Innovation occurs in all corners of society, but inventions conceived in remote or rural areas, especially in developing countries, are far less likely to be commercialised and made available to other users outside of the locality. As a result the wider potential benefits from these innovations are often not realised, to the detriment of the broader community.
Finding a way to incubate the many grassroots innovations and promote wider uptake could generate new models of poverty alleviation, rural development, employment generation and conservation of natural resources.
Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN) was set up in 1997 with support from the Government of Gujarat, the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA).
GIAN's major aim is to scale up and spawn grassroots innovations and support the commercialisation of a technology. It is providing support to rural innovators in the following ways:
- Providing links with appropriate research institutions, such as SRISTI.
- Undertaking market research and providing product design and entrepreneurial support, such as with intellectual property issues.
- Mobilising national and state level funding opportunities to support large scale expansion of innovations.
- Publicising developed innovations and products, and ensuring the dissemination of information through exhibitions, workshops and the media.
- Organising entrepreneurial development workshops and networking opportunities in collaboration with expert institutions.
- Influencing policy at micro and macro level to make it more responsive to the needs and expectations of green innovators.
GIAN identifies promising innovators to work with through an existing database created and maintained by the Honey Bee Network (an informal collective of farmers, artisans, scientists and scholars involved in the scouting and documenting of innovations).
Since its inception GIAN has successfully launched ten grassroots innovations as commercial products and five as social products in the market.
India was one of the first countries to recognise the innovative ability of the informal sector and support it. By providing support to networks and partnerships such as GIAN, this has become institutionalised through networking cooperation with research institutions, businesses and governmental organisations at various levels. The specifics of this process can be taken into consideration by countries wishing to unleash the innovative potential of the informal sector.
Such activities have large potential in other regions, but require collaboration between many actors in order to be successful. It is estimated at GML 5.