The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India serves as the nodal agency for all government led initiatives that create and strengthen the science and technology landscape in our country. The specific mandate is to advance science and technology pursuits and develop related human and institutional resources to foster excellence in these fields. The DST accordingly develops policies and implements programmes to serve this important mandate that also delivers science and technology based societal benefits. These transformational changes are enabled through development models, stake- holder engagement, internal connectivity of programmes, and coordination with several other departments within our country and institutions outside through bilateral and multilateral frame-works.
The missions of the Government of India have added impetus to the initiatives of the DST. These include
• Make in India
• Start up India
• Swachh Bharat
• Digital India programmes
The DST partners the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) to empower national academic and R&D institutions across our country by installing a vast supercomputing grid with more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
This intervention serves the National Supercomputing Mission aimed to take India into the front ranks of Computing and Big-data Analysis. The mission was approved in March 2015 at a total cost of Rs. 4500 crore.
The collaboration in Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) project entails DST’s partnership with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to address such major societal and developmental needs as healthcare, information and communication technology, energy, sustainable habitat, nano technology, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, security and defence, and environment and climate change related mitigation and adaptation. A joint R&D initiative with Ministry of Railways focuses on fuel efficiency enhancement and emission control technologies, alternate fuels, fuel conservation in diesel traction etc.
Reversing Brain drain to Brain Gain:
An Early Career Research Award (ECRA) has been launched to provide rapid research support to researchers in their early career stages to pursue exciting and innovative research in frontier areas of science and engineering. The award carries a research grant upto Rs.50 lakhs for a period of three years. The National Postdoctoral Fellowship (N-PDF) scheme is aimed to attract and retain young scientists and discourage brain drain in academic R&D institutions.
Attracting Women to Science:
This is achieved through a programme titled KIRAN (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing) launched in 2014. This enables gender parity in science through nurturing research careers of women scientists. The programme provides opportunities to women scientists who had a break in their career primarily due to family responsibilities. The programme encourages them to take up research and emerge as an entrepreneur if they so choose to.
Societal benefits delivered:
These cover a wide variety of sectors including energy benefits, wealth from waste and optimal extraction and sustainable management of bio resources. Three such examples are presented in the following-
(i) Surya Jyoti lights up homes of poor: In order to capture daylight and concentrate the same inside dark living spaces, a low cost device named Surya Jyoti has been developed and tested. Surya Jyoti is basically a Micro Solar Dome which has a transparent semi- spherical upper dome made of acrylic material that captures sunlight.
The light passes through a sun-tube of a thin layer of highly reflective coating on the inner wall of the passage. During daytime, illumination through Surya Jyoti goes upto an equivalent of 15- watt LED lamp. The dome has also been integrated with a photo Voltaic (PV) panel to enable it to provide light up to 4 hours after sunset. The cost of photo voltaic integrated Surya Jyoti is about Rs.1200 and without the photo voltaic panel it works out to Rs.500. The cost is expected to come down drastically after scaling up of the manufacturing process.
(ii) Indigenous technology for rural industrialisation: For inclusive development of the country, sustainable industrial activities using local resources in the rural areas are extremely important. DST accordingly endeavours to help rural populations through the application of science and technology. One such initiative of the department has culminated in a rural- industry complex in a plot of wasteland at Malunga, a village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan. Integration of technology in this industry complex has been done in such a manner that it satisfies the local needs by utilisation of local resources. It offers sustainable and inclusive development by converting waste to wealth.
(iii) North Eastern Centre for Ethno Medical Research: DST has established a Ethno Medicinal Research Centre in 2015 with budgetary support of RS.8.92 crores for 5 years. This Centre will undertake ethno phyto chemical, research on wild herbs available in the North Eastern region with unique medicinal and aromatic properties.
The Centre will undertake scientific validation of traditional herbs and products and help improve socio- economic status of local communities and enhance quality-of-life through better livelihood and benefit sharing.
Going Global through Mega Projects:
The most important guiding principle for this approach is to leverage India’s excellence for mutually reinforcing benefits for high end pursuits on frontiers. These in turn enhance investigation and learning opportunities along with economic benefits through enhanced industry activities.
• Thirty Meter Telescope: India’s Participation in Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA was approved by the Government at a total cost of Rs.1299.8 crores in September 2014. The cost would be met by DST and the Department of Atomic Energy. The other countries participating in the project are USA, Canada, China and Japan. India will contribute towards the construction phase, both in cash and kind. India will benefit scientifically and technologically from participation in this project.
• Associate Membership of CERN: The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) is the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory, where scientists and engineers across the globe are probing the fundamental structure of the Universe. Indian scientists have been actively participating and collaborating at CERN on all aspects of science, engineering and computing through joint funding provided by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST). The CERN Council admitted India as Associate Member of CERN in Sept. 2016. As an Associate Member of CERN, India will be a part of the huge scientific and technological endeavour.
• Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO): India has agreed in principle to set up art advanced gravitational-wave (GW) observatory in the country; that will be the third such observatory across the world. This will be a nationally coordinated project and three lead Indian institutions, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Institute for Plasma Research (lPR), Gandhinagar and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore will steer this project in collaboration with LIGO laboratories of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
• Devasthal Optical Telescope: A state-of-the-art world class 3.6 meter Devasthal Optical Telescope was remotely activated jointly by the Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister of Belgium on March 31, 2016. The telescope is installed at Devasthal near Nainital. It is the largest steerable imaging telescope in Asia; a result of scientific collaboration between scientists from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital, an autonomous institution of DST, and Belgian scientists. The telescope will contribute to observations for frontline scientific research in astronomy and astrophysics.
• Collaboration with Italy: Trieste- based Sincrotrone Elettra in Italy opened its two new experimental stations, XRD2 and XPRESS recently in partnership with DST. The two new energy beam lines will research on new materials, pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.
• Collaboration with Germany: The Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR-GmbH) at Darmstadt, Germany, the largest upcoming accelerator facility for basic science research, was formed in October 2010, with India as a founder member. The international facility, which will use high-intensity beams of antiprotons and ions of various species, will assist research in the fields of atomic, nuclear, particle and plasma physics. In India, the project is being implemented jointly by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy.
Apart from several Indian industries involved in building the advanced FAIR accelerator equipment in the country, Indian scientists are working in 40 different groups spread across several institutions. The DST has devised integrated approaches to sustain the momentum of these advancements and deliver across all fronts.
Immediate, medium and long term goals are well defined as part of a logical framework that includes the following:
(a) Enhance quality and quantity of R&D: The objective is to position India amongst the top 5 countries in scientific research by augmenting the R&D infrastructure, enhance number of active scientists and quality/ relevance/impact of research to reverse brain drain for brain gain for societal and industrial development and attract youth to study and pursue career in science and technology. The DST will also intensify industry-academia R&D partnerships, to find solutions to national challenges pertaining to energy, water, health, environment, climate and cyber security. There will be new steps to leverage the best of international S&T knowledge and infrastructure by cooperating in the selected areas to gain global competitiveness and support S&T capacity building in least developed countries.
(b) Create a Robust S&T Led Innovation and Start-up Ecosystem: DST has developed a national initiative (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations- NIDHI) to seamlessly cover the entire innovation chain right from scouting and mentoring to up-scaling the start ups. This will also widen the base of the innovation pyramid by promoting the culture of innovation among students and rural communities with a special emphasis on inclusion, relevance, frugality and grass root applications.
(c) Technology Development and Deployment entails a special focus on leadership and self-reliance in digital technologies an d its application s including supercomputing, cybersecurity, big-data analytics, computational sciences, modelling and simulation, etc.
These will improve decision making and governance systems. Citizen engagement is an important thrust of the DST. This is based on the felt need to create awareness about emerging frontiers and the pervasiveness of science in daily life. The Science Express is a classic initiative that serves this need especially for the benefit of children across the country.
The present snapshot will help understand the spread and depth of integrated approaches that guide the development and implementation of science and technology centred programmes in our country. The DST is aware of the need to further strengthen this landscape to reinforce India’s leadership in these areas and continually deliver value added services for the benefit of our country as a whole.