The Ministry of Science and Technology has embarked on bringing prompt benefits to the society with its three-pronged approach of fostering scientific innovation, bringing in interdepartmental coordination, and handholding to start-ups to pave way for ushering technological transfers for commercialization. Last three years has seen a concerted action with this outlook.
Scientific innovation is the driving force behind giving competitive advantage to industry for penetrating and capturing the global market. The Government of India launched a flagship initiative ‘Start-up India’ in January, 2016. The PM announcing the Start-up India Action Plan had said, ‘Successful start-ups are usually created by those who are driven by an idea, or an urge to solve a problem that people face’. Science and technology is a key factor in this programme and entrepreneurship that is given thrust in its 19 point Start-up India action plan to facilitate acceleration of start-ups in the country. The Inter-Ministerial Board (IMB) has been entrusted to evaluate the applications received from start-ups and offer them tax rebates and other benefits.
Two other strong initiatives are Atal Innovation Mission and NIDHI – the National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovations. These programmes focus on building an innovation driven enterprise ecosystem. Further, Public-Private partnerships with FICCI, CII and high technology private companies are being pursued to strengthen the innovation ecosystem.
The Department of Science and Technology has been bringing together different governmental departments and organizations to leverage technology to improve performance to benefit the people. The Biotechnology Industry Research Council (BIRAC) has been rolling out medical technologies, Rotavac being one of them. Dr. Renu Swarup, its Managing Director says, ‘The government is ushering in supportive policies and removing regulatory barriers to create entrepreneurship and we stand at the cusp of commercialization’. To take forward the initiative of Swatch Bharat, biodigestors have come up in different forms to address specific waste management. Scientific organizations like Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) came up with their Nisarguna, biogas plant and are improving it further.
Programme for Development of Technology Commercialization (PDTC) of the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) NRDC is promoting technologies with critical value additions for commercialization. NRDC and CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa have signed a Memorandum of Agreement this year for marketing the inventions and innovations , formulations, know-how and processes related to oceanographic data collection, environmental impact assessment and modelling to predict environmental impact.
Rural Technology Action Group (RuTag) of IIT Delhi at behest of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched a programme called Unnat Bharat Abhiyan with an aim to connect institutions of higher education, including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research (IISERs) etc with local communities to address the development challenges through appropriate technologies.
ISRO has demonstrated new technologies in the launch vehicle programme. As part of the Advanced Launch Vehicle Technology initiatives, the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) and SCRAMJET Engine Technology Demonstrator had their successful maiden test flights. Besides, the launch of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – Mark II (GSLV- Mk II) became the third consecutively successful launch of GSLV carrying the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS).
The Disaster Management Support (DMS) Programme of ISRO is continuing to provide space based data and information as well as communication means for the efficient management of disasters. The Decision Support Centre (DMS-DSC) established at National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) is monitoring natural disasters including forest fires. During 2016, more than 110 flood maps were sent to the concerned State and Central officers in addition to making them available to users on the web through Bhuvan and NDEM web portals. The depressions formed in the Bay of Bengal including the cyclonic storms Roanu in May, Kyant in October and Vardah in December 2016 were monitored and the cyclone track and intensity were predicted. All the information was regularly updated on the Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre (MOSDAC) website for information dissemination.
National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the launch of the National Supercomputing Mission in 2015 to enable India to become world class computing power nation. The Mission is being implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) at an estimated cost of Rs.4500 crore over a period of seven years.
More than 70 high-performance computing facilities are being installed and these supercomputers are to be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN) that connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high speed network. The Mission has approved installations of 6 supercomputers by the end of 2017. NSM has initiated training programmes through C-DAC and IISc and the first such programme with industry participation has just completed.
Multi-institutional National Program on pre-term birth
Pre-term Birth Program is the first inter-institutional program on maternal infant health and spontaneous pre-term birth sciences in India funded by the Department under Grand Challenge Program at a total cost of the project is Rs. 48.85 crore for a period of 5 years. It envisages a multidisciplinary research effort to predict & diagnose Preterm Birth (PTB) by enhancing the knowledge of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. It is a commitment of the Department of Biotechnology to health equity, contributing significantly to reduction in infant and maternal mortality.
Present India has a palpable research and innovation ecosystem to contribute globally. And now India can partner in international consortiums with equal foothold and not merely be a receiver. At the 104th Indian Science Congress in 2017, this objective was made clear to the country – ‘Today’s India wants international cooperation on an equal partner basis’ by Dr R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. India has proven itself in high-energy physics. The Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNCEP) to promote safe, secure and sustainable energy for the service of mankind through global partnership is coming up in Haryana.
Popularizing science has received mass impetus with India International Science Festival and Festival of Innovations for the masses to espouse for science career and even the illiterate to think science and come up with innovations to get recognition worldwide.
*Author is a senior journalist and a radio documentary maker.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.