R&D in India- a Need for Course Change

I keep on getting the Google News Alert for on R&D in India. The latest has a news item ‘India to be global innovation hub‘. As per a study conducted by global research and analytics firm Evalueserve, titled ‘R&D Ecosystem in India’ by the British and Canadian High Commissions in India, India is targeting to increase its R&D spend to 2 per cent of the GDP by 2012 under the 11th Five-Year Plan, from less than one per cent, that “will catapult India to the league of developed nations that spend 2.5 per cent of their GDP on R&D, on an average.” The media keeps on reporting such good news to keep people like us happy. India’s large number of national research laboratories or institutes of science, technology and engineering hardly report of some inventions or innovations that can make the life of the people on the earth better.

In today’s ‘Times of India’, I came across two or three such need-based innovations from some universities. While the first related to a device that will make the driving safe, the second provides some solutions to the difficulties in using hydrogen as fuel in vehicle, and third provides some alternative materials for battery.

Researchers at the University of Utah have come up with an innovative automobile ignition key that prevents teenagers from talking on mobiles or sending text messages while driving. The invention is called

Working on a research project towards reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuel for transport, astronautics professor and inventor Lars Stenmark of the department of materials science, Angstrom Laboratory at Uppsala University in Sweden has found a way to store hydrogen gas in small balls to overcome the risk of fires and explosions. “By storing the gas in round, spherical form, it can withstand twice the pressure that a cylindrical form can. If the car crashes and the tank breaks, the hydrogen-filled balls would just spread out and roll away, and the gas from any broken balls would simply seep out and disappear into the atmosphere without causing harm,”

Maria Stromme, professor of nanotechnology, an engineering physicist, from the same university, has found a way to extract cellulose from green algae bloom – a poison that is polluting coastlines and killing fish – and convert it into lithium-free batteries. A 15-member team led by Kristina Edstrom and Josh Thomas, of the department of materials chemistry, is experimenting with new materials to create inexpensive, “green” batteries with high storage capacity.

Why can’t Indian researchers contribute on such inventions that provide viable answers to the problems that the country or the world at large is facing? Is it not because the the researchers and the industry hardly interact? Why should not the government encourage the effective collaborations?

Let me also tell the heartening part of the story. The same page of Times of India carried an ad on the launch of INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research). Can we hope that funding and scholarships will bring a change and promote researches and innovations for the people instead of keeping it too academic?
PM launches ”Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE)” programme

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