The INSPIRE Awards-MANAK initiative seeks to elicit science and technology-based concepts and innovations from middle and high school students nationwide. Under the acronym MANAK, which stands for “Million Minds Augmenting National Aspiration and Knowledge,” this student-driven endeavor aims to cultivate an atmosphere of inventive thinking, geared towards addressing societal needs through scientific and technological means.
At the heart of this endeavor lies the “Innovation in Science Pursuit of Inspired Research” (INSPIRE) program, the foremost initiative in the country dedicated to nurturing innovation among schoolchildren, thus aligning with the overarching notion of a million minds enriching the nation’s aspirations and knowledge. A collaborative initiative between the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), INSPIRE beckons students aged 10 to 15, spanning grades 6 to 10, to present their science and technology-rooted ideas to their respective schools by the stipulated deadline for participation.
The INSPIRE program sets its sights on accumulating a remarkable one million unique ideas and innovations rooted in science, all carrying potential societal applications. This ambitious endeavor holds the purpose of fostering a pervasive culture of creativity and innovative ideation within students. Recognizing that innovation is not only pivotal to sustaining competitive advantages but also to the evolution of institutions, industries, and nations on the global stage, the drive for innovation, spanning products, processes, and services, directly enhances the quality of life. Thus, maintaining an edge in both pioneering research and groundbreaking innovation becomes imperative.
Embracing this significance, the Government of India earmarked the period from 2010 to 2020 as the “Decade of Innovation,” underscoring the pivotal role that innovation assumes within governance. Creativity inherently resides within children, with each possessing a unique degree of this innate trait. While its manifestation might vary, the fundamental essence remains constant. Fostering the originality, creativity, and innovative spirit of our youth holds intrinsic value, particularly as they ascend to positions of leadership within our society. This investment ensures an inventive, comprehensive, and innovative trajectory for the nation’s future.
Enabling inclusive development within society mandates that children are offered opportunities that kindle a resistance to complacency while instilling a penchant for pioneering problem-solving methodologies. Among a nation’s most invaluable assets are imaginative, enterprising, and creative children. Equipping them with “Hamdardi” (empathy), “TekhleekiSalahiyet” (creativity), and “Ishtiraq” (collaboration) primes them to become commendable citizens not solely of India but also of the global community.
In line with these principles, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) are embarking on a reinvigorated implementation of the INSPIRE Award-MANAK initiative, harmonizing it with the strategic roadmap of the “Start-up India” program championed by the Prime Minister of India. This collective undertaking presents an opportunity for all states and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to accelerate their efforts, utilizing the time until September 2023, in order to catch up with the leading states in the 2023-2024 edition of the INSPIRE Awards-MANAK.
This scheme is being implemented in the following steps:
* Awareness and competency among district, state, and school-level officials nationwide were heightened through regional workshops, utilization of audio-visual aids, and distribution of informative literature.Organizing internal idea competitions in schools, and online nominations of two to three best original ideas in any Indian language by the respective Principal/Headmaster via the E-MIAS (E-Management of INSPIRE Awards MANAK Scheme) portal. The schools must register on the E-MIAS portal.
* The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) will select the foremost 100,000 (one lakh) ideas/innovations with the capability to cater to societal requirements through science and technology. The INSPIRE Award, carrying an INR 10,000 grant, will be seamlessly disbursed to the bank accounts of the chosen students via the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mechanism, enabling their participation in the District Level Exhibition and Project Competitions (DLEPC).
* District and state governments organise the DLEPC, and the top 10,000 ideas/innovations are chosen out of 100,000 for State Level Exhibition and Project Competitions (SLEPC).
* Following the State Level Exhibition and Project Competitions (SLEPC), a refined selection process identifies the premier 1,000 ideas/innovations from the initial 10,000 entries, propelling them forward to the prestigious National Level Exhibition and Project Competition (NLEPC). In this crucial phase, the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) takes on the role of providing indispensable mentorship to students, fostering the development of prototypes through collaboration with esteemed academic and technological institutions nationwide. It is pertinent to note that the evaluation criteria encompass the uniqueness, societal relevance, environmental sustainability, user-friendliness, and comparative advantage in relation to prevailing, analogous technologies. Now, at the NLEPC, 1,000 of the best ideas/innovations were displayed, and the top 60 innovations out of 1,000 will be shortlisted for national awards and future direction.
In the fiscal year 2021-22, an inclusive cohort of 52,720 students hailing from various corners of the nation earned their way into the prestigious INSPIRE Awards-MANAK. Notably, the award sum of INR 10,000 has been seamlessly disbursed to their designated bank accounts via the Public Financial Management System.
In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, a pool of approximately 1000 students with 1000 distinct ideas, presented as projects or models, entered the arena of the DLEPC for the INSPIRE Awards-MANAK 2021-22, hailing exclusively from the Kashmir Division. Following rigorous evaluation, this number was meticulously whittled down to a select 95 students, each with a unique idea, who then progressed to compete at the SLEPC stage of the INSPIRE Awards-MANAK 2021-22. Out of this group, the cream of the crop – 11 students – emerged as finalists for the NLEPC. Meanwhile, the Jammu Division contributed six compelling ideas to the NLEPC roster. In total, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be represented by 17 aspiring students in the forthcoming 10th NLEPC, scheduled to convene in New Delhi coming November 2023.
The SLEPC phase was orchestrated by the Department of Education in Science and Mathematics, SCERT, Jammu and Kashmir. This event unfolded on January 2, 2023, within the Kashmir Division at the Bemina Srinagar complex. Subsequently, on January 3, 2023, a parallel exhibition took place in the Jammu Division. Noteworthy dignitaries graced the Kashmir Division event, including Dr.Tasaduq Hussain Mir, Director School Education, Kashmir, who held the mantle of chief guest. Accompanying him were Fayaz Ahmad Fayaz, JD Center Office, SCERT, J&K, in the role of a special guest, and MohdShareefDeedhar, Joint Director, SCERT-KD, who presided over the inaugural ceremony. Similarly, the Jammu Division proceedings were inaugurated by Dr. Ravi Shanker Sharma, Director School Education, Jammu, alongside Iftikhar Hussain Chauhan, Director Finance, School Education Department, J&K.
Indisputably, the New Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 sets forth the intention to nurture creativity and critical thinking among children, with the ultimate aim of fostering innovation and sound decision-making skills. This particular facet of the NEP aligns seamlessly with the ethos of the INSPIRE Awards-MANAK. Hence, an ongoing focus on nurturing innovation among school students remains paramount, given the pivotal role that science and technology-based ideas and innovations can play in steering individuals out of crises and propelling the nation towards self-sufficiency.
In this vein, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) in Jammu and Kashmir has forged a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Innovation Foundation (NIF). This collaboration is dedicated to harnessing the moment and urging our students to channel their creative energies, thereby fostering a prolific outpouring of innovative ideas. As the Nodal Officer for the Kashmir Division of the INSPIRE Awards-MANAK, I extend a heartfelt encouragement to parents, educators, and institutions not yet partaking in this initiative. Joining the movement to actively engage students in contributing their ideas and innovations through their schools is a significant stride towards realizing the tenets of the NEP-2020. Moreover, it stands as an embodiment of our nation’s economic interests at large, and specifically resonates with the aspirations of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is Academic Officer,
SCERT Jammu Division JKUT)