India: NITI Aayog to set up 1,000 labs in schools under Atal Innovation Mission

NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint

The founders of three start-ups have expressed interest in mentoring students under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant said on Friday.

The three are Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal and Oyo Rooms’ Ritesh Agarwal. Mint couldn’t immediately reach Sharma, Aggarwal and Agarwal for comment.

Also, firms such as Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Robert Bosch GmbH and Schneider Electric SE want to partner with schools as part of the Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) initiative. These tinkering labs are equipped with “do it yourself” kits and instruments related to science, electronics, robotics, sensors, 3D printers and computers, along with infrastructure such as meeting rooms and a video-conferencing facilities.

“We are trying to disrupt the Indian education system,” said Kant, with the aim of building a culture of innovation.

The plan this year is to select 1,000 schools which will receive a grant of Rs20 lakh each for setting up such labs to encourage students to give shape to their ideas and come up with innovative experiments on their own in these laboratories.

“To maximize the impact of the ATLs, AIM will soon be launching Mentor India—a strategic nation-building initiative to engage leaders who can guide and mentor students in the ATLs. Mentor India is envisaged to be the largest formal volunteer network in India,” NITI Ayog said in a statement.

This comes against the backdrop of India moving into the top half of the Global Innovation Index (GII) rankings in 2017 by climbing six spots to 60 in a survey of innovative capacity among 127 countries. The country also maintained the top spot in the Central and South Asia regions, according to the rankings released by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Thursday.

“Innovations happen when we find solutions to the problems of India,” Kant said.

The WIPO report added that India’s current and imminent development, and its contribution to the region and the global innovation landscape is vital these days with the country consistently outperforming on innovation relative to its GDP per capita.

NITI Aayog has written to all school boards and the chief secretaries of states to apply for Atal Tinkering Labs. Last year, 475 schools were selected to set up such labs.

“This will be one of the most transformative schemes in India that will touch the lives of students,” said Kant.

“It will create a different set of people to take on the challenges and problems at the school level,” added R. Ramanan, mission director, Atal Innovation Mission.

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This article was first published on Livemint.com