Thursday, December 18, 2008

Press conference on 21st December

L-RAMP is inviting press for the Press conference of “L-RAMP Award of Excellence” at 11:30 AM at Taramani Guest House, IIT Madras on 21st December, Sunday, followed by lunch. Press persons can attend “L-RAMP Award of Excellence” at CLT Hall, IIT Madras at 2 PM on the same day after the press conference. Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys is the Chief Guest for the programme.

Press Note-


Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Program (L-RAMP) is a joint initiative of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and Rural Innovations Network, supported by The Lemelson Foundation USA. The programme was launched in September of 2004. L-RAMP supports ‘Innovations’ that can eventually create an impact in the lives of the larger section of the society, especially of the underserved population. L-RAMP provides Funding, Mentoring, Network support and recognition to the innovators to take their innovations to market. L-RAMP focuses on sectors like- Agriculture, Dairy, Water, Energy. Till now, L-RAMP has provided incubation support to 23 innovators and some of them are ready for commercialization. For more information, Please visit-

The core objective of the programme is to provide incubation support to innovations that show strong promise for positive social benefits, while also leading to self-sustaining enterprises. In the pilot phase of the programme, efforts were focused on innovators based in the state of Tamil Nadu.

As an initiative to encourage the innovator community and to recognize their efforts, L-RAMP has institutionalized “L-RAMP Award of Excellence”, an annual awards program. Through this award, we try to recognize various stakeholders’ viz. grass-root innovators, Young innovator, women innovator, social enterprises, social investors, media and a lifetime achievement award etc., who work towards making contribution to ‘Bottom of Pyramid’ innovation and grass root entrepreneurship.

All awards, excluding Lifetime Achievement Award, will carry a trophy, certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 25,000. Lifetime Achievement Award will carry a trophy and Rs. 50,000.
There are eleven awards in seven categories. Applications were made directly by the participants. The selection process consisted of three stages viz., a) Desk screening by team members based on applications received and expert reviews as and when required, and b) Selection Level 1- Presentations by short listed applicants to the panel of eminent Jury ,who selected the two to three potential candidates/ nominees c) Final selection- eminent panel of Jury selected the Winners.

The awards ceremony will take place at CLT Hall, IIT Madras on Sunday 21st December 2008 and will be presided over by Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

L-RAMP incubatee is a finalist for the Tata NEN Hottest Startup Award

Former L-RAMP incubatee, Perfint Engineering Services, has just been selected as a finalist in the India-wide Tata NEN Hottest Startup Awards. Out of nearly 600 nominees, Perfint has been selected as one of the 30 finalists for this prestigious competition.

We salute their achievements and look forward to many great health care related innovations from them.

Announcing the RIN fellowship!

A message from Rural Innovations Network, one of L-RAMP's parent organizations. The RIN fellowship is a great chance to learn about and contribute to social entrepreneurship while 'on the ground'. Contact for more information.

* * *
Dear Friend,

Rural India needs ideas that can deliver inclusive, eco-friendly and sustainable prosperity. A handful of individuals – better known as social entrepreneurs, are making a difference by blurring the boundaries between business and social good. These individuals stand out for their vision, purposefulness, passion, leadership, innovativeness, risk taking ability, and persistence.

Do you, as an individual aspiring to be one such pathfinder, need a space that's a live laboratory to hone your instincts and sharpen your abilities? Do you need an opportunity that prepares you before you launch your dream venture? Do you simply want to break away from the routine and engage with the fascinating rural India?

Rural Innovations Network (RIN), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, presents the first RIN Fellowship, an 10-month program designed to equip individuals who dare to follow their dreams and can help build a prosperous rural India. The RIN Fellowship offers the space you need to put your intent and talent into action. Through the Fellowships, you learn social entrepreneurship hands on.
Through the RIN Fellowship program, you will:
  • Know through experience the innovation and social enterprise sectors
  • Be skilled in successfully mentoring an innovator
  • Know how to enable innovations effectively
  • Understand rural markets
  • Develop your social entrepreneurship capabilities
Interested in becoming a RIN Fellow? See the PDF file here to apply! Or tell someone who wants to make a difference to rural lives in India!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Announcing the Innovation to Market Programme

Over the years, we have realised that linking Innovations to the Markets is imperative to address the unmet needs of the rural customers and create the accompanying social impact.

To address this particular challenge as also to make Rural Innovation Network (RIN) financially more sustainable, we are proud to announce the launch of 2 new initiatives as part of the 'Innovation to Market Programme' which is funded by HIVOS, headquartered in Netherlands.

The programs are as follows: -

  1. Innovator to Entrepreneur program - Link Innovators to Entrepreneurs to take Innovations to the Market
  2. Rural Innovation Fund – Market research, Fund positioning & Legal entity creation

The 1st program will be the responsibility of Rajeev Surana whereas RIN will be appointing a new Chief Investment Officer (CIO) to undertake the 2nd program.

We take this opportunity to thank our Team members, Board Members, Advisors, Funding agencies and all those involved with RIN for their continued support and are confident that the above programs funded by HIVOS will help us move closer to realise our vision of empowering Innovators to serve rural markets and create significant social impact.

Special thanks are due to Mr. Muralidharan from HIVOS – Bangalore office for encouraging us to undertake these programs to address specific gaps in the Innovation Ecosystem.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

KAVI: Making every voice heard

Cerebral Palsy also known as CP is often described as "An intelligent mind captured in a disobedient body". This is a non-progressive condition caused due to damage in some parts of brain especially during child delivery. This leads to loss of proper functioning of motor nerves which are responsible for neuro-muscular coordination leading to various problems including speech impairment. The muscles become stiff (spasticity) and reflex movements are absolutely uncontrolled making it impossible for a person to carryout normal days work and making him dependent on someone else. Though the learning abilities and intelligence level remains normal. According to a study conducted by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that cerebral palsy has the second highest economic cost amongst all birth defects. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, as the damage to the brain cannot be reversed, but it can be managed by different interventions.

In order to maximize one's potential; education in some form is a must. Many initiatives have been taken in last few years in terms of providing education and training to a person with CP. Technology has played a major role worldwide to overcome few of these challenges, but most often these technologies are restricted to urban areas. Unfortunately for the rural dwellers with CP, technologies have failed to address the problems of rural areas in terms of affordability and accessibility. The conventional ACC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) systems like flip-charts having alphabets, eye-pointing, graphical tablets etc are typically used in India. All these methods are slow, cumbersome and are not very interactive. Attempts have been made to create computer softwares for this purpose. But since computers are expensive and consume more electricity, these kinds of technologies could never address the rural needs.

KAVI, designed by Invention Labs, is an AAC device focusing on children with Cerebral Palsy with speech impairment. The main goal of this innovation is to empower these children in rural India to join mainstream schools without any inhibitions or loss of self-respect. This will in turn lead to greater economic productivity and improved social perception. KAVI is a handheld assistive device with an LCD screen which has been designed, keeping in mind the special requirement of children with CP in rural areas. It has two main components: AVAZ is interacting software which generates sentences based on the click signals sent to the system which is then read out to an interlocutor. It allows children to compose sentences rapidly and hence effective communication. This also allow teachers to structure their instruction with the students with more creativity and to come up with innovative ways of conveying concepts to disabled children. ADITI is a contactless switch with a large surface area making it easy to use for a person with poor motor control skills. KAVI runs on a nickel metal-hydride battery which makes it environment friendly and safe to use. The device itself is portable which can also be mounted on a wheelchair. The design gives a very playful feel to make it easier for children to accept the device.

L-RAMP is very pleased to welcome Invention Labs and their KAVI product into our incubation programme. In the coming months, Invention Labs will be carefully studying the wants and needs of people with Cerebral Palsy with the goal of using the study results to move KAVI towards commercialization.

For further details contact:
Mobile no: 9600152349

Thursday, October 9, 2008

L-RAMP organising seventh PIP

L-RAMP is organising seventh Pre-Incubation Programme for innovators on Friday the 10th October 2008 at IIT-Madras. The purpose of the PIP is to enable the innovators to innovate better and to create an impact in the society through their innovations. About 30 innovators are expected to be attending the programme. Identified experts will take sessions on Problem identification & solution, Low cost prototyping, Finding investment, Protection of intellectual properties, Licensing & Technology transfer and the twelve common mistakes committed by the innovators. We hope that the participants shall implement these learnings in the idea to market journey of their innovations.

L-RAMP Award of Excellence - Details and Application Procedure

RIN and IIT Madras present the L-RAMP Award of Excellence

We know that you're an innovator at heart and love coming up with several interesting innovations. At Rural Innovations Network (RIN), we salute your creative spirit and endeavour to showcase the same. In assocation with IIT Madras we now bring you the L-RAMP Award of Excellence. A recognition and mentoring programme that seeks to identify, honour and incubate select technological innovations that significantly impact rural lives. So all you budding Einsteins and Kalams, if you have an innovation that makes a positive difference to rural lives, do enter the L-RAMP Awards. Rest assured, we will help you in every way we can, technically, financially and morally in transforming your dreams into reality. There's more! We also have awards for individuals and organizations who encourage and support rural innovations. So if you are an enterprise, media company, investor, journalist or an individual and if you have encouraged rural innovations, do let us know.

  • Grassroot Innovator Award (for Tamil Nadu based innovators who have no access to technology, funds or markets)
  • Young Innovator Award (for Tamil Nadu based innovators below 21 years of age)
  • Woman Innovator Award (for Tamil Nadu based woman innovators)
  • Enterprise Award (For innovation-based and commercially viable enterprises)
  • Investor Award (For providing novel financial support in transforming an innovation to a viable enterprise)
  • Media Award (For featuring issues related to innovations, in print & electronic media)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (For lifetime contribution to innovation and entrepreneur development)
How to Apply
For the Grassroot Innovator Award, Young Innovator Award or Woman Innovator Award
Provide the following details in English or Tamil, neatly typed in A4 size sheets
  1. Describe your product.
  2. How is your product new or innovative?
  3. How will your product solve a problem in society?
  4. Personal details (name, gender, age, education, profession, complete postal address and phone number)
For the remaining categories
Print out the downloadable application form from the L-RAMP website.

Due Dates
The last date for receiving applications is November 5th, 2008. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly.

Address for mailing applications
Send your completed application to:
The Coordinator, L-RAMP Award of Excellence 2008
2nd Floor, IC&SR Building
IIT Madras
Chennai 600036
Phone: 044-22578389

The materials provided along with the application will not be returned. L-RAMP will be committed to maintain confidentiality of your application.

L-RAMP announces the 4th annual L-RAMP Award of Excellence

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Space technology vs. Rural technology

At yesterday's Engenious event, held as part of Shaastra 2008 and sponsored by RIN, we had a very interesting panel discussion led by various members of Tamil Nadu's innovation community.

One of the panel discussants was speaking on the difficulty of encouraging students to take up projects for rural development, especially on the perception that rural technology is boring. He shared an interesting perspective he'd heard from somebody else (and I paraphrase here):

Rural technology and space technology have a lot in common.
  • You have to design for an inhospitable environment with harsh environmental conditions
  • Once deployed, service or maintenance is very difficult/impossible to undertake
  • The challenges being faced are very difficult (and often similar, such as creation of energy, sanitation and communication)
  • The products/services often cannot depend on existing infrastructure
The great thing about rural technology, and the key point that makes it so interesting, is that you must meet all of the above challenges and with two extra difficulties:
  • It must be delivered at an extremely low cost
  • There is a wide variety of customers to satisfy, each having different needs and wants
I thought it was a great perspective to share with students and one which I will surely use in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New staff

On September 1st, 3 new staff joined our team. We're happy to have them with us and look forward to them posting their views on this blog soon.

Rajeev Surana, a Chemical Engineer and Marketing Management graduate has a deep passion for connecting innovation to markets which has to be enabled by creating an innovation ecosystem in India. This brings to the fore his 10+ years of varied work experience, the last as an entrepreneur providing recruitment & marketing solutions to the R&D Sector. He will be setting up the Technology Transfer & Licensing division which would be responsible for commercializing innovations in the L-RAMP programme.

Michelle Abraham, a Management postgraduate from IIFM-Bhopal, has joined L-RAMP to focus on external relations, including networking, scouting and interacting with nodal institutions. Michelle brings with her significant experience in development programmes including setting up and operating vocational training centres with an international NGO as well as monitoring and evaluation of a variety of government rural development programmes.

Sabyasachi Das, a post graduate and graduate of VIT, has joined L-RAMP to mentor our incubatees. Sabyasachi was a Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fellow which provided support and the opportunity to meet enthusiasts from different organizations and institutes. He has worked on different aspects of community health, especially on appropriate technology assessment for primary healthcare with organizations such as IISc-ASTRA, FRLHT and IIT-Madras. He was also a member of the Community Health Cell, Bangalore.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aid is good, business is better

A piece from the President of Liberia on how development through enterprise is more efficient than development through aid.

The article is here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Harder challenges make for better solutions

A great article on how the constraints of delivering medical care in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, has led to a reduced cost and better outcome treatment for patients in the UK as well.

An example of how products/services created for the world's poor can compete and win against those designed for the fortunate 10%.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

VIT interviews candidates for Student Project Support Scheme

The Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) University in Vellore today interviewed 17 candidates for the L-RAMP Student Project Support Scheme. Each student (or team of students) has an idea for an innovative project with social benefit and so, through the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at VIT, presented their idea and where they plan to reach in 1 year. A total of Rs. 2,50,000 is available for disbursement and the committee comprised of the VIT TBI coordinators, VIT faculty and an L-RAMP representative will decide on the top projects in the coming days.

Projects presented ranged from innovative ways to reduce heat transmission through windows to novel ways to generate electricity from VIT food waste and many things in between.

We at L-RAMP are happy to support budding student innovators and help them along their journey from idea to reality, especially whilst they're busy in that most fertile of times, college life. Look for future updates on the progress of our selected students from VIT and our other nodal partners.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Reduced global food availability - the Europeans and Russian react

Two articles (from the BBC) discussing changing patterns in agriculture as a result of global changes in food availability are listed below.

This article discusses the European response, with 1.3 million hectares of previous fallow land coming back into production in Europe. Leaving aside the potential significant environmental consequences, it is interesting to see how quickly the Europeans have reacted to the economic potential of food in the face of reduced global availability.

This article
discusses a similar situation in Russia with over 40 million hectares (100 million acres) of fertile agricultural land, previously lying idle (a result of post-communist collapse?) now coming into production through large commercial farms. In this case again, it is the global demand which is fuelling this investment.

It raises interesting questions in my mind (particularly given the recent collapse of the Doha round of WTO talks) around issues such as
  • How long will global food prices stay at current high levels
  • How can countries like India leverage their vast farming potential in more productive ways
  • How can countries like India benefit from global food demand
Any ideas?

Friday, August 1, 2008

L-RAMP attends the J-PAL 'Evaluating Social Programs' course

From the 28th of July to the 1st of August, L-RAMP was fortunate to be part of an executive education course dealing with 'Evaluating Social Programmes' held at the IFMR in Chennai. The course was organized and delivered by MIT's J-PAL lab, the base of a network of development economists advocating the use of randomized trials to conclusively determine the impacts of social programmes. J-PAL (or the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) is in some ways the epicenture of a new movement in economics, focussing on micro-level studies to impact macro-level policies.

Taught by 4 faculty members from MIT (A. Banerjee), Harvard (S. Cole, R. Pande) and New York University (R. Hanna), the course covered topics relating to understanding and designing randomized impact trials.

Innovation at General Motors? The Volt.

General Motors (GM) has been pursued for decades by competing automakers but in recent years, the news has turned exceptionally bad. Just today, they reported a 3 month loss of $15.5 billion USD, a staggering amount even considering that many of the charges are one-time charges relating to their ongoing restructuring efforts.

Losing money, stock value plummeting, their public perception poor and their product mix unsuited to the world conditions, in 2006 GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz began work on an uber-ambitious project to take on the sector of the automotive market which the other market leaders were not attacking and which they said was not possible. The 'plug-in' car, today called the 'Chevrolet Volt' had no competitors because other companies, notably hybrid leader Toyota, said it wasn't possible, and especially not possible in the 2010 model year as announced by GM.

This article discusses in very interesting detail the various ways which necessity has forced GM to change in order to allow the development of the Volt in such a short time span and the myriad innovations necessary to bring it to today's point in its development. In short order, most other leading automakers announced their own plans for plug-in cars, following GMs lead shortly after poo-pooing the idea.

I find the parallels between GM (with the Volt), Apple (with the iPod and OS X) and the grassroots innovators we work with interesting, each innovating when faced with difficult situations. It will be interesting to see if GM'ss push with a 'game-changing' product (if such cliche is permitted) will be the harbinger of a turn-around and perhaps they will return to their glory days, using innovation to maintain their automotive leadership.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Food for thought

It's not the genius who is 100 years ahead of his time but average man who is 100 years behind it.

-Robert Musil, novelist (1880-1942)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sixth Pre Incubation Programme

The sixth pre-incubation programme for grassroots innovators will be conducted on Saturday 26th of July 2008 from 10am to 4pm at hall 1, IC&SR, IIT Madras. The purpose of this programme is to enable the innovators to innovate with market perspective and also to think through how they can address the existing problems in the society with their innovations. It also helps them to have better understanding of the challenging journey from idea to market. The programme will be led by a number of experts from various fields to conduct a series of skill and knowledge building sessions on creative thinking, the mistakes to be avoided by an innovator for making the innovation successful, intellectual properties and rights, licensing and technology transfer, investment for innovations etc. We believe that this programme will definitely help the potential innovators in bringing their innovations to life by making use of their capabilities effectively .

L-RAMP and Shaastra 2008 begin collaboration

Shaastra, an annual event celebrating the spirit of Engineering, will again be held at IIT-Madras from the 1st to the 5th of October, 2008. Coinciding with the Golden Jubilee celebrations for IIT-M, this year's event listing include the Shaastra Conclave, 5 Golden Design challenges (addressing key problems facing India) and Engenious, a design challenge event. Over 30,000 students from over 800 of India's best Engineering colleges are expected to attend.

L-RAMP is keen to support this initiative and, as a first step, has contributed 2 of the 4 challenges for the Engenious event. The challenges are:
  1. Find a way to make a non-kerosene based lighting system for Rs. 100/-
  2. Design a small-scale, cost-effective de-husking machine for minor millets (these include ragi, thinai, samai, kambu). The machine can be manually operated, or use a single-phase motor of no more than one HP. An innovation of this nature would help farmers add value to millets in their village, while at the same time enabling them to make nutritional, delicious snacks such as biscuits using these grains.
  3. Develop a soil nutrient analysis kit which can provide information regarding the availability of 12 nutrients vital to plant growth. The participants are required to design a prototype of the kit, keeping it simple, at a reasonable cost for its provision to farmers.
  4. Design a low-cost rainwater harvesting system including the water collection and storage components, suitable for a single family and costing less than Rs. 200.
Stay tuned for further announcements of collaboration between L-RAMP and Shaastra 2008.

Mark your calendars, get out your slide rulers and we hope to see you there, along with your ideas.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Press Release

As part of our services offered to innovators, L-RAMP is organizing a quarterly review meeting and a parallel session on capacity building for all the 18 incubatees on 15th July, 2008. The idea is to review the innovations, achievements, impact and plan of action in next quarter. As part of capacity building session, innovators will also get a chance to interact and share each other’s learning. L-RAMP will, too, share strategies on marketing, commercializing products and raising funds for business.

Our goal is to facilitate interaction between innovators and thus to help them take their innovations further, faster.

Fear of innovation or change

I received this word in my email inbox this morning as part of my 'Word of the Day' email from

I thought it was a useful word to know as we go about our work promoting innovations and building an innovation ecosystem.

Misoneism - A hatred, fear or intolerance of innovation or change

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New L-RAMP incubation!

A new innovation that really can have a great impact among backward communities of rural India is approved for incubation at L-RAMP in June 2008. This is a unique business model; a service innovation where one of the critical components is itself an innovative product! The major objective of this project is to increase the income of nomadic sheep rearing farmers through a well organised business model. It also plays a role in preservation of indigenous breeds of sheep. Let's hope this innovation may bring a ray of hope in this unorganized and neglected sector and set the pace for a paradigm change.

For further information please contact Ancy Thomas.

L-RAMP incubatee raises Angel Funding

DesiCrew, a rural BPO company and an L-RAMP incubatee since December 2007, has raised angel funding from a prominent private investor and leading player in the BPO sector, Mr. Rajiv Kucchal.

Rajiv has nearly 22 years of management experience with 16 years in Infosys Technologies, Ltd--a leading global company that provides consulting and IT services. Rajiv was one of the founding members of Infosys BPO (earlier Progeon) , the business process outsourcing (BPO) subsidiary of Infosys Technologies where he was the Head of Operations and subsequently the Head of Business Transformation. Rajiv is an alumni of IIT Delhi.

As an angel investor he shares a common vision with DesiCrew on the untapped potential of youth in rural areas and small towns of India. The investment will allow DesiCrew to pursue their aggressive growth strategy and leverage their innovative solution delivery model to continue to provide value to rural employees and urban clients.

For further information, please contact Arun Sharma.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Innovation in HIV testing

I came across an interesting report discussing a new HIV detection technology starting trials in India.

This technology supplants the previous test which requires a centrifuge for separation of serum from blood. By requiring only a simple finger-prick of blood for analysis, it enables easier testing of potentially HIV-positive patients and better case management through the joining of pre-test counselling, HIV testing, post-test counselling and medical treatment, all in one visit. It is hoped that this technology will enable the testing of the 70-75% of the 2.5 million Indian HIV-positive patients who are currently not aware of their status.

The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is currently undertaking a testing methodology similar to that which L-RAMP follows for all new product introductions - lab trials have been expanded into large-scale field trials, after which data will be analyzed and good performance will result in the test being distributed nationally.

An interesting technology with enormous potential social benefit.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The power of ideas

The Ideas Festival - an interesting conference happening now in Aspen, Colorado. It seems a trend to bring together people from diverse disciplines (doctors, engineers, politicians, artists and others), have them exchange ideas and varied perspectives and the desired result being learning for all, often from perspectives rarely brought together. The TED conference is another excellent example as is the forthcoming PanIIT 2008 conference (December 19-21 2008 @ IIT Madras featuring RIN CEO Paul Basil as a speaker).

I like the central premise of these meetings and a quote from the BBC article nicely summarizes both the applicability to the US in a political year and also the work that we at L-RAMP are pursuing:
All of these people have come here with one central conviction. It is that ideas matter and especially so in a presidential election year. Men and women can change the world by thinking about problems and by approaching them in new ways.
Ideas matter and they can change the world. We at L-RAMP are pleased to be able to help some ideas see the light of day and, through this, bring about the change that our innovators want to see in the world.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Innovation or Implementation?

I found it interesting to read this report which says that Microsoft, often thought of as a hotbed of innovation, doesn't invent much of the technology which it deploys, but rather purchases much of it from other companies (or purchases the entire company).

It brings to mind a speech I recently heard at the 4th India Innovation Forum where Madhabi Puri-Buch, an executive from ICICI Bank, said that part of their strategy at the bank to reward innovation is to recognize those individuals (or groups) who have most effectively deployed innovations developed elsewhere (they call it the 'Copycat Award'). Her point was that innovation consists of ideation + the ability to scale and execute and so those people who put into practice what others have developed are equally responsible for delivering the benefit of innovation to the bank as are those who developed the idea in the first place.

It seems that Microsoft is a clear case study in the truth of her statement, taking ideas from others and building them into their product/service offering has helped them reap enormous rewards and place them in the top-tier of global software firms.

At L-RAMP, we see the same lessons in our work - many have great ideas, we exist to take those great ideas into enterprises which deliver the benefit of those great ideas to the people who need them because ideas, on their own, deliver little benefit to anybody.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The open-source innovation community grows again

With the takeover of Symbian by Nokia, the open-source development community is set to add a powerful mobile phone software platform to its ranks. It appears that Nokia is confident that open-source innovation will lead to a superior result than focused development efforts from software bigwigs such as Google (with their Android platform), Apple (with their iPhone platform) and Microsoft (with their Windows platform)

An article from PC World
An article from the BBC
Open-sourced information on Symbian OS

Will open-source beat traditional industry again? We should find out in mid-2009 when Google's Android is released and Symbian has had time to further extend itself.

My support is firmly in the open-source camp.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The role of passion in successful innovation

This post also appears on here.

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At L-RAMP, we come into contact with many different innovators having ideas covering the spectrum, from new ways to make roads to new ways to make banana chips. This fascinating mix of people share the common trait of being intensely passionate about what they have created and impatient about getting their products to those who can benefit from them.

Of all the characteristics which make up an innovator, it is this intense passion which I find to be most commonly held and it is this passion which can be a great asset or a great hindrance to an entrepreneur's chances of taking his product to market.

When an innovator contacts me, it is most often through an unscheduled telephone call or walk-in visit to our office. As I draw myself out of whatever I was doing at the time, I bring myself into his world and try to understand the new device/model/technology which he is explaining. After hearing him out, I try to better understand his innovation by applying some of the analytical methodologies we have developed which aim to, among other things, determine how well the innovation meets our three core criteria of:
  • providing social benefit to the rural poor
  • being innovative
  • able to be scaled through enterprise

I have to smile when I think of how often it seemed that the innovator thought I was a cruel man for ignoring the plight of the people who stood to benefit from his idea by analyzing it critically. Usually, the entrepreneur quickly brings the conversation back to the social impact of his innovation and how it would help India; his vision cares little for our process.

One entrepreneur found the plight of manual construction labourers carrying enormous weights on their heads a problem and so came to us with an idea for a shoulder harness helmet which transfers the load from the neck to their ostensibly stronger shoulder muscles, thus reducing the chance of cervical spondylitis and providing extra comfort for the labourer.

Another entrepreneur had an idea for an electric weeder which can reduce the manual effort currently expended in crop weeding and overcome the labour shortages endemic in many agricultural areas of the south, thus providing better income for farmers. A third explained (in his three visits and four telephone calls to our office) that his water lifting device would help reduce the electricity demand from water pumps by use of a novel manual pump-generator-electric pump combination, appropriately arranged to skirt the laws of physics.

Working with these innovators can be inspiring, frustrating and instructive. Their passion for their innovations and desire to share the benefit they project for their device is inspiring. Their unwillingness to slow down and consider their innovations from an unbiased perspective and the realities which will impede their path to market is frustrating. Their new and novel approaches to solving the problems they perceive in their daily lives are instructive and often the solutions are simple and elegant, providing benefits by intelligent application and arrangement of known elements.

I have come to the conclusion that passion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for market success. The shoulder harness helmet must contend with the established behaviour of the labourers he is trying to help, most of whom do not wish the encumbrance that his safety device offers. The electric weeder depends on the government supply of electricity (which can be erratic) and thus his potential customers may be wary of purchasing this device. The water lifting device was designed as a perpetual motion machine and despite his best intentions, the laws of physics ensure that it will never work as designed.

In this line of work, cliches are a dime a dozen (cliche intended) but one which holds mostly true is a line from Thomas Edison:

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

L-RAMP's most successful innovators, those who have succeeded in taking their products or services to the market and thus creating the large-scale social benefit, were those who used their passion to push themselves through the challenge of making their ideas a reality.
In the three cases mentioned above, I'm not sure that the passion of the innovator was focused on reaching commercialization instead of being stuck on the initial thought/approach/design - in all cases, it is still early in the process and so perhaps future interactions will yield passionate discussions of how to move towards the market.

On the other hand we have Servals Automation, the Chennai-based firm which commercialized the Venus burner, and spent nearly 4 years in the journey to market; in the process they required a near-complete redesign of the burner, a change in materials used, a change in the pricing strategy and finally the elusive break into the market coming from an unforeseeable bulk purchase from a government agency.

Through the many years, the CEO's passion was necessary to keep him dedicated to the goal of taking this product to market, but it was his unending effort and willingness to adapt to the realities of the day which have led to monthly sales of 100,000 burners a month, each of which provide up to 30 percent savings in kerosene to his users in the process.

And so I look forward to hearing from the next great innovator who pops in - I look forward to their passion (almost a prerequisite for an innovator) but I hope that they use it to fuel the dedicated action required instead of merely getting caught up in the thrill of having an idea. It is those who channel their passion to action who, I believe, will be the next entrepreneurs bringing about large-scale social benefit through enterprise.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

L-RAMP joins TiE Chennai

L-RAMP is pleased to join the Chennai chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), the world's largest non-profit network of entrepreneurs; the Chennai chapter currently boasts over 300 members.

We at L-RAMP look forward to working with Chennai's entrepreneur community to bring socially beneficial innovations from idea to market.

Guest Post on

L-RAMP has its first guest post on renowned social enterprise portal,

See here for 'Local Innovation and Enterprise - The L-RAMP Model'

Monday, May 19, 2008

Indian Farmer’s: The Way Forward

Indian Farmer’s: The Way Forward

India lives in its villages. The food factory of our country is located among millions of villages scattered across the length and breadth of “Bharat”. The tropical ecological conditions favour cultivation of a variety of crops. It is a commonly know fact that any increase or decrease in the GDP of the country is attributable to the dynamics that rural India goes through. Why then are farmers in India getting their children out of agriculture? Isn’t agriculture a viable activity? While one witnesses this migration of individual farmers from farming, a new revolution is shaping up around corporate agriculture.

Agriculture, especially sustenance agriculture has been plagued with various issues. They range from poor quality seeds/planting materials to inadequate labour and poor irrigation facilities. And finally when the harvest is ready, distress selling leaves the farmer with little gain. Why are these issues chasing the Indian farmer? Are these really issues? Aren’t there solutions?

If one was to analyse corporate farming vis-à-vis individual farming, the glaring weaknesses of individual farmers would throw up. Can a small farmer make realistic incomes by cultivating in 3-5 acres of land? While the corporate cultivates in large tracts and brings hundreds of acreage under cropping. Can farmers be aggregated to produce like a corporate? We have examples of contract farming unleashed by corporates, which has worked to the benefit of farmers (in cases where the corporate does not default on its promises of buy-back!). Majority of the cultivable land, still remains in the hands of the rich. The Bhoodan Movement, a non-violent, voluntary movement initiated by Sri. Vinoba Bhave led to voluntary transfer of excess land owned by the rich to the poor. What a simple innovation! Fear of loosing ownership prevents rich farmers from leasing land to the smaller farmers. India needs another innovation in land leasing to make available vast tracts of fallow land to the hard-working small and marginal farmers.

While corporates have started off with precision farming, irrigation continues to haunt small farmers. If Israel could make wonders out of its dry lands, can’t India do it? There are innovations in micro-irrigation systems which the state can promote. Interestingly many of these products have proved to be sustainable business models while creating lasting social impact. KB Drip has lower life than competing drip irrigation systems but is affordable at one-third the price of competition!

Farm labour is migrating to urban India for want of regular employment. This has negative consequences in cities. How can farm machinery and tools replace the migrating labour? Can small farmers buy these tools and machinery? No, they cannot. But yes, micro-leasing and rental models could play a key role in making these tools and machinery accessible for the small farmers.

Spot and futures trading of fresh commodities are now gaining popularity among farmers. These bring in transparent pricing and payments. Institutional Innovations such as “producer companies” are now a legally permissible form of business organization that permits farmers to engage in business of their fresh or processed produce.

Will India’s small farmer start leasing his land to corporates and make wealth out of rentals? Can corporations make agriculture competitive? Only time will tell!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pre Incubation Programme

L-RAMP is conducting fifth pre incubation programme for grassroots innovators on Saturday 17th May 2008 from 10 am to 4 pm at Hall 1, IC&SR, IIT Madras.

The purpose of the Pre-incubation Programme is to build the capacity of innovators to help them better understand how to innovate with the market perspective and the journey from idea to enterprise. The program consists of a series of skill and knowledge building sessions conducted by experts from various fields and we believe that the programme will definitely help the innovators to have a clear understanding of a sequential way of bringing their innovation to life.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

L-RAMP joins the New Ventures India Green Investor Network

L-RAMP has joined the New Ventures India Green Investor Network with effect from today. New Ventures India is a joint initiative of the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (Hyderabad) and the World Resources Institute. The Green Investor Network aims to identify green and high-growth companies in India and link them with investors interested in supporting green companies.

With our membership, L-RAMP joins a host of leading organizations in the social investment, traditional investment and clean technology spaces. Current member organizations include the IFMR Trust, Acumen Fund and Sequoia Capital.

We look forward to working with applicants to New Ventures India to prepare them for scaling up as well as having L-RAMP incubatees seek funding post-incubation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

L-RAMP partners with the Indian Angel Network

L-RAMP and the Indian Angel Network (IAN) have come together as partners, believing that the mission of each organization is complementary.

We are excited about this partnership and look forward to
  • Our incubatees raising raise new funding from the Indian Angel Network to further their growth
  • Helping strengthen applicants with socially beneficial innovations requiring incubation support before being ready for early-stage growth
A brief profile, courtesy of the IAN:

Indian Angel Network - India's first and largest business angel group - brings together successful entrepreneurs and high profile CEOs who invest in early stage businesses across India which have potential to create disproportionate value for all stakeholders. The Network provides :
  • Funding upto USD 1mn
  • Mentoring and strategic thought leadership
  • Ability to leverage the Members' network
  • Brand enhancement with investment from IAN members

Monday, May 12, 2008

Innovation leads to imitation

Bajaj, Nissan (the world's 7th largest automaker) and Renault (the world's 9th largest automaker) have announced a joint-venture to chase Tata (the world's 20th largest automaker) in the market for low-cost cars. With their announcement of their own 1 lakh car, to be available in 2011, it is clear that the value of the innovations leading to the Tata Nano are sufficiently clear that other (much larger) automakers are imitating their formula and releasing their own ultra low-cost automobile.

Leaving aside the risks of growing congestion, this is a good example of how radical innovation can lead to enhanced consumer benefit :: Tata's Nano has spawned (so far) one imitation which, competing with the original idea, will ultimately lead to a better quality product available for the consumer. I think it inevitable that the other major Indian players will follow suit and these ultra low-cost cars will lead to an entire new segment of transportation for India and, eventually, globally.

Tata's innovation has spawned a new world-view of transportation before a single consumer has logged 1km on the road.


Final Day of the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

After 4 days, the தினமலர் Agri-Expo in Trichy closed. It was a useful time spent by us at the Expo, with our staff being able to spread the message to many people in the farming community. It was heartening to repeatedly hear from participants things like 'I've been looking for someone like you', 'What a great idea', 'It's great that you're doing something to help the people' and the like. There were a few people who already had ideas floating around and who were keen on applying for incubation support right away - ideas from these people varied from internet marketplaces to groundnut clipping machines, and many things in between. It will be interesting to see how these leads are transformed into incubatees and also how the general publicity exercise continues spreading the message of/about L-RAMP.

Our two exhibiting incubatees were a great support to us. It was gratifying to see and hear first-hand how they appreciated the help we are able to provide and to use their example as an instant testimonial to our incubation programme (and the fact that we aren't going to steal people's ideas). Having the incubator and incubatee together is a great mutually reinforcing combination and one which we will most likely repeat in future exhibitions.

Nemate Gro (promoted by GloTech Organics, Trichy) and the Sugavari Sprinkler (promoted by Cosy Industries, Chennai) both ended the Expo with successful results, having each signed up many interested farmers for field trials and sold some of their products. It was interesting for me to see how quickly the farmers understood the value proposition of each product and how easy it was to sell a good product face-to-face. That being said, the ability of each promoter to quickly bring the benefits of the product to light was essential to drive interest and when both promoters were directly engaging the farmers, the clamour in front of the stall was often 2-3 farmers deep, rivalling that of the Coffee Board of India (2 stalls down from us, selling great coffee at a good price).

It was long, interesting, sometimes tiring, occasionally wet, often busy and full of learnings :: the Dinamalar Agri-Expo was a successful 4-day venture for L-RAMP.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 3 of the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

Through the rain and lightning, here is day 3's update.

Today was, as expected, another busy day. Our 3rd expected exhibiting innovation (pin pulverizer) was forced to withdraw due to logistical problems (his lorry couldn't reach Trichy) but between L-RAMP, Nemate Gro and the Sugavari Novel Sprinker, we had quite a few messages to send out.

The two innovations did good business signing up farmers for potential field trials with the Sugavari crossing the 40 farmer mark and Nemate doing well also. L-RAMP has distributed over 1800 brochures and fielded many questions from innovators with good ideas (and some who are still chasing that always elusive perpetual motion machine).

I'll leave it to the photos to tell the remainder of the story...

Zubaida and me, exhibiting and examining the sprinkler competition

Nemate Gro

Sugari Novel Sprinkler with its fancy new home made sign

Friday, May 9, 2008

Day 2 of the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

Live from Trichy, our day 2 report.

A second innovation joined us today, with the Novel Sprinkler being promoted by Cosy Industries arriving to setup early in the morning. Actually seeing the device and watching the interaction with the farmers gave many clues on how it was going to be used, what the important aspects were to farmers and different ways that these products should be marketed. The Sprinkler's sales model on this day was highly unconventional -- he was offering sprinklers at 2% of their retail cost in exchange for field-trial data from the farmers (and using cash prizes as incentives for farmers to actually pursue trials). The number of farmers he signed up in 1 day is already double his target for the entire Agri-Expo. It was very interesting to watch the amazed look on the farmers faces as he explained the lack of moving parts, the simplicity of the design and the photos and videos of the device actually working. Simple design+useful output=socially beneficial innovation.

The booth was very busy with the crowd in front often among the largest in our bay of 40 stalls. Both Nemate Gro and L-RAMP had to print extra promotional material, with our 1000 brochures being distributed to the crowds in 2 days. We've seen both farmers and families passing through, with a small number of keen innovators sprinkled throughout.

In (short) summary, day 2 was another busy, warm and instructive exercise - we expect tomorrow to be the busiest day though, given the weekend and that all the booths will (finally) be completed. We will be joined by our 3rd innovation (the pin pulverizer) and so we're looking forward to more crowds, more questions and more social benefit delivered to those who can benefit most from it.

Special thanks to our friends from Samruddhi for helping answer questions in Tamil!

The stimulus of discomfort

A quote which I thought well embodies the context of L-RAMP's mission...

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author (1936-2005)

Day 1 of the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

Day 1 at the Dinamalar Agro Expo 2008. With 75 000 to 100 000 people expected to pass through the show in the next 4 days, it is a good opportunity to promote L-RAMP and its activities to both potential innovators and entrepreneurs. We have our booth set-up with standard promotional materials, we're also sharing booth space with successful L-RAMP innovators-turned-entrepreneurs who are marketing their own products. Today's product is 'Nemate Gro' – an organic fertilizer derived from the Neem plant, which promotes plant growth while also protecting against pests and disease. Our front display table has bags of fertilizer, which happen to closely resemble bags of dirt, sitting alongside L-RAMP pamphlets showing the sculpting of a clay pot (presumably meant to symbolize the creation of a new product). One attendee, trying to logically connect the items on display asked 'So L-RAMP, what do you guys do? Make pots using that dirt?' Yep, there is still some ways to go in promoting L-RAMP and its services within the local population. We may also need to re-think the front of our brochures.

The highlight of the day has been watching the amount of interest generated by Nemate Gro. It's been a long climb for the innovator Mr. R. Augustine. He started developing the product in 2006 and completed the initial product development and pilot scale tests on his own. L-RAMP met Mr. Augustine in 2007 and, at that point in time, helped with the final product development and large-scale product testing. The product is now starting the commercialization stage. It is currently sold via direct scales, Samruddhi and some other local stores. Mr. Augustine is now looking for large-scale distributors to expand the product reach.

Mr. Augustine is a good example of an innovator who is succeeding in making the transition to become an entrepreneur but, as mentioned in Devynani's post, not all innovators have the
interest or aptitude in making this leap. Business incubation requires a very different skill set from innovation incubation. Through my work at L-RAMP, I've had the opportunity to meet individuals who are passionate about innovating and want to create real value and benefit to others through their products, but given the choice that's where their involvement would stop. Ideally, they would like to find someone else to take their product to the market. For this reason, it is important for L-RAMP to not just find and support innovators, but to also learn how to find people at the other end of the journey, entrepreneurs interested taking these products through to the market, and to facilitate technology transfer between innovator and entrepreneur.

We've been discussing different avenues for identifying potential entrepreneurs and linking innovation to entrepreneur. At the next agri fair we plan to showcase product briefs on innovations ready for tech transfer to see how much interest that generates. One never knows.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Innovators Behind The Innovations

So far on this blog we have given you a taste of some of the innovations that we support. But we haven't told you much about the innovators behind these innovations.

This year one of the projects that I'm working on is to be able to paint a clearer picture of the grassroots innovators that we work with. This will help us to better tailor our Pre-Incubation Program, which Zubaida blogged about earlier, to fit their needs. I am on the road at the moment, and have just begun my visits to some of these innovators. I've interviewed four of them so far.

The dominant theme in these interviews has been the struggles, criticism, derision, or at best indifference that these innovators have faced in their journeys. Mr. M. Manikandan described this criticism as enough to "break his mind." Not surprisingly, it was learning about the numerous challenges that other innovators face that was one of the aspects of the Pre-Incubation Program that was most appreciated. Mr. Kesavan C.P. requested that the struggles of innovators, such as Edison's efforts to get his inventions patented, should be given even more prominence in the program.

Nevertheless, these innovators have persistently worked to perfect their innovations over several years. Mr. Vrishabadoss Jain has been working on the Suncon cooker for 12 years, and in that time has made 10 different versions. Mr. Manikandan has been working on a robot that can rescue children from wells for 8 years. Mr. Mutthaiah has been working on a device for climbing palm trees for 25 years, and in that time has made 14 models.

These innovators face the same social stigma that Arun described in his earlier blog, titled, "The difficulties of an inhospitable environment." Yet these individuals have persevered in the face of these challenges, and strongly identify as innovators.

What keeps them going seems to be the sheer joy of inventing. None of them were at a loss for words when I asked them what their next innovation was going to be. But when I asked them how they were going to take their innovations to the market, the question L-RAMP is most interested in, the responses were mostly that they expected us to do it. One innovator frankly stated that he wasn't interested in marketing, and felt that he didn't have the skills to do it. Another said that he was going to try to transfer his technology, as companies that were already in this business would know the needs of the consumer. Many of these innovators cited lack of funds as the reason they had not gone to visit potential buyers directly, but a distaste for meeting customers seems to be a trait shared by innovators around the world.

What can L-RAMP do for these innovators, who are often poor, display an immense capacity for self-learning, and a tenacity and passion for their innovations? One idea that comes to mind immediately is to hone our own skills in technology transfer, so that we bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the industries who could potentially partner with these innovators, and use our experience to craft successful partnerships. This will allow innovators to go on doing what they do and love best, and make the journey from idea to market a smoother one for all of us.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

L-RAMP goes to the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

Look for L-RAMP at the Dinamalar Agri-Expo in Trichy (Tiruchchirappalli for those booking train tickets) from May 8th to May 11th at the National College HSS grounds. 75,000 farmers from all over Tamil Nadu are expected to attend, as well as over 150 organizations exhibiting their wares. We will be in booth 61.

L-RAMP teams (speaking both English and தமிழ்) will be available to discuss innovations with innovators, give information about our programmes to the interested public and accept applications for incubation for those so inclined. If you are an innovator with an idea, interested in our work or want to learn more about how we are helping alleviate poverty through innovation and enterprise, please stop by our booth and talk with us.

We are pleased to host 3 of our innovations at our booth as well - representatives will be demonstrating their products and answer questions. Innovations being demonstrated are
  • Nemate
  • Pin Pulverizer
  • Novel Sprinkler
We look forward to seeing you there!

Going Beyond the Wow Factor : The need for local innovation

The homepage of Rural Innovations Network, one of LRAMP's parent organizations, briefly describes the work it does as -

"Change starts with ideas. And when ideas become reality, they transform life.

Rural India teems with amazingly innovative ideas that can solve a huge variety of problems and create enduring prosperity. It is this potential that Rural Innovations Network (RIN) seeks to translate into reality.

RIN avidly identifies and incubates grassroots innovations, which can have a significant impact on rural lives and lie untapped, in spite of their potential to transform lives. RIN's incubation strives to make the difference between an idea that fails and one that sees the light of day."

My version of the work RIN does invariably includes additional words such as non-profit, social enterprise, rural development. The most common responses that I get to my description are "Wow," "This is Amazing!" It took me a long time to realise that people were actually reacting to a heady mix of the latest buzzwords (innovation, social enterprise, grassroots, non-profit etc) rather than appreciating RIN for the void it is trying to fill.

People seldom understand the power in RIN's mission of "enriching rural lives by enabling innovations to reach the market." This simple mission finds its roots in economic theory and is strongly backed by the history of developed nations. In his best-selling book "The End of Poverty," world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs states "Lack of Innovation" as one of the reasons why countries fail to achieve economic growth. Sachs writes -

Rich countries have a big market, which increases the incentive for innovation, brings new technologies to market, further raises productivity and expands the size of the market, further raises productivity and expands the size of the market, and creates new incentives for innovation. This momentum creates in effect a chain reaction, which economists call endogenous growth. Innovation raises the size of the market; a larger market raises the incentives for innovation. Thus, economic growth and innovation proceed in a mutually reinforcing process.

Now consider the plight of an innovator/inventor in an impoverished or developing country? The innovators have hardly any resources at hand and when they do manage to come up with really useful products, the low purchasing power of the consumer limits sales. A dispersed population is another limiting factor to the sales of the product.

RIN is on the forefront of working with this under served community by providing a host of services (including recognition, mentoring, funding and networks) to innovators and enabling their innovations to reach the markets.

Efficient kerosene burners, insect traps, low-cost milking machines, pocket manuring sticks, rain guns, suncon cookers, low cost sanitary napkins, all represent the creative and innovative spirit that is waiting to be tapped. And going beyond the wow factor, the cycle of local innovation started by such innovations will one day lead India towards unprecedented economic growth!

Monday, May 5, 2008

What is an innovation

I always have been having this lurking doubt about how we miss out on some opportunities in supporting some "innovations' as we tend to dissect a proposal too much and tend to get bogged down on its innovativeness . Here is something someone wrote elsewhere which I am pasting here
(As Ajit says) when we are intervening in difficult areas, working with extremely poor communities, any substantial intervention in redeeming the squalor and abject poverty sustainably should be considered as an innovation, even if it is revival of tasar sericulture that these communities may have been doing for ages. Adapting an activity or a set of activities for poor people, identifying the right mix of modern and indigenous technology, creating sustainable and profitable market linkages, helping establish their institutions for providing these linkages and various services they require – all these lead to the poor people earning their livelihoods in radically “new” ways than what might happened earlier.

Recently we had a case in MP where NABARD rejected a proposal from us under RIF , because the proposal was for doing mulberry sericulture with poor people. The reason - it is an established activity. If it is, why are not large numbers of poor people in tribal areas in MP not doing it already? Adapting an activity for poor people requires innovation, and that has to be recognized. Innovation has a context. An activity that is successful on one area cannot be transplanted to another area without a great deal of adaptation. This adaptation needs innovative thinking.

Therefore, my opinion is that the innovation is not in doing something “new and different’ from our point of view, but in doing something in a way so that the poor families earn their livelihoods in “new and different” ways. The “innovation” is in the eyes of the user.




Friday, May 2, 2008

Innovation to solve the world's energy crisis and the catalysts of innovation

A new report from the Cambridge Energy Research Associates and the World Economic Forum writes that the one of the world's foremost problems of the day, a sustainable energy future, can be solved by combining a new level of innovation and cooperation. A short outline and comment on the report is available here. They write that the four catalysts for innovation are also necessary, namely:
  • technology
  • people
  • capital
  • policy
It is an interesting thought experiment to consider if the same 4 catalysts can enable innovation for poverty allevation, a problem no less afflicting than our energy future. At first glance, it appears that they have well captured the essential elements necessary for innovation, and so perhaps when innovating for poverty allevation, ensuring the presence of the same 4 elements should be a necessity.

Here at L-RAMP, we help with capital, help implement technology and provide access to people when required. Perhaps policy is an essential element still to be considered.

Rural Innovations Network is hiring!

Rural Innovations Network (RIN), one of L-RAMP's parent organizations, is looking to hire new staff. For more information, contact bhavani (at)

Job Specification


Associate – HR & Admin







Job Objective

To manage the office administration and HR processes

Reporting to

CEO / Head – HR

Reporting from

Office Assistant


Graduate + PGD in HR or PM (could be currently pursuing it)


2-3 yrs in Admin, no previous HR experience required


Documentation & Record keeping, Office Administration, Telephone handling. Good English language skills


  • Friendly and approachable
  • Systematic & thorough
  • Organized and methodical
  • Eye for detail
  • Proactive and responsive

Job Description


  • Maintaining HR systems
  • Record keeping and policy implementation
  • Statutory records and compliance
  • Office Administration including Telephone and Visitors management

Responsibilities / Outcomes

  • Complying with the HR/Statutory requirements
  • Maintaining the office environment
  • Handling visitors and phone calls

Activities / Tasks

  • Facilitating HR processes – Recruitment, Appraisals, Training
  • Maintaining records - Recruitment, Training, Personnel files
  • Organizing the front desk – newspapers, periodicals, telephone
  • Office maintenance
  • Managing Visitors and handling telephone calls
  • Logistics/coordination of meetings

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A look inside one of the world's top innovators

The BBC recently had the chance to look inside Xerox's PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre), a world-renowned centre for innovation which has delivered the world such elements basic to our daily lives as the computer graphical user interface, laser printing and ethernet among many others (a more comprehensive list can be found here).

The article describes 6 of their innovations which they believe can help the world develop sustainably. The innovations (and their envisaged impact) are:
  • Rare Cell Detection - Can replace amniocentesis and can be used for detection of certain cancers
  • Erasable Paper - Erases itself after 24 hours - can reduce the amount of paper used
  • Smaller and more efficient Solar Panels - Smaller, more durable and more efficient solar panels
  • Spiral Cleaning - Can be used for wastewater treatment or water treatment
  • Biomass plastic - Replaces 30% of the oil content in plastic with biomass
  • 3D print preview - Helps view a document from multiple perspectives before printing
It is particularly interesting to note the quote from the Chief Technology Officer of PARC - she says "I think it is extremely critical to continuously come up with innovative ideas and work with your partners to turn them into innovations that the customers of the world can benefit from."

It is good to see that both PARC and L-RAMP share the view that impact requires both innovation and commercialization. The innovations listed are exciting and we look forward to being able to benefit from some or all of them in the near future.