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Magazine Editorial

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Title Parbatbhai's Foot Pump: Successful Technology Transfer from Grassroots to Global
Details This farmer and trader from the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat was disturbed by the danger of pesticide intoxication and the tiresome procedure of spraying his cotton fields with the conventional pumps available in the market. He set himself the task of finding a suitable solution and his first attempt was to replace the traditional mechanism of winding the handle to operate the pump. Parbatbhai tried to make a spray pump working on the jerks and swings created by a farmer’s walking movements. When the farmer walked carrying the tank on his back, the swinging movement stirred the pesticide inside the tank and it spilled out. There was yet another problem faced by him: the pump was large and very heavy. By reducing the size of the tank the small amount of liquid within would not be enough to create adequate pressure. It was almost by chance that Parbatbhai found the solution for his invention. While fiddling with the pump, he noticed that the tank was leaking. The leakage could not be located even after careful search. So he filled the tank with air using a foot pump. When the tank was full, water sprayed out from an almost invisible opening. He got the insight he was waiting for, air pressure to pump the pesticide out! In the next step, he replaced the screw pumps by special air sandals, which created pressure inside the tank and sprayed the pesticide. The result was a spray pump that saved time, energy and labour cost. The greatest advantage of the new pump over the traditional ones is that it is half the weight, needs very little repairing and when it does, the farmers themselves can manage with the spare parts commonly available in the villages. As no pesticide is spilled, there’s no harm to the farmer’s health and no strains caused by the continuous winding of the pump handle. Technology Transfer With so many positive features, Parbatbhai’s foot pump easily attracted the attention of an American patent firm who spotted the promising innovation on SRISTI’s homepage. The M-CAM Company, developers of a sophisticated data management system for patents in the United States, had approached SRISTI to explore the possibilities of cooperation for supporting the IPRs of grassroots innovators. They had also seen the film made by BBC 'Patently Obvious' broadcast in June end (see page no 19) and a detailed mention about SRISTI’s activities in The Economist article also at the same time. A few months later, SRISTI’s coordinator met Mr. David B Martin, CEO of M-Cam Doors and shared different innovations already displayed on SRISTI’s website (www.SRISTI. org/knownetgrin. html). Foot pedal sprayer caught the attention of CEO of M-Cam. He looked up his patent database to find out which kind of firms had licensed foot pedal technology. He discovered that among a large number of firms who had invested in the technology, there were also few toy industries who could be interested in this. He immediately contacted one of the leading toy manufacturers and the deal was stuck soon after. What is important to mention here is that not a single piece of this sprayer had yet been sold in India although the concept seemed very relevant. The entire license fee has been shared with the innovator in this case. The right to use or license this technology in India as sprinkler has been retained. Two leading firms viz. ASPEE and UPL have shown interest in licensing this technology for Indian market. Negotiations are on. Indian grassroots innovators can indeed produce ideas or innovation for global market. A discussion was triggered on how the technology transfer fees should be divided amongst the innovators, their villages, an innovation augmentation fund and mediating institutes like SRISTI or GIAN for further investments on scouting and documenting grassroots innovations. SRISTI has decided to submit the choices to the innovators themselves to find out their opinion about it. Through voting, the innovators will decide upon the most appropriate percentages that all the parties involved should be entitled to.
Volume No. Honey Bee, 12(3):6&9, 2001