided space and basic infrastructure for GIAN(N) office at its Science Park premises at Jaipur. Government of Rajasthan has also provided financial assistance of Rs. 50 Lakh, through Dept of S&T, towards Corpus Fund of GIAN (N). NIF, on the other hand has committed a set up fund support of Rs. 30 Lakh over 2-3 years. NIF presently bears all operational expenses of GIAN (N).

GIAN (north) was registered as a society in November 2002 with an empowered Governing board comprising of members from government, academics, industry, NGOs, NIF and innovators. To mark its formal launching, a two-day programme of regional exposition and workshop on grassroots innovations was organised at Jaipur, Rajasthan, in January 2003. People from different places and fields attended the programme: scientists, government representatives, industrialists, students, teachers, social workers, bankers, media persons and the grassroots innovators- villagers, farmers, artisans, mechanics and traditional knowledge holders. It was an extremely productive meet between the formal sector and informal sector of knowledge, creativity and enterprise.