The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has entrusted the spadework to Niti Aayog, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
According to officials involved in the groundwork, the innovation centres would be used as tinkering laboratories to solve urban issues, including traffic congestion, mosquito breeding, stray dog menace or pollution due to local industries. A team of officials has been asked to see the best cities which would be best suited to launch at least 10 innovation centres.
A source, involved in the planning process who did not wish to be identified, told ET, “The better performing cities chosen under Smart City Mission already have command and control centres, which have data and infrastructure to understand the urban issues plaguing that local body. Now, some urban local bodies would be chosen to launch pilot projects, which would showcase technological or economic innovations that could address a major challenge area.”
In its 2019 manifesto, under “Entrepreneurship and Startups” section, BJP had promised, “India is now among the largest startup ecosystems of the world. We will further strengthen this ecosystem by… Creating 100 Innovation Zones in Urban Local Bodies.”
Each urban local body would flag an issue and the idea would be throw open to entrepreneurs to come and suggest a solution. This would be done through the innovation zone or centre.
Another official said, “There are many urban problems in cities. For instance, a city could flag mosquito breeding. With the systems in command and control centre, the city has been mapped on certain parameters. An entrepreneur could put in place a software which could set off alarms if there are some breeding spots discovered.”
There are other problems in cities like Surat or Ahmedabad which have a flourishing textile industry, which is highly polluting. These innovation centres could help in addressing urban issues which have plagued the city for long but have not been solved. The government also wants the innovation centres to act as lighthouse projects. If an experiment is successful in one centre, it could be shared on a common platform for replication in other cities with similar issues.
“This would also help in spawning an entire industry of innovation. We are looking at this as a way to encourage startups,” said the official quoted above.