Our basic research credentials must match global standards, says PM at Indian Science Congress

Translating basic knowledge into innovations, startups and industry will help us achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, mentioned the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi while inaugurating the 104th session of the Indian Science Congress at Tirupati

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The Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi at the 104th Indian Science Congress, at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh on January 03, 2017. The Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Mr E S L Narasimhan, the Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr N Chandrababu Naidu, the Minister of State for Science & Technology, Mr Y S Chowdary and other dignitaries are also seen.

Bangalore: While addressing delegates at 104th session of the Indian Science Congress in the panoramic campus of Sri Venkateswara University at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi appreciated the organizers for choosing an appropriate theme “Science & Technology for National Development” for this year’s session.

“The nation will always be grateful to the scientists who have worked tirelessly to empower our society by their vision,  labour, and leadership,” PM Modi mentioned while paying tributes to the eminent scientist and institution builder, Dr M G K Menon who passed away in November, 2016.

Mr Modi further laid stress on a deep-rooted curiosity-driven scientific tradition which allows quick adaptation to new realities. “Tomorrow’s experts will come from investments we make today in our people and infrastructure. My government is committed to supporting different streams of scientific knowledge; ranging from fundamental science to applied science with emphasis on innovations, he said.

He also pointed towards the important challenges in the key sectors of clean water, energy, food, environment, climate, security, and healthcare. “We equally need to keep an eye on the rise of disruptive technologies and be prepared to leverage them for growth. We need to clearly assess the challenges and opportunities for our technology readiness and competitiveness,” remarked the Prime Minister.

“Science must meet the rising aspirations of our people,” Mr Modi remarked adding, “India fully appreciates the strong role science and technology plays in meeting the societal needs. We must address the problems of urban-rural divide and work for inclusive development, economic growth and employment generation. To enable this, there is a need for a new overarching structure that will coordinate with all the relevant stakeholders.”

Brief excerpts of the Prime Minister’s Speech below:

“I have been told that the Technology Vision 2035 document released in last year’s Science Congress, is now developing into a detailed roadmap for twelve key technology sectors. Further, NITI Aayog is evolving a holistic science and technology vision for the country.

One important area that needs to be addressed is the rapid global rise of Cyber-Physical Systems. This has the potential to pose unprecedented challenges and stresses to our demographic dividend. But we can turn it into a huge opportunity by research, training and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, deep learning, quantum communication and Internet-of-Things.

There is a need to develop and exploit these technologies in services and manufacturing sectors; in agriculture, water, energy & traffic management; health, environment, infrastructure and Geo Information Systems; security; financial systems and in combating crime.

Our best science and technology institutions should further strengthen their basic research in line with leading global standards. Translating this basic knowledge into innovations, start-ups and industry will help us achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.

SCOPUS database indicates that India now ranks sixth in the world with respect to scientific publications, growing at a rate of about fourteen percent  as against the world average growth rate of about four percent. I am sure that our scientists will further meet the challenges of enhanced quality of basic research, its technology translation and its societal connect.

“By 2030 India will be among the top three countries in science and technology and will be among the most attractive destinations for the best talent in the world. The wheels we set in motion today will achieve this goal.”

Our ability to mount and execute large, transformational national missions requires effective partnerships that integrate with a large stakeholder base.  The effectiveness of these missions can be ensured only by getting out of our deep rooted silos, and adopting a collaborative approach, which is essential to address our multifarious development challenges rapidly and effectively. Our ministries, our scientists, R&D institutions, industries, start-ups, universities and IITs, all should work together seamlessly. In particular, our infrastructure and socio-economic ministries must make appropriate use of science and technology.

Our Institutions could consider inviting outstanding scientists from abroad including NRIs for long term research associations. We should involve foreign and NRI PhD students in post-doctoral research in our projects.

Another empowering factor for scientific delivery is the Ease of Doing Science. If we want science to deliver, we must not constrain it.

Building a strong Science and Technology infrastructure that is accessible to academia, start-ups, industry and R&D labs is a priority of the government. We need to address the problems of ease of access, maintenance, redundancy and duplication of expensive equipments in our Scientific Institutions. The desirability of establishing professionally managed, large regional centers in PPP mode housing high value scientific equipment should be examined.

“On the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility, the concept of Scientific Social Responsibility needs to be inculcated to connect our leading institutions to all stakeholders, including schools and colleges. We must create an environment for sharing of ideas and resources.”

The brightest and best in every corner of India should have the opportunity to excel in science. This will ensure that our youth get high-end training exposure to the best of science and technology to make them job-ready in a competitive world.

Seeding the power of ideas and innovation in schoolchildren will broaden the base of our innovation pyramid and secure the future of our nation. As a step in this direction, Ministry of Science & Technology is initiating a programme focused on students of classes 6 to 10. The programme will scout, mentor, reward and showcase ten lakh top innovative ideas focused on local needs from 5 lakh schools.

We must provide equal opportunities to the girl child to enroll and excel in the under-represented disciplines of science and engineering and ensure continued participation of trained women scientists in nation building.

The role of science in planning, decision making, and governance has never been more important. For sustainable development, we must take strong measures to focus on Waste to Wealth Management in the critical areas of electronic waste, biomedical and plastic wastes, and solid waste and waste water solutions. We are scaling up R&D on clean carbon technologies, technologies for enhancement of energy efficiency and increased and efficient use of renewable energy.

Focus on environment and climate remains our priority to ensure sustainable development. Our strong scientific community can also effectively address our unique challenges. For example, can we find farmer-centric solutions to the problem of crop burning? Can we redesign our brick kilns for reduced emissions and greater energy efficiency?

Science and technology is a key factor in the Startup India Programme launched in January 2016. 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 CII, FICCI and high technology private companies are being pursued to strengthen the innovation ecosystem.

I am sure that our scientists will scale up their efforts ranging from the quality of basic sciences to technology development to innovation. Let Science and Technology become a strong tool of inclusive development and betterment of the weakest and poorest segments of our society.