Berkeley-Haas Open Innovation Ties to India Deepen

Berkeley-Haas ties to India grew stronger last month as the Garwood Center honored President Pranab Mukherjee as an “outstanding global leader” in open innovation.

Solomon Darwin, executive director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, (pictured), presented Mukherjee with the award during a Dec. 17 ceremony at the president’s office in New Delhi.

He was joined by Prof. Catherine Wolfram, co-founder of the Energy Institute at Berkeley-Haas, and Prof. Ganesh Iyer, past associate dean and marketing faculty chair. Wolfram presented her research on solving India’s energy challenges and Iyer shared his work on sustainable models for a national sanitation plan in India.

Iyer, who spent part of his sabbatical last semester in southern India working on research related to public sanitation, called President Mukherjee a “distinguished statesman,” who has championed government decisions on a range of issues including energy security, sanitation, the right to information, and a unique national project aimed at biometrically identifying India’s 1.2 billion people, including its poorest.

Accepting the honor, Mukherjee thanked Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, as well as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed a legislative proclamation that acknowledged Mukherjee’s open innovation efforts.

The Energy Institute’s Catherine Wolfram (left) presenting the state’s open innovation proclamation to India’s president. Prof. Ganesh Iyer (right).

Open Innovation is a method used to capture the flow of knowledge from many sources, internal and external, in an organization. It’s essential to government, Mukherjee said, as it “opens up new avenues to solve problems of citizens efficiently and effectively.” With the Garwood Center’s academic collaboration, India created its first Open Innovation Center Jan. 10 at Andhra University, one of India’s oldest universities. The center was opened by Chandhrababu Naidu, the chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Darwin has been deeply involved in India’s efforts to build smart cities, which use technology to address infrastucture issues such as traffic, parking, sanitation, and water. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to build 100 smart cities in India by 2022 to meet the increasing urban population—expected to rise by more than 400 million people by 2050.

Naidu is establishing India’s first smart city in Visakhapatnam, a site chosen as a model by both the Obama and Modi administrations.

Thirty three Berkeley-Haas and engineering students in Darwin’s project course last fall, “Building Smart Cities, Leveraging Open Innovation,” worked on technological and business solutions for making the city smart in six areas: energy, education, food and water, safety and security, housing and transportation, and telecommunications.

The students traveled to Andhra University this month to learn from their counterparts at India’s top universities. More than 200 Indian students on 38 teams participated in the “Open Innovation, Smart Cities” Challenge on Jan 4, organized by the Garwood Center and Andhra University.

On Jan. 10, the students presented to Chief Minister Naidu and his cabinet after refining their models. City leaders, finding the models of value, signed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to develop the plans further, Darwin said.

India’s growing interest in connecting to the Bay Area’s technology community made headlines in Sept. 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Silicon Valley, stopping to speak with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Modi plans to link 600,000 villages through fiber optic networks.

“Building Smart Villages, Leveraging Open Innovation” is Darwin’s next project-based course offered in the fall.