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Jan 18, 2018 (Hyderabad)
The country's science and technology space has made significant strides over the past three-and-half years under the Narendra Modi government to transform itself to the third most sought-after R&D destination globally.
Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology and Environment, said: "Thousands of crores are being spent on entrepreneurs, through various initiatives, such as start-up mission, to promote innovation and enterprise. This has pitch-forked India into the sixth largest spender in the world on research and development.?
Did you know that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR), a Government of India-promoted research body, now ranks 9th in the world among the 1,200 institutions promoted by governments across the world?, he asked.
"This is no mean achievement and speaks volumes of the progress we have made as nation. India is already looked upon to be among leaders in research and development and ranks among 5-6 in science collaborations in the globe," Vardhan told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the JITO conference.
"As a doctor, who had practised medical profession for more than four decades, I have been closely watching the progress science and technology has made over the years; I believe science has the potential to solve each and every problem on the planet. In tune with this thinking, the spend is also going up,? he said.
"Today Indian science is having its best. We have entered into top quality collaborations with more than 44 countries to learn and share best practices. In nano technology, we are already being seen amongst the top three innovators in the world. The country's space mission, too, is making significant progress. The impending Chandrayan mission is set to be launched within the next 2-3 months," the Minister said.
More needs to be done
While the government is taking a number of steps towards innovation, including start-up and stand-up initiatives, the spending of industries in R&D is still very low. I call upon the industries to increase their contribution, he said.
Referring to a weather-related app useful for the agriculture sector, which is being used by more than 24 million farmers, the Minister said that through the weather updates it provides to the farm sector, farmers are able to bring about huge savings. It is estimated that this would have added about ₹50,000 crore to the country's GDP, he said, quoting the National Council for Applied Research.
Taking environment on a mission mode, the Minister said: "A number of initiatives have been taken up, and one such is the Green Good Deeds app, which people can access from anywhere. The idea is to have various innovative ideas at one place for people to replicate."
Jan 17, 2018 (Chennai)
The first day image captured by India's recently launched weather observation Cartosat-2 series satellite shows a part of Indore city in Madhya Pradesh with the Holkar Cricket Stadium in the centre.
The image was acquired on January 15, three days after the launch of the satellite, and released yesterday on the website of the Bengaluru-headquartered Indian Space Research Organisation.
Cartosat-2 Series satellite was successfully launched onboard the PSLV-C40 rocket on January 12 by ISRO from its spaceport at Sriharikota, 110 km from here.
ISRO had then said the satellite would be brought to its final operational configuration in the next few days following which it would begin providing high-resolution scene-specific spot imageries using its panchromatic (black and white) and multi-spectral (colour) cameras.
Cartosat-2 is an advanced remote sensing satellite similar in configuration to the earlier six spacecraft in the series and intended to augment data services to users.
The images sent by the satellite would be useful for cartographic, urban and rural applications, coastal land-use and regulation, besides Geographical Information System applications, among others. Thirty other satellites, including 28 from foreign countries, were also successfully launched by PSLV C-40
January 16, 2017 (New Delhi)
Four new research and development projects for real time monitoring of air and water quality were today launched jointly by Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Corporate Research Council of Intel.
Among the proposed projects is an air quality monitoring test bed that would be able to report and visualise scientifically validated PM 2.5 and gas measurements from 40 locations in real time. After upscaling to 60 locations, the monitoring technology is expected to cover 500 cities and towns across India.
The project aims to collect air quality information to allow policy makers and citizens to deploy data-driven control and preventive mechanisms. The focus would be on low-cost PM2.5, Ozone, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide sensors. The idea is to integrate hardware, communication and software stack, from local sensing to distributed analytics. For this, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur would work in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, IIT-Bombay and Duke University, Durham.
The second group would work on high resolution air quality monitoring and air pollutant data analytics. It would be led by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute, Pilani and University of Southern California. The researchers would aim to develop sensors as well as new techniques of sampling and calibrations to develop air quality index.
The third team would work on developing an aquatic autonomous observatory. This project is also led by IIT-Kanpur, but with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The team aims to design and develop low-cost, multi-parameter, water quality platforms with auto-sampling capabilities.
The system would measure parameters like dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature, nutrients, carbon-dioxide and select heavy metals. A novel energy harvesting system integrating solar panel, piezo electric system and micro wind turbine is envisaged.
The fourth team would work towards developing sensors for real- time river water monitoring and decision making. The project is co-led led by IIT-Delhi and University of California (UCR), Riverside, along with other Indian and American partners. They would develop sensors for chemical oxygen demand, microbial indicators and water flow for determining water quality.
Launching the projects, Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, expressed hope that they would help strengthen the government's efforts to address the problem of air and water quality through missions like Namami Gange.
DST Secretary Dr Ashutosh Sharma said the projects would be conducted over a period of five years. DST and Intel Corporate Research Council would provide a total Rs. 30 crore to the four teams on 50:50 sharing basis. The programme will be administered by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.
January 16, 2017 (Pune)
The use of ultraviolet lamps in water purifiers is common but the presence of mercury in these lamps could be potentially hazardous. Now a group of Indian scientists have developed a mercury-free ultraviolet lamp that can be used in water purifiers.
Scientists have engineered an optimized dielectric discharge based mercury-free Vacuum UV/UV light source for water sterilization. The lamp can produce desired level of wavelengths for deactivation of bacteria within ten seconds without the use of mercury.
The lamp has been developed by scientists from two CSIR labs - Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI), Pilani, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur- working along with Birla Institute of Scientific Research (BISR), Jaipur.
In addition to being mercury-free, the lamp has a filament-less light source and there are no end sleeves. Since it uses dielectric-barrier discharge or DBD source, start-up time is negligible. It has broader wavelength coverage due to dimer radiations and medium pressure.
Naturally available water may contain pathogenic organisms and toxic compounds. UV radiation is preferable for water purification over chemical treatment. UV radiation is widely used for water sterilization as it does not create any byproduct during treatment and does not alter the taste of water. It also does not eliminate minerals. But it has several disadvantages which include start-up time, filament failure, sleeve breakage, dimensional restrictions and non-reparability. Mercury containing UV-lamps generate a considerable amount of toxic mercury waste at the end of their life as a typical UV lamp contains 20 to200 mg of mercury.
"We have engineered an optimized dielectric discharge based mercury-free VUV/UV light source with a novel structural design that produces strong spectral bands peaking at wavelengths 253 nanometer and 172 nanometer along with a weak band peaking at wavelength 265 nanometer, that has been tested on a few representative bacteria to show its usefulness for efficient water sterilization", explained Dr. Ram Prakash from CEERI.
The unique structural design of the lamp enables it to produce desired UV wavelengths. The lamp has been tested for five types of bacteria - E. coli, Shigella boydii, Vibrio, coliforms and fecal coliform. Within ten seconds, all bacteria got deactivated. "The lamp been tested further for water with turbidity level and its on-time efficiency has been found to be 200% as compared to standard equivalent mercury based UV-lamp", added Dr. Ram Prakash.
The results of the research work have appeared in journal Scientific Reports. The research team included Dr. Ram Prakash, Afaque M. Hossain, Dr. U. N. Pal, Dr. N. Kumar, Dr. K. Khairnar, and Dr. M. Krishna Mohan.
Jan 15, 2018 (New Delhi)
A national survey on the status of research and development in the country has shown that the gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) has more than tripled from Rs. 24,117 crore to Rs. 85,326 crore in the decade from 2004-05 to 2014-15.
It is estimated that it could have further gone up to Rs. 94,516 crore in 2015-16 and crossed the Rs. One lakh crore mark in 2016-17 reaching up to Rs. 1,04,864 crore.
The Survey conducted by the National Science and Technology Management Information System (NSTMIS) under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has also shown that the per capita R&D expenditure has increased to Rs. 659 (US dollars 10.8) in 2014-15 from Rs. 217 (US dollars 4.8) in 2004-05 and that GERD was mainly driven by the government sector with central government accounting for 45.1 %, state governments 7.4 %, public sector industries 5.5 % and institutions of higher education 3.9 %. The private industry accounted for the balance 38.1 %.
Significantly, the share of business enterprises, from both public and private sector, has been showing an increasing trend. Their share of 43.6 % in 2014-15 was found to be fairly higher than the situation in just five years earlier: in 2009-10 their share was just 34.2 %. The study has revealed that public sector R&D was led by defense related industries and fuel industry, while the private sector R&D was dominated by drug and pharmaceuticals and transportation.
However, the composition of R&D expenditure in India contrasted sharply when compared with select developed and emerging economics. The survey compared the levels of participation of the government, business enterprises, and institutions of higher education in R&D in India with those in 13 other countries - USA, UK, Spain, Russia, Korea, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada and Australia.
It found that India topped the list with regard to the government's participation in R&D but hit the bottom in terms of participation of institutions of higher education. Government's participation in R&D in the other countries ranged from seven percent in U.K. to 38 % in Mexico, as against India's 55 %. In contrast, the share of institutions of higher education in R&D in the other countries varied from seven per cent in China to 40 % in Canada, as compared to India?s a mere four per cent.
Another significant finding of the survey is that as much as 81.3 % of R&D expenditures incurred by central government sources came from just eight major scientific agencies : Defence Research and Development Organisation led the table with a share of 37.8 %, followed by Department of Space (16.6%), Department of Atomic Energy (11.6 %), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (11.4 %), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (9.5 %), Department of Science and Technology (7.7 %), Department of Biotechnology (2.9 %) and Indian Council of Medical Research (2.4 %) during 2014-15.
Further, it has shown that women's participation in extra mural R&D projects has increased significantly from a mere 13 % in 2000-01 to 29 % in 2014-15. In absolute numbers, 1.301 women Principal Investigators had availed extramural R&D support during 2014-15 as against just 232 in 2000-01. In terms of personnel directly engaged in R&D activities, there were 39,388 women (13.9 %) as on April 1, 2015, out of the total 2.82 lakh personnel. It has also revealed that out of the total of 27, 327 doctorates awarded in the country, 15,246 or 56.4 % were from the S&T disciplines during 2014-15. India occupied the third rank in terms of PhDs awarded in S&T after China (30,017) and USA (26,520).
The number of researchers per million population in India has more than doubled from 110 in 2000 to 218 in 2015 and India's R&D expenditure per researcher was as much as 1,78,000 in terms of ?purchase parity price on dollar basis'. This was higher than that of Russia, Canada, Israel, Hungary, Spain and UK.
Besides, it has found that extra mural R&D support by Central Government agencies has increased from 1,358 crore in 2009-10 to 2,002 crore in 2014-15. Its share in the national gross expenditure on R&D was 2.3 % during 2014-15. The Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology were the two major players contributing nearly 66.4 % of the extra mural R&D support in the country. The academic sector received 58 per cent of the total extramural R&D support during 2014-15.
The survey, among other things, has pointed out that while India spent 0.69 per cent of its GDP on R&D in 2014-15, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa in the BRICS grouping spent 1.24 %, 1.19 %, 2.05 % and South Africa 0.73 % respectively. The ratio was less than 0.5 % for Pakistan and China, at 0.29 % and 0.1 per cent respectively.
It has also highlighted that India?s scientific publication output has shown a rising trend during the past decade with the database of SCOPUS showing that research output from India has increased by 68 per cent from 62,955 in 2009 to 106,065 in 2013 and the database of SCI showing an increase of 31.5 % from 39,672 in 2009 to 52,165 in 2015.
SCOPUS and SCI, the survey noted, have put the growth rate of scientific publications at 13.9 % and 7.1 % for the period from 2009-13, as against the world average of 4.4 % and 4.1 % respectively. Also, as per SCI database India?s share in global research publications had increased from 2.2 % in 2000 to 3.7 % in 2013 and as per SCOPUS database it has gone from 3.1 % in 2009 to 4.4 % in 2013. SCOPUS database ranked India sixth in the world in scientific publications ahead of France, Spain and Italy during 2013, it pointed out.
On patents, the survey has noted that a total of 46,904 patents were filed during 2015-16 and of them, 28 per cent or 13,066 were filed by Indian residents. As per WIPO report 2016, India is ranked 10th in terms of resident patent filing activity.
January 13, 2018 (Mumbai)
Warships INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat were decommissioned here, after serving the Navy for 30 and 28 years respectively.
The warships were decommissioned at a solemn ceremony at the Naval Dockyard yesterday, a Defence spokesperson said today.
The ceremony involved traditional lowering of the ensign and commissioning pendants with playing of 'Last Post'. The chief guest for the ceremony was Rear Admiral R B Pandit, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, who had commanded INS Nirghat earlier, the spokesperson said in a statement here.
Cdr V R Naphade, (Retd) and Commodore S Mampully, (Retd), the commissioning Commanding Officers of Nirbhik and Nirghat respectively were the guests of honour.
The ships, belonging to the Killer squadron, are inheritors of a proud legacy as their original avatars were flag bearers of the naval offencive action on Karachi harbour during the India-Pakistan war in 1971.
The warships, in their new avatar, were commissioned at Poti, in the erstwhile USSR on December 21, 1987 and December 15, 1989 respectively.
They participated in many operations including Op Parakram and Vijay and were deployed off Gujarat on many occasions for patrolling, the spokesperson said.
January 10, 2018
The Infosys Science Foundation Prize, popularly known as the Indian Nobel, recognises outstanding achievements of contemporary researchers and scientists across six categories, ranging from humanities to physical sciences. The winners, one of whom was the former governor of the RBI, Raghuram Rajan, also take home ₹65 lakh which makes it the biggest in the country which is tax free. In an interaction with BusinessLine, the trustee at the foundation as well as the co-founder of Infosys, Kris Gopalakrishnan spoke about the need to take a long term view on scientific research and how corporates should drive more scientific research in business.
Infosys is one of the few corporates in the country which encourages research in the area of sciences. Why has this not been the mainstay of other Indian corporates?
Corporates are doing their bit for research but it is more in the area of applied sciences. This is because applied sciences have a direct bearing on their business. However, corporates should look at basic sciences as an area to research. One needs to bear in mind that theoretical sciences often take a long time to bear results and many times may not even result in anything fruitful. For example, physicists took a century to understand some concepts around gravitational waves! So, companies need to brace up to these sorts of things.
Corporates spend 2 per cent of their annual revenues on CSR initiatives. Will a similar directive in research help?
I always believed that the 2 per cent can be used in a smart manner. For example, 1 per cent can be used to spend on problems of today like affordable healthcare etc. The other 1 per cent can be used to tackle the challenges of tomorrow like eradicating or curing certain diseases. In this way current and future challenges can be addressed without compromising one for the other.
Why is it that more number of women don't win science awards? Is it because there is a smaller pool or is it because of the gender bias?
This time an equal number of men and women have won the awards. We believe that this will encourage more women to pursue sciences. It was not intentional though. It is entirely based on the recommendations of the jury. Interestingly, research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and is crossing traditional boundaries. The prize in the physical sciences went to Yamuna Krishnan, who did some ground-breaking work in the emerging field of architecture of the building blocks of life - the DNA. This category recognises work in varied branches like physics, chemistry and earth science combined.
Are there any plans to expand the field?
We want to keep the quality high and feel that the winning prize money is also testimony to the kind of quality we expect from the participants. If we diversify into more areas we will lose focus. There is a significant depth of scientific talent in this country, and this award intends to celebrate success in scientific research and stand as a marker of excellence in research. We believe that initiatives such as the Infosys Prize will certainly help recognize brilliant researchers across pure and social sciences, and related branches, thus creating role models in this field and inspiring bright young minds to take up scientific research as a career option. Ultimately the objective is to promote high quality research in the country.
If one looks at the big picture, there aren?t many world class research institutes in India. What could be the reason for this?
India spends 0.8 per cent of the GDP on research which is an abysmal amount. Out of this, government spends 0.6 per cent and the remaining is spent by private companies. In comparison, China spends 4 per cent and the US around 2 per cent. While some Indian government departments like ISRO have made terrific advances in research, along with IISc and IITs, the same cannot be said about other departments. We need to believe in our scientists and give them the freedom to work in areas of their choice, arm them with more financial assistance and do away with bureaucracy.
How much of a factor is rote learning in sciences playing in young people not wanting to take up the subject?
We need to move into experiential learning in sciences. Theory should not be the only priority for science education. We are going to launch an innovation challenge in India, in partnership with the New York Academy for Sciences for students 13-18 years old in 2018. We want to activate their science, technology, and engineering (STEM) skills, getting them to apply their scientific inquiry skills to solving defined, real world problems.
January 06, 2018 (Hyderabad)
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have overcome the perennial problem of power shortage after they shifted to LED lamps on a massive scale. And the man, who gave the world the highly power-saving LED lamps, is currently in Hyderabad delivering lectures to students and scientists. His visit, however, remains unsung with no official honour.
Meet Prof Hiroshi Amano, the winner of Nobel Prize in 2014 in physics for inventing efficient blue lightemitting diodes (LED). His invention has resulted in bright and energy-saving white light sources. In fact, LED lamps are the sources of efficient lighting for the 21st century.
On Thursday, Prof Amano visited IICT in connection with the platinum jubilee year celebrations. He delivered an inspiring lecture on the new lighting sources and interacted with scientists and students.
Appreciating the important research work being carried out at CSIR-IICT, Prof Amano proposed that IICT and his research group at Akasaki Research Centre, Nagoya University, Japan, should join hands for further developments of advanced semiconducting materials. IICT director S Chandrasekhar has readily agreed.
"Creation of white light involves a combination of light spectrum or red, green and blue lights. However, Prof Amano has shown the world for the first time that a low power blue light alone is adequate for generating the complex white light," said an IICT statement here.
Prof Amano later demonstrated on the stage of CSIR-IICT auditorium how he had made the invention that had changed the very concept of lighting.
"His spectacular contribution has resulted in transformative electronics for the development of sustainable smart society," said Dr Chandrasekhar.
January 06, 2018 (Pune)
CSIR-IICT's Debendra Kumar Mohapatra, Principal Scientist of Natural Products Chemistry Division, has been received the NASI-Reliance Industrial Platinum Jubilee Award 2017 for Application Oriented Innovations in the area of Physical Sciences from Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao at the 87th Annual Session of NASI held at Pune University, last month.