Gandhian R&D: a new approach to innovation?



I read an interesting interview in Strategy + Business last week that I thought I'd share with you. It looked at the strength of innovation in India, particularly targeted at the development of low-cost products. This so-called Gandhian R&D has produced famous examples such as the Tata Nano car that costs just over $2000 and a hepatitis B vaccine that costs 1/40th of traditional vaccines. The term was coined by Raghunath Mashelkar, a polymer scientist based in India.

He says that Gandhian innovation is about developing high-quality goods that meet the needs of everybody, including the 4 billion or live on less than $2 per day, not just the rich. In addition these goods need to be about high-performance and low-cost. In other words the engineering needs to be targeted at producing the lowest possible price point instead of just chasing new features or luxury styling. 
Open source can play a key role as well, and Mashelkar mentions a project started by India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research which is an open source drug discovery initiative to find drugs to treat common tropical diseases that have been neglected by the traditional pharmaceutical industry.  
Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.