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Brain Drain – 10% of all innovations in US have Indians as inventors

February 23, 2011

There are many instances when we have come across or at least heard this issue in the Indian technology space. Is there a brain drain or to state in a better term “Intellectual Drain” from India to US? There are two contradicting views. First set of people say that engineers who pursue their higher education in US and settle down there eventually affect brain drain. Other set of people state insignificant statistical contribution to this factor supporting the improved lab and life conditions in the US.

I always go and look for patents as the first indicator of intellect/innovation/invention even though there are many others to explore. I came across an old yet fresh study relating to this factor.  NYU and Duke University conducted a research in 2007 and found out that 10% of patents filed in US in 2006 had at least one Indian inventor as it’s co-inventor. This is compared to 1% american population being people from Indian origin. Well, one might think immediately after reading this statistics, that there is massive amount of Brain Drain. Let’s think again from a different angle. This 1% of american population having Indian origin is mostly from the technology background while whole American population does not come from technology background.

On the other hand, this 10% number has grown in the past few years which shows that confidence of Indian inventors has increased. Truth be told, India was not confident in the manufacturing or innovation sector while focused on service sector. Also, improving living conditions, growing economy, and predictions of becoming a super power soon is bringing Indian inventors, leaders, and VCs back to India, and especially to Bangalore. One might look at US as the training hub and India being on the receiving end very soon in the future. Lot of Chinese students are sent to US for the same purpose of training and know-how so that they can contribute to their country. Improving conditions of Indian economy is taking us to the same path. In the end, their is a very thin line in calling it Brain Drain or what I call is ‘Foreign Training’. Interesting studies on this topic might shed some more light.

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