Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma at the CSIS Innovation Forum, New Delhi
New Delhi: Thank you for inviting me to this wonderful event. It’s a pleasure to see so many familiar faces who have been such enthusiastic supporters of the U.S.-India partnership over the years. This of course includes Richard Rossow of CSIS and Didar Singh from FICCI. Thank you for organizing this event and for putting together such an impressive lineup of speakers. I also want to acknowledge Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, who is joining us from Washington.
A forum focused on innovation is long overdue and I applaud CSIS for taking the initiative to establish one. I hope this forum can 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.
As many of you know, innovation and entrepreneurship are key focus areas under the U.S.-India Strategic & Commercial Dialogue (S&CD), which begins here in Delhi tomorrow. Normally August is a quiet month for diplomats, but that’s not the case on the U.S.-India account! We also have Defense Minister Parrikar heading to Washington today for his fourth engagement this year with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
The S&CD is the signature, annual forum for policy discussions between our two governments. It was established in 2009 by then Secretary of State Clinton and a commercial track was added last year. The United States leads few such comprehensive dialogues like this and Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker are pleased to be here in Delhi for the latest iteration. The work of the Innovation Forum will be reflected in the S&CD proceedings and I’m confident this will help both governments promote policies conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bilateral Ties Promote Innovation and Entrepreneurship
When we added the commercial track to the S&CD, it reflected a long-standing reality of the U.S.-India relationship: economic ties are the real engine of this dynamic partnership. The numbers speak for themselves.
Two-way trade reached a record $107 billion in 2015 – five times what it was a decade ago. Investment by American companies in India and Indian corporations in the United States now stands at around $40 billion. Defense trade has reached nearly $15 billion. And more than 500 American companies are currently operating in India, supporting millions of local livelihoods.
Despite this astounding progress, we still have tremendous potential to grow, especially in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. One of the primary competitive advantages of the United States remains its ability to continuously innovate, and we have a business culture and a regulatory environment that nurtures bringing new ideas to market and taking risks. Likewise, the innovative spirit of the Indian people is renowned around the world, a fact exemplified not only by the large number of successful entrepreneurs here in India, but by the number of Indians and Indian Americans at the cutting edge of innovation in the U.S. It’s no surprise Indian origin entrepreneurs are responsible for 15 percent of Silicon Valley start-ups.
And a vibrant innovation culture is critical to India’s economic future. We all know that India is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy. But in order for this tremendous growth to be sustainable, it will require careful investments in urban planning, modern infrastructure, and clean energy. Two-thirds of the India of 2030 is yet to be built. This is a daunting challenge, but with the right innovative technologies, India has the ability to leapfrog development in a number of areas.
According to the recently released Global Innovation Index (GII), India’s ranking increased by 15 spots this year. This is positive news, but the report indicates more needs to be done to push innovation in India. At the launch of the GII a couple of weeks ago, Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Sitharaman indicated that the government will set up a team to review policies that foster innovation. The U.S. welcomes the opportunity to work with the Government of India in this endeavor.
The U.S. is also striving to emphasize innovation in every facet of our cooperation with India, from clean energy and smart cities to defense and space exploration. For example, “Inspiring Innovation” is the motto for USAID’s Millennium Alliance Partnership, which leverages Indian creativity to develop innovative solutions that are improving lives across India and the world. USAID piloted a low-cost Solar Conduction Dryer in Kenya, which is now being used by 1,000 farmer groups in Kenya to preserve fruits and vegetables. This innovative solution was developed by five Indian engineering students. The compatibility of our values, our strengths, and our global visions makes us natural partners in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship around the world.
Innovation Ecosystems and Protecting Intellectual Property
Recognizing the critical need to foster innovation and entrepreneurship here in India, the government has developed initiatives like “Startup India,” “Digital India,” and “Make in India” – all of which the U.S. strongly supports. But in order for these initiatives to achieve their full potential, an ecosystem that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship must be nurtured. Along with policy reforms, this requires a business culture in which diversity, radical thinking, dissenting opinions, experimentation, and risk-taking are not just encouraged but applauded.
We must also promote an education system that can equip young people with the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century innovation economy. And we can all do a better job to ensure women receive the necessary educational opportunities to become successful entrepreneurs. Today you will hear in one of the panels about university research networks and how partnerships between government, the private sector, and academia can encourage innovation. I am pleased to see this given the strong interest on part of U.S. universities to develop innovation partnership programs with Indian counterparts.
A strong intellectual property regime is the cornerstone of any innovation ecosystem and brings with it huge economic gains. For innovation to have an impact, it requires an environment where new ideas can reach the market and where entrepreneurs have confidence their ideas will be protected. The importance given to establishing a strong IPR regime by Prime Minister Modi to help bolster innovation is timely and much appreciated. It’s an essential ingredient for initiatives like “Digital India” and “Make in India” to be successful. A robust intellectual property regime is not just important for foreign investors; it is an essential element Indian innovators will look for as they ramp up exports of goods and services. It is more critical than ever for government and industry leaders to understand the implications of intellectual property protection – both legal and economic, to protect business interests at home and abroad. This means sharing best practices between governments and industry, promoting a robust legal regime that appreciates international standards, stronger enforcement, and more stringent penalties. We understand that considerable progress has been made, but a lot more still needs to happen. After all, intellectual property is the fuel that powers the engine of prosperity, fostering invention and innovation.
Global Entrepreneurship Summit
It is incumbent upon all governments to create policies and a regulatory environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, but governments cannot do this in a vacuum. Industry’s voice is indispensable in serving as a guide on this journey, and we are deeply committed to further strengthening the private sector’s role in the conversation.
A major initiative that brings together government and private sector leaders is the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). Since the first summit in 2010, the GES has helped over 17,000 entrepreneurs and innovators around the world connect with each other, access capital, find mentors, and start new ventures.
The United States hosted the Summit in California’s Silicon Valley this past June. I was especially pleased we had a separate day devoted to young entrepreneurs and women, because we all know countries cannot achieve their full economic potential if half their population are not given adequate opportunities. The Summit brought together 700 entrepreneurs and 300 investors from 170 countries. $10 billion in venture capital is expected to be invested as a result of contacts made at just this one summit alone.
We were very pleased that India has agreed to host the next GES in 2017. GES2017 will provide a platform to highlight the ways in which our governments are fostering an environment for innovative business development in both the U.S. and India. It will also provide an ideal forum in which India can showcase its entrepreneurs and attract leading international investors and venture capitalists.
I know the Indian government is developing an ambitious vision for this one-of-a-kind event which demonstrates that India is open for business and that it is a global leader when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. We anxiously await word on when and where GES2017 will take place.
Entrepreneurship Roundtable and the PAGE Program
I had alluded earlier to the importance of mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs. This is why the U.S. Department of Commerce and the White House National Economic Council are co-hosting an Entrepreneurship Roundtable with the Government of India to discuss the current landscape for entrepreneurship and the prospects for developing an Indian Entrepreneurship Ambassadors program. This would be modeled after the U.S. Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (or “PAGE”) initiative. We have invited a diverse group of successful Indian entrepreneurs to participate in the roundtable discussion and hope they can share their experiences as well as ideas for a mentorship program.
The U.S. PAGE program deploys some of the United States’ most successful business leaders to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world and provides tools to new businesses domestically. A similar Indian Entrepreneurship Ambassadors program would advance Prime Minister Modi’s “Startup India” initiative and facilitate closer ties between Indian and American entrepreneurs. The program would enable the Government of India to promote entrepreneurship across the country – including in smaller cities and rural areas– by identifying Indian business champions who can inspire the next generation of successful entrepreneurs.
We hope many of the entrepreneurs involved in the roundtable – as well as participants in the audience here today – will choose to serve as mentors and ambassadors, helping the next generation of Indian entrepreneurs navigate the difficult road to success. After all, a supportive ecosystem for innovation is one which prizes training and mentorship and encourages burgeoning entrepreneurs to go out on a limb and take risks.
Failure, after all, is a big part of success. Thomas Edison, when explaining the trials and tribulations of inventing the lightbulb said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.” This is the mindset we must adopt if we want to see innovation flourish. Our governments and private sectors are on the right track, and with help from forums like this one, I’m confident India will transform into an ever larger global innovation powerhouse. I encourage everyone in this room to view next year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit as a breakout opportunity. Thank you.