John Hoffmire: I understand that you have been a strong advocate and promoter of the field of quantum computing in India, that you have a new position as Chair at Quantum Ecosystems Technology Council of India, and that you founded a startup focused on innovation management and future tech consulting, called Benzaiten Advisors. I’d love to know more about all of this.
Reena: Thank you, John. I am very passionate about quantum technology and computing and the potential it has to change the world in many positive ways. Society, industry, and ecosystems have the opportunity to shape and point this powerful technology in the right direction, for the betterment of this planet and humanity. The range of quantum technologies is far reaching. It encompasses communication, computation, encryption, numerical weather prediction, aerospace engineering, advanced manufacturing, simulations, health, agriculture, and education just to name a few. So it is an exciting field to be working in.
I did create and am the CEO of Benzaiten Advisors, which was started as a company to influence the direction that technology takes in this world with a bias towards innovation and collaboration for the betterment of humanity. Benzaiten Advisors is essentially a consulting firm with a portfolio of workshops for organizations and individuals in the area of innovation management.
As for my new position, I am the founder chair for the Quantum Ecosystems Technology Council of India, launched officially via the National Quantum Science and Technology Symposium. This new council’s work is to bring different stakeholders in the quantum technology eco-system, namely academic researchers, investors, private sector executives, start-up companies, and government officials under one umbrella. Essentially it’s a collaboration hub and, again, it’s a very exciting space to be in. By promoting advanced research in quantum technology, engineering and technology disciplines, we intend to act as a catalyst and to accelerate the Quantum technology journey of India.
John: You’ve been involved in something like this before in a professional capacity, if I remember right?
Reena: Yes, I have. I am on the Steering Committee of the IEEE Quantum Initiative. IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and it’s a professional association for electronic and electrical engineering. In fact, it is the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology.
IEEE Quantum is an IEEE Future Directions initiative launched in 2019 that serves as IEEE’s leading community for all projects and activities on quantum technologies. The initiative has developed a project plan to address the current landscape of quantum technologies, identify challenges and opportunities, leverage and collaborate with existing initiatives, engage the quantum community at large, and sustain the Quantum Initiative in the long-term.
John: You’ve also been involved in other entrepreneurial and innovative technology ventures. Tell me about the work you did with Microsoft’s Garage, India.
Reena: I was the founding Director for the Garage in India, I worked on establishing the Garage function, principles, strategy, and labs aligned to the Garage focus areas in India. The Garage is a platform for employee-led innovation, bringing together people across roles, skills, and experience to lend their passion to create change in the world – to improve society, business processes, or for the sheer joy of hacking an existing project and making it better. It’s the intrapreneurial channel for Microsoft.
I used the platform to engage with the ecosystem and to create opportunities for partnering in experimentation, problem solving and social good initiatives. I was able to bring in a strong focus on encouraging women in STEM, to encourage their participation in historically male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and also engage actively with other innovation communities in India.
John: As if you haven’t been busy enough with all of this, you have also published a book. Please tell me more about that?
Reena: I wrote a book called Innovation Magic, which is a guide to creating and managing innovation management functions within organizations. In the book, I raise the following questions: 1. How does one identify the true innovators in a large organization and then harness them for the cause of innovation? 2. How should the organizational innovation function be structured to make all of this happen? 3. How does one create a culture for innovation so that innovation and its enabling processes begin to work on their own?
John: You have accomplished a great deal since you were at Oxford in 2014 as a fellow of the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP). If you will, tell me more about your experience with CRISP and how it has shaped your thinking and career?
Reena: My experience with the CRISP program was pivotal in helping me assess and re-evaluate my career and personal goals and aspiration. It also gave me the confidence and tools to become even more entrepreneurial minded. As an example, not long after my time in Oxford I was involved in creating CRISP Social Ventures, an alumni group of CRISP scholars who work with, create, manage, support, and mentor social enterprises in India. Its mission is to pave the way towards a better, more effective and sustainable future by offering education and poverty alleviation programs that drive the economy and improve lives in India and Sri Lanka.
John: It is so rewarding to see the talent, skills set, and passion that CRISP fellows bring to the programme and then to see what they do with their talents and training post fellowship. Thank you for catching us up on the interesting work you’ve been doing. Good luck this week with the National Quantum Science And Technology Symposium. I wish you every success.
Reena: Thank you, John. I’m honored anytime I get to be involved with the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP).
Reena Dayal is the founder and CEO of Benzaiten Advisors, and Chair at Quantum Ecosystems Technology Council of India. She is also an alum of the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP) 2014.
Interviewer: Dr. John Hoffmire is the Chairman of the Center on Business and Poverty, and Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business
Click here for more information about the National Quantum Science And Technology Symposium.