Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BANGALORE, August 22, 2012
Junk old approaches to R&D: Kakodkar

‘Miles to go as we have outlived vendor-driven strategic decisions’
Our technology choices are largely driven by foreign vendors, rather than the domestic research and development ecosystem, Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, said here on Tuesday.
Delivering the 28th Brahm Prakash Memorial Lecture at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), he said that across sectors, strategic decisions were vendor-driven.
“While these vendors offer good products and services, when it comes to carrying on, we have very little capabilities of our own.”
Mr. Kakodkar, who headed the high-level Railway Safety Review Committee, said he had come across this “issue” even in the Indian Railways. “This is not acceptable at all. Technology choices are crucial and must be made in a more holistic manner. We’ve outlived [the old] kind of approach and now need to come up with technology that gives us a significant advantage in the global marketplace. And for this, we have miles to go,” he said.
To address this, he proposed a significant change in the way we address education, research, technology development and commercial/societal deployment. “In contrast to the silos that these domains are currently in, they need to be seen as domains of a continuum,” he emphasised. For this, he proposed creating an “innovation ecosystem” by promoting networking among institutions with complementary capabilities, encouraging research, participating in mega science initiatives that give “first-hand exposure to cutting-edge science and science management” and better government policy interventions.
Engineering and technology research need considerable strengthening, he said. While the number of engineering Ph.D degrees in India were around 1,000, both the U.S. and China had well over 10,000 engineering doctorates passing out every year. “The scale-up has been restricted to graduate education. We (the committee that was headed by him) have recommended that the IITs lead these movements, and of course, we hope that subsequently other institutions will pick up on engineering research,” he said.
He also called for setting up of more research parks and industry collaborations, where both the industry as well as academic domains could work together. Pointing to the recent setting up of a first-of-its-kind Research Park in IIT Madras, he said that many more should come up. “China already has 300. We have not been proactive in setting these up, and should quickly adopt such initiatives to step up our capabilities.”


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