Planning Commission Endowment Unit on Development Economics

The Planning Commission Chair in Development Economics was established at the Centre in 1998 with an initial endowment from the Commission. Its objective is to promote research on different dimensions of India’s economy. Professor K. P. Kannan was the first to occupy the Chair until 2004. Since 2005, Professor Sunil Mani has been has been holding this office. The unit currently focuses on issues related to technology and innovation.

Mission Statement

Systematic study of issues with respect to technology in India and Kerala in a comparative perspective that contributes to public policy making in this field.
The idea is to work closely with institutions supporting technological change within the country. This is to be accomplished mainly through carefully chosen research topics with sound theoretical moorings backed by evidence based research resulting in practical policy inputs; and

The research is to be backed by customer-oriented outreach activities in the form of refereed publications (journal articles and books), teaching and training programmes;

The unit will also make an effort to popularise the use of new technology (for instance the Internet) based resources to aid social science research.

The Unit has three main activities: (a) Research; (b) Teaching; and (c) Training.

The unit has zeroed in on three themes for research. They are:

1. Measurement of innovation:
Innovation or the commercial introduction of new processes and products are measured through a series of indicators such as R&D expenditure, patents etc. Such conventional indicators are increasingly eschewed by firms in both developed and developing countries. Instead, the trend is to talk in terms of innovation activities and expenditures rather than mere R&D expenditure covered through innovation surveys. Innovation surveys have now diffused widely across developing countries. However, these surveys suffer from two main problems: (i) poor response rates; and (ii) serious measurement errors. Under the research theme, the Unit is assisting the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India in conducting an innovation survey for India by drawing from the experiences of other developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa.

2. Innovation policy instruments:
Innovation policy consists of a set of instruments and institutions that can together encourage the local development of technology and assist in the use of imported technologies simultaneously. These instruments and institutions can be broadly divided into financial and non-financial. Innovation policy instruments can become effective only if the country in question has a sufficient number of scientists and engineers. Research done under this theme looks into the Indian experience in a comparative perspective.

3. Telecommunications industry:
The telecommunications industry is an important component of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. The industry has two components or divisions. The first deals with the manufacturing of telecom equipment, while the second deals with the distribution of telecom services. Major technological changes have occurred in this industry affecting both the components. Two major changes are noteworthy. First, across the world, mobile telephones have overtaken fixed line telephones. Second, the Internet has penetrated into traditional telecommunication so much so, that the industry has coined a new term called Infocommunications. India, along with a limited number of developing countries had sought to build local innovation capability in the design and manufacturing of essentially fixed line telephone technology. The changes to this innovation capability consequent to the larger technological changes taking place in the industry worldwide are tracked in this research using a sectoral system of innovation perspective. Again, the analysis is relative by comparing the Indian experience with Brazil, China and South Korea.

Teaching

The unit services the following two courses at the M.Phil level:

i. Course 208: Economics of technological change; and
ii. Course 304: India and the global economy

Training:

The Unit co-ordinates the following two training programmes:

i. Teaching Innovations Programme in Economics (TIPE); and
ii. Using Internet for Applied Development Research (UIADR)


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