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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nurturing Invention

Saw today the one-hour interview that Nathan Myhrvold gave for the Charie Rose show. Went to see it because Bill Gates said very nice things about the work that his ex-CTO's Intellectual Ventures (IV) is doing.

My take? Myrhvold is clearly a brilliant mind with an unusual breadth of interests. He is also very media-savvy, a rare trait among brilliant researchers. It is overall very good news that he and his team are building a business solely around supporting invention. I would like to see more such businesses and initiatives, locally. One also needs to talk to the other side - inventors who got benefited, to give full thumbs-up to IV.

Like Myrhvold says, there are certain inventions that can only be supported by Government. US is at such a great place today in computer technology because of the great initiatives of DARPA and other agencies in the 1960's. India can also be at the beginning of an invent-build-use-prosper cycle now, for "green" technologies, people-centric governance, technology-enabled quality education for all, affordable healthcare, etc. Problems here are different, unique; so should the solutions be. Borrowing inventions from elsewhere can only be a first-cut solution, not optimal. By providing the right environment and push for local, context-sensitive inventions, true inorganic growth is possible. This environment and support should be available, easily, not just to inventors in great academic institutions or in Government labs, but to anyone with worthy efforts. A culture of invention needs to be nurtured first by public, then public+private, eventually the private sector. One is staring to see similar support for young entrepreneurs in India, but not yet for young inventors.

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