In the middle of a field in Uttar Pradesh, a farmer is working a simple treadle pump, leaning on the rough wooden frame, his feet rising and falling in a steady rhythm, raising precious water to trickle across his crops. At first glance it looks like a timeless scene. But this simple technology is highly innovative, using specially designed tubewells and pumps to make irrigation affordable for many families who were once reliant on monsoon rains alone.
A few fields away, another farmer appears to be lost in thought, staring at his palms. Look more closely, and you see he’s scrutinising a smartphone. It’s equipped with the latest software, enabling him to map his few acres with a precision that means he can apply exactly the right inputs in the right places to maximise yield.
A thousand miles south on the outskirts of Bangalore, IT giant Infosys – already known for its green campuses - is unveiling plans to source all its energy from renewables. And across the country, Hindustan Unilever has set up partnerships with 45,000 small farmers, helping them develop more sustainable livelihoods.
These may not be the first images which spring to mind when you pair the words ‘India’ and ‘innovation’. Many would think initially of software wizards hunched over terminals in Hyderabad, maybe, or the glitz and glamour of the IPL, shifting cricket’s powerbase irrevocably east.
Well, both those are markers of the new India, sure. But equally exciting, if less well known, are the huge range of innovations under way which could just make this vast, fast-growing economy massively more sustainable.
'Could' is the operative word. They won’t triumph overnight. They need to be nurtured, developed, brought to scale. And to do that, they need to be better known. That’s why Forum for the Future has launched a new initiative: India: Innovation Nation, in partnership with TERI – The Energy and Resources Institute, based in Delhi.
We’re looking to pull together the brightest and the best of India’s sustainable innovations to be featured in a Special Edition of Green Futures, published in association with TERI, which will be launched at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in January. We’re also looking to spread their reach through print, web and other social media within India.
In the coming year, we’ll be working with TERI and others to explore ways to maximise the impact of the best innovations.
If you would like to get involved in this exciting initiative, visit our India: Innovation Nation page to find out more.