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Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and its Importance to the Nation

The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Government of India’s flagship initiative conceived by NITI Aayog, was launched in 2016 to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. As Prime Minister Narenda Modi has been constantly emphasizing, we need to transform our nation from one of job seekers to job creators of the future. The AIM has adopted a holistic approach to achieve its objectives through initiatives which can create both immediate impact as well as ones which are necessary from a longterm perspective. Riding on some dramatic improvements in innovation parameters contributing to the achievement of this important milestone, India recently broke into the top-50 club on the Global Innovation Index (GII) for the first time, India’s GII rank has jumped 33 places since 2015. India ranks first in the central and southern Asia region and third in the lower middle income group of economies. India also ranks among those making the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over last 5 years. These have been possible due to many Innovation, Skill development and Policy related initiatives by multiple departments of the Government of India making speedy impact.

The AIM at the NITI Aayog has been playing an instrumental role in driving the creation of an enabling ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship nationwide. It can play an even more value adding role by bringing various other stakeholders together to enable Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision and objectives Major initiatives taken by AIM are: Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL), Atal Incubators (AICs), Atal New India Challenges (ANICs), Atal Community Innovation Centres (ACIC), Applied Research and Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE), Mentor India Network and Strategic Innovation Partnerships. All of AIM’s initiatives are designated to ensure that they create a nation of innovators and job creators of the future while also enabling to build an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

Strong growth in the collaborative ecosystems ATL is a game changing initiative at a school level from grade 6 to grade 12 and is aimed to transform a rote learning-oriented mindset to a problem-solving innovative mindset in students nationwide. AIM has selected more than 10,000 schools for establishment of ATLs nationwide and has already implemented more than 7,000 ATLs across 680+ of the 715 districts of the country with over 3 million students having direct access to Tinkering. Over 70 per cent of these schools are government and government aided schools. 70 per cent + of them are also girls and cooed schools. 112 out of 115 Aspiring Districts already have ATLs. Every school would have a trained ATL in charge and a voluntary qualified Mentor. AIM gives a grant of ` 20 lakh per school selected to establish an ATL.

Through a series of Atal Tinkering Challenges at the school level, Atal Tinkering Fests at a regional level, Atal Tinkering Marathons at a national level, students are constantly inspired and stimulated to innovate in small teams with design thinking, communication and other 21st century skills and a knowledge of Sustainable Development Goals integrated into their innovations. Many corporate partners of AIM have adopted hundreds of ATLs to mentor the young students joining the innovation bandwagon as a part of their CSR initiatives.

Atal Incubators (AICs) is an initiative at the Universities, Institutions, industry level, to create an ecosystem and a network of world class AICs fostering and supporting early stage startups and entrepreneurs. AICs would foster world class innovative start-ups to become scalable and sustainable enterprises. AIM gives a grant of upto ` 10 crore for each such incubator through a challenge application process. Today, close to 70 Atal Incubators are already operational with 1800+ operational Startups out of which over 550 are women led startups. AIC Incubator and Startup Bootcamps enable these incubators to learn from global best practices and also enable access the network of resources for mentoring, finance, venture capital and domain expertise.

Atal  New India Challenges is aimed at fostering product and service innovations. AIM has launched over 24 Atal New India Challenges in partnership with five different ministries and departments of central government. Winners have been selected for grant aid hand holding support by Incubators / mentors of AIM. Each of the winners would receive a grant of upto ` 1 crore for converting their innovation to a commercially deployable product. Atal Community Innovation Centres (ACIC) initiative of AIM is another major national initiative to ensure that the innovation and entrepreneurial needs of Un-served and Under-served regions of India are addressed. AIM is setting up ACIC in a unique partnership driven model, wherein it would grant up to ` 2.5 crore to an ACIC subject to a partner providing equal or greater matching funding. Over 50+ ACICs in tier-2, tier3 cities and in rural India will be established during the next two years.

Applied Research and Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE) is yet another AIM initiative that has been launched to stimulate MSME industry innovation. To promote innovation in a phased manner in the MSME/ Startup sector AIM has launched ARISE Challenges along with partner Ministries and Industries so that great research ideas are converted to viable innovative prototypes followed by product development and commercial deployment. AIM has also launched challenges with International Governments and Private sector organizations to promote innovation collaborations and exchanges. These are creating vital channels for our startups to make global impact.

AIM has launched a Mentors of Change, Mentor India Network across the country and accessible even to international mentors. Over 10,000+ mentors have registered in the AIM portal and over 5,000+ are directly now associated with ATLs, AICs and startups. More than 30+ corporates have adopted Atal Tinkering Labs for mentoring them. In a connected world remote or distance mentoring can be a reality. Collaboration and linkages of AIM with local industries, Private sector, large public sector organizations, Multinationals, NGOs, Academia, and Research Institutions would be the key to the success of all of AIM’s initiatives. AIM has developed strong innovation partnerships with similar entities and multinationals from Singapore, Sweden, France, Germany, Russia, and USA and with organizations such as UN, UNDP, and UNICEF. Large NGOs and multinational companies of the world are collaborating with AIM on almost all these initiatives. None of these initiatives will succeed without a certain degree of selfless commitment and passion to the cause of innovation and to the cause of betterment of the world we live in.

It’s time to leverage CSR fund Organizations across the nation and the world can leverage their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for the noble cause of driving innovation, entrepreneurship aligned with Sustainable Development Goals that India espouses for the betterment of the country as well as the world. Unlocking the potential of the CSR funds for innovation should be enhanced. Focused investments in innovation infrastructure will facilitate world class innovation from India for the Indian and global markers. In addition, there is an ardent need to enable large-scale public private partnership grants for supporting high-risk innovations with strong socio-economic potential.

Although left behind in the industrial revolution that swept the world in the last century, India is indeed in a unique position to become one of the most innovative nations of the world within the next five to ten years. That is why the Atal Innovation Mission initiatives need to be embraced by all. The children and youth of our country and the world deserve it. We all need to collectively collaborate to make it happen.