CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— MIT Sloan School of Management recently announced that Senior Lecturer Chintan Vaishnav was appointed to serve as mission director of India’s Atal Innovation Mission.
The Mission, housed at NITI Aayog, is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to create and promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Vaishnav says, “At the highest level, the work of building a culture of innovation is one of engaging creativity in the service of humankind. India is a place of limitless creative potential. I am excited for the opportunity to help harness this potential.”
He adds, “Being the youngest nation of the world with 50% of the population under 30, India’s continued success depends critically upon how productively it engages its youth. The Innovation Mission is key to this objective and to what will define the future India.”
Over the past six years, Vaishnav has worked and lived in rural to very rural India for a total of 18 months, researching challenges related to agriculture, water, and livelihood. His research has produced solutions such as on-farm soil nutrient management and water quality testing and purification that bring world-class science and technology to underserved communities at an affordable price. His work on water has turned into an early-stage startup that seeks to enable communities keep their water safe.
“This experience has taught me how to innovate for the developing world with rigor and relevance. I hope to bring this culture to my new position as mission director,” he says.
A member of the founding team of the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, Vaishnav also designed and teaches a graduate-level course on Technology, Design, and Entrepreneurship for Emerging Community. The course has trained 200 graduate students from 18 different departments of MIT and has guided a total of 200,000 hours of fieldwork in India, Nepal, and Africa. The work has produced 45 patents, 12 commercial licenses, and to date 11 startups, some of which he advises.
Vaishnav says, “This experience has taught me how to engage young minds in solving some our most pressing challenges in a hands-on, action-oriented way. I hope to create similar engagement as mission director.”
Prior to MIT, Vaishnav worked at Bell Labs, designing innovative products for high-speed networks. This work led to his PhD research on how regulators can balance compliance and innovation as new technologies disrupt the traditionally regulated ones in the Internet space. Since then, Vaishnav has advised the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and worked with several large communications companies who are members of MIT’s Communications Futures Program.
Vaishnav holds a Master’s degree in Technology and Policy and a PhD in Engineering Systems from MIT. He joined the MIT Sloan faculty as a senior lecturer after finishing his PhD. In addition to his degrees from MIT, he holds a BA in Indian Classical Music from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, India.
“My new assignment speaks directly to MIT Sloan’s mission of developing leaders who make a positive difference in the world. MIT Sloan has been a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and this opportunity helps take this work to a nation of 1.3 billion people via the Atal Innovation Mission,” says Vaishnav, who will be on a two-year leave from MIT to serve as mission director.