The United States and India: Partners in Innovation

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the second U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) in New Delhi, the senior-most dialogue between the two countries. As the U.S. Department of State’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, I joined the discussions with a focus on a new and exciting frontier in our relationship: innovation and entrepreneurship.

The United States and India’s growing collaboration on innovation and entrepreneurship is not just a function of the creativity and ingenuity of our two peoples that once sparked a Green Revolution that increased yields and improved agricultural technology. This commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship has manifested in India’s rise in the Global Innovation Index by 15 spots this year.  In the spirit of a true partnership, it is also an effort to support the Government of India’s policy priorities such as StartUp India and Digital India. Moreover, it is an effort to transform our peoples’ very lives by jointly developing solutions to pressing policy challenges, such as those arising in the energy, health, and infrastructure sectors. 

A platform for entrepreneurs

To catalyse this new dimension of our relationship, a variety of senior-level events occurred alongside the S&CD. One notable event was the launch of the private sector-led U.S.-India Innovation Forum (USIIF) that will serve as a platform for American and Indian entrepreneurs to exchange best practices and to highlight the leading role of innovation partnerships in the U.S.-India economic relationship.

Speaking on a panel at the USIIF on the role of governments in promoting innovation ecosystems, I described five necessary elements based on my experience engaging with entrepreneurs across four cities in India in March 2016: education, risk tolerance, ease of starting a business, access to capital, and protection of intellectual property. In the wake of the event, U.S. transportation company Uber announced that it will partner with the USIIF to bring Indian entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley and connect them with investors.

Another notable event was an entrepreneurship round table co-hosted by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant. Participants included leading Indian entrepreneurial businesses -- from naukri.com to ShopClues -- that discussed their business models and how best to foster engagement between U.S. and Indian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Similarly, the U.S.-India CEO Forum that convened the day before the S&CD provided recommendations on how to deepen bilateral economic ties, including a focus on digital infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship. The CEOs recommended a number of projects from facilitating private sector- and university-led research in healthcare to pooling efforts to advance the Skill India initiative.

A key theme during my trip was the excitement surrounding the Indian government’s intention to co-host the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in India. Now in its seventh year, GES has convened 17,000 entrepreneurs in Malaysia, Morocco, Kenya, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. Seven hundred entrepreneurs from 170 countries attended this year’s GES in Silicon Valley in June 2016 that the U.S. government organized in conjunction with our private sector. The entrepreneurs had the opportunity to network; hear from the CEOs of companies, from Google to Airbnb; and meet with 200 investors who announced millions of dollars in financial commitments to support entrepreneurs.

Discussions with the Indian government on co-hosting GES 2017 culminated in the U.S. Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, and Dr. Kant signing a Statement of Intent that outlines key guiding principles and areas of cooperation. Planning is now under way in earnest and both sides see GES as a prime opportunity to hardwire innovation and entrepreneurship in our partnership.

Combating piracy

After New Delhi, I visited Mumbai to focus on one aforementioned element to promote innovation: protecting intellectual property. I met with executives from the Motion Picture Association of America and the Film and Television Producers Guild of India and toured Yash Raj Film Studios to discuss a shared interest in combating piracy. Given the cost inflicted on Hollywood and Bollywood from the unauthorized recording of films, our governments share a common view on the need to pass the Anti-Camcording Amendment to the Cinematography Bill, a Bill that we hope will be taken up and voted on in the winter session of Parliament.

The above engagements collectively underline our readiness to partner with India in combining the ingredients needed to build an advanced innovation ecosystem. We look forward to co-hosting GES 2017 as a platform to further bolster our economic relationship and to showcase not just India and the region’s entrepreneurial talent, but also a new facet of our partnership on the global stage.

About the Author: Ziad Haider serves as the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appears in The Hindu and on Medium.com

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U.S. and Indian flags flutter near the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India.
Posted by Ziad Haider
September 12, 2016

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