Every year, several engineers graduate from various engineering institutes in India. Imagine an India, where each one of them has the ability to reform the future with new inventions and innovations, a future which is brighter, cleaner and better for the new generations. But, how many of the engineering graduates are up for this task? The biggest challenge that India faces is not the lack of manpower that is productive but the lack of thinkers and innovators.
Innovation is more of a journey than a destination. Each student has a spark within. As an institution, we just need to make sure we ignite it and channel it the right way. There are few to whom innovation and entrepreneurship comes naturally and there are a few who need to be nurtured. It is our duty to ignite this spark and inculcate the spirit of innovation.
There are many avenues open for students now than ever before. Students have all the required tools and technology at their doorstep and just need to push themselves a bit. Of course, the challenges in every sphere are now even tougher. For a student to inculcate the habit of innovation, he /she has to break away from conventional thinking and give scope for thinking the impossible and deciphering the reasons for impossibility. This will pave the way for a pragmatic and potentially plausible idea to germinate.
I would perhaps split the ingredients for an innovative idea into three parts. The very first one would be free thinking on a concept, followed by reading a lot of articles, journals and newsletters on the topic of your choice. The third and the last step would involve hands- on activities to pursue the idea vigorously.
As a student, one should be proactive in putting one’s theoretical knowledge to test. One should also try to understand the different approaches to solve a problem.
This would help a student to form a habit of looking at problems from various angles which is an essential part of innovation.
There are various technical and cultural clubs in an institute which a student can take benefit from. One can learn a lot from such groups as working with similar people who share the same passion and can encourage innovative and lateral thinking.
Another important aspect would be to look outside your own institute and see if there are any challenges or groups that one could be a part of. Guidance from mentors, such as faculties and seniors, would help one choose a good national-level club where one is exposed to a higher pool of knowledge than a lecture in a classroom.
The typical frog in a well mentality of studying for good grades for a good job should be replaced by learning for the sake of knowledge.
True knowledge can only be achieved by application and one should take the initiative to participate in competitions (regional, national or international) to enhance one’s knowledge.
The role of the institute
The vision of an institute should be to inculcate each graduate with a sense of entrepreneurship so that he/she becomes a job-creator instead of a job-seeker. Innovation, in our mind, should be a solution that at the end should help society.
The writer is associate director (development), and professor, department of mechanical & manufacturing engineering, Manipal Institute of Technology.