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July 19, 2021

Review: “Mapping India’s AI Potential: CSET Data Brief” by Husanjot Chahal, Sara Abdulla, Jonathan Murdick and Ilya Rahkovsky

Author: Ashok Vardhan Adipudi

Citation: Chahal, Husanjot; Abdulla, Sara; Murdick, Jonathan; and Rahkovsky, Ilya, “Mapping India’s AI Potential: CSET Data Brief”, Centre for Security and Emerging Technology (March 2021) <https://doi.org/10.51593/20200096 >


The subject data brief on India’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities and their effective utilisation explores different factors such as research, talent, patenting of AI inventions, AI companies and investments, and cloud computing. These factors within the domestic Indian society bring to the fore interfaces that have been at loggerheads when it comes to developing domestic institutions and capabilities. The data brief bases its conclusions and inferences on direct or indirect empirical data collected from different sources including international institutions and governments. The data brief explores the importance of AI in the modern technology-driven market and arrives at certain factors in the context of analysing India’s capabilities in working with and developing its AI potential. 

Importance of Human Resource Management

Factors pertaining to human resources and knowledge management such as research and talent are explored by the data brief to understand how Indian institutes of higher education have been faring on AI research and collaborations. The data brief highlights a very interesting and mixed trend of Indian institutes being both constrained in their human resources capabilities while Indian researchers are able to collaborate with their foreign counterparts in their publications. This trend brings out two inferences: firstly, that there is a growing domestic demand for better AI capabilities and secondly, that funding for AI innovation and research output in light of India’s GDP is very low compared to other countries and that these collaborations in emerging subfields of AI technology have witnessed a consistent year-on-year growth. These inferences are reflected in the data on talent flows from India, the data brief highlights that there is a huge outflow of talent from India for state-of-the-art research on AI to countries like the United States (US). The data brief reiterates in its examination that an ability to address domestic AI-interest would only be served better in better funding of AI research and innovation in collaboration with tested foreign partners including from the US.

In addressing concerns on research in emerging technologies such as AI, the data brief expresses concerns on open access to latest research and open-source utilisation of at least publicly funded research. These not only seek to advance the current state of knowledge but also provide a greater impetus for start-ups and medium enterprises that either want to stay on top of their technological capabilities or intend to be a new entrant in the field and develop better capabilities. This is also a valid concern on cross-border cooperation and access to research that is not a threat to peace but has been publicly funded. The data brief, thus, leans towards a highly corporate and market-oriented approach to availability of knowledge and capabilities in omitting these concerns.

Patenting & Market Demand for Technologies

Intellectual property protection has been viewed as a key to prosperity for technology-focussed start-ups and Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Particularly in AI, patenting and patent protection are seen as steps before capturing a market. Noting that AI-based patenting has increased in India and that a majority share of such patents in India is from non-resident entities in the field of business patents, the work implies how India as a key market for companies is yet to find its potential AI competitors from the domestic arena. Further, the work also noted a steep increase in funding for privately held Indian AI companies since 2018 by examining data sets including dollar values of publicly disclosed investments and number of AI-centred investment transactions.

The data brief, although, takes a comparative approach between Indian and Chinese positions on most of the factors discussed above, does not disclose the basis for such a comparison. This comparison may seem odd in light of socio-cultural differences, including accessibility and possibility of collaborations with foreign entities, but it was clearly meant to be from the vantage point of the US in examining its prospects and possible positions with both the countries. The analysis of empirical data presented in this data brief does provide substantive feedback on the state of our present institutions and global outlook towards India.


The data brief highlights the necessity of focus on funding innovation and research in AI for domestic programmes including Startup India, and other programmes aimed at development of and credit availability for MSMEs and start-ups. This is not only seen as a precursor for a vibrant foreign engagement in this field but also to cater to rising domestic demands for development of research infrastructure and funding in this crucial field. With increasing multilateralism in the international order, this lateral on emerging technologies and their safe use is a key facet of growing debate. It is in emphasizing this in the context of the India-US relationship, that this data brief finds its roots.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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