Drawing upon the Honey Bee Network (HBN) philosophy, the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) - India was set up in March 2000 with the assistance of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It is India's national initiative to strengthen the grassroots technological innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge. Its mission is to help India become a creative and knowledge-based society by expanding policy and institutional space for grassroots technological innovators.
NIF scouts, supports and spawns grassroots innovations developed by individuals and local communities in any technological field, helping in human survival without any help from formal sector. NIF helps grassroots innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge holders get due recognition, respect and reward for their innovations. It also tries to ensure that such innovations diffuse widely through commercial and/or non-commercial channels, generating material or non-material incentives for them and others involved in the value chain.
With major contribution from the Honey Bee Network volunteers, NIF has pooled a database of over 225,000 technological ideas, innovations and traditional knowledge practices (not all unique, not all distinct) from over 585 districts of the country. NIF has till date recognised 816 grassroots innovators and school students at the national level in its various National Biennial Grassroots Innovation Award Functions and annual Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Ignite Children Award functions. In collaboration with various research & development (R&D) and academic institutions, agricultural & veterinary universities and others institutions, NIF has helped in getting several hundred grassroots technologies validated and/or value added.
NIF has also set up an augmented Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) with the help of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, for product development and strengthening in-house research. Likewise, for initial validation of herbal technologies, laboratory facilities at Society for Research and Initiatives for Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) have been augmented. Pro bono arrangement with intellectual property firms has helped NIF file over 800patents, including eight filed in the USA and 27 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, on behalf of the innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge holders. Of these, 40 patents have been granted in India and five in the USA in collaboration with the HBN.In the same time period NIF has filed up to 21 Design registrations for innovations of the grassroots and student innovators.
NIF has also filed applications for 41 plant varieties developed by farmers at the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers' Rights Authority. Of these, five have successfully been registered. In addition to this 10 trade mark applications have also been filed.
Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) at NIF, with support from Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), has provided risk capital of more than Rs 3.84 crore to 193 projects in the 1st phase and Rs 43.05 lakhs to 16 projects in the 2nd phase (as of 31st October, 2016), some of which are at different stages of incubation. Majority of projects from phase 1 have already been closed after receiving full repayment.
As of 31st March 2016, NIF has received over 950 product inquiries from 108 countries for various technologies. It has also succeeded in commercialising products across countries in six continents, apart from being successful in materialising 98 cases of technology licensing, many with the support of Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN).
NIF has proved that Indian innovators can match anyone in the world when it comes to solving problems creatively. They perform better than others in generating greater sustainable alternatives by using local resources frugally. Those who see poor only as the consumers of cheap goods, miss the richness of knowledge at grassroots level and their potential as provider of ideas and innovations. The grassroots to global (G2G) model that NIF is propagating is all set to change the way the world looks at creativity and innovations at/from grassroots.