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Remarks at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at Indian Instute of Science, Bangalore, India

Thank you, Dr. Balaram, and to all the students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Science for welcoming me here today.

This week, I've come to India on a trade mission featuring 24 different American companies that are market leaders in a variety of high technology sectors ranging from defense and communications to civil nuclear and aviation. 

These are companies that can help India grow its economy, build up its infrastructure, and create good jobs for people in India and America.

These are companies renowned for their commitment to the principles of ground-breaking science, engineering and innovation.

So it's certainly appropriate that I've come here to the Indian Institute for Science, a place where the faculty and students live and breathe research and innovation.

This school is the heir to a long lineage of scientific discovery that has defined India all the way back to antiquity.

It was Indian mathematicians who invented the numerical system and the number zero. 

It was Indian doctors who pioneered ayurveda, the earliest school of medicine.

Ancient Indian innovators brought us dental surgery, furnaces and the oven. 

That pioneering legacy continues to this day.  In recent years, Indian inventors have delivered world-changing innovations like Hotmail and the Pentium chip. 

Indian innovators have also taken existing technologies and tailored them for its own growing market -- delivering a $2,000 automobile and inexpensive heart surgery. 

Scientists from this very school helped develop a $35 laptop.

Meanwhile, Indian management thinkers like C.K. Prahalad and Ram Charan have forever changed the way business leaders run their organizations.

In fact, Prahalad is probably most responsible for popularizing Indian business practices that enable the delivery of high-technology solutions at low prices. 

This is critical to all countries, but especially for those countries in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere trying to pull themselves up the development ladder.

This is the rich legacy students at this school will build upon – and you have an opportunity to make your own mark on history.

You are here at the Institute at a time in Indian and world history that is at the same time frightening and exciting.

For the last two decades, India has experienced economic growth unlike any time in its modern history. 

India now has 45 million entrepreneurs – most building small businesses, some building big businesses – but all contributing to an economy that boasts a middle class as big as the entire population of the United States.

But as you're all aware, alongside these growing opportunities are more serious issues for India and the world than we'd all care to count.

Climate change, poverty, disease, terrorism – each issue on its own is enough to consume all of our time.   

But we've got to deal with them all at once.

It's enough to make anyone despair for the future. 

But I'm optimistic and confident the world is equipped to deal with the challenges we face – and a big part of the reason is young people like you.

Because although these problems are daunting, they do have solutions.

Many of them can be solved with the science, math and engineering skills that you learn here every day.

With your talent, your creativity and your ingenuity, you have the power to make a real difference, and I hope you will seize that opportunity.

But your skills alone are not enough.  That's only half the equation. 

To spur the new technologies India needs to grow its economy and help solve the world's problems, we hope India will continue working to create a commercial environment that is more open and more friendly to competition and innovation.

Back in 1991, then finance Minister Singh began a historic opening of India to the world.  Trade barriers and tax rates came down.  State monopolies were broken up.  And the license raj was greatly diminished.

The talent of the Indian people was unleashed, and the results speak for themselves. 

Annual growth rates of 8-10 percent have become common. 

Indian companies like Tata, Wipro, Infosys and Reliance have become internationally renowned.   

Great progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go in India’s effort to create a system of laws, and a regulatory infrastructure that encourages the freer flow of ideas, people, and technologies across its borders. A system that supports aspiring innovators like all of you.

To cite just one example, India is still working to establish a robust system of intellectual property protection – which is an absolute cornerstone of an innovation-based economy.

Over time, countries that do not have strong intellectual property protections will face two equally unappealing options:

Either their scientists, engineers and businesses will lose the incentive to innovate.  Or they will decide to innovate somewhere else. 

To understand why public policy issues like intellectual property protection are so important in encouraging innovation, it's useful to consider the case of Vinod Khosla, one of our most famous Indian-American entrepreneurs. 

Vinod Khosla co-founded Sun Microsystems in California in 1982, and later built a career as one of America’s most renowned venture capitalists. 

Of course, Vinod Khosla’s vision, intellect, and work ethic are the primary reasons why he found success. But he may not have found that success in America if not for:

  • A legal system that protected his intellectual property;
  • A financial system that was open to capital from all over the world; and
  • A marketplace that gave innovators in any industry, and of any nationality, freedom to shake up the status quo and to challenge entrenched powers.

And because Vinod Khosla chose to create his innovations in America and invest in America, hundreds of thousands of jobs were created in our country.

Of course, what he did in America was also good for the whole world, as millions of people and businesses became more efficient and more productive as a result of the technologies he pioneered.

Somewhere in the room, is perhaps the Vinod Khosla of clean energy, or the Vinod Khosla of medical research – and the more that India can open its economy and protect intellectual property, the better chance it will have to nurture groundbreaking innovations and to create opportunities for its own people.

As leaders, innovators and consumers, you will write the next chapter in India’s rich history.

You have an enormous amount of responsibility riding on your shoulders because your success isn't just important to you and your family – it’s important to me and everyone else who cares about solving the world’s problems.

I hope you make the most of your time at the Indian Institute of Science.  And with that, I will be happy to take your questions.