India’s “Science for All” Academy : Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar

India’s "Science for All" Academy

IN 1905, SIR WILLIAM OSLER, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PHYSICIAN OF HIS TIME, STEPPED DOWN from the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins University at the age of 55. At his farewell, he emphasized that the “effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40—these 15 golden years of plenty.” Many of us, who are old but still active like myself, may like to strongly disagree. But the power of the creative prime in this age group is irrefutable. Therefore, when the Global Young Academy was established in 2010 to catalyze the formation of national Young Academies that promote leadership by a country’s most outstanding scientists aged 30 to 40 (www.globalyoungacademy.org), it was enthusias- tically applauded by the international science community. One country that urgently needs a Young Academy is India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, 55% of whom are under 25 years old. What would be a good design for a Young Academy of India?

After experiencing stagnation over the past decade, Indian science is showing signs of a great recovery. But it continues to deal with its frustrating contradictions. India's Moon mission Chandrayan-1 led to the detection of water on the Moon, yet rural Indian women continue to walk kilometers each day in search of water. To achieve her quest for growth and innovation that include the entire population, India does not need yet another science academy. She needs a “science for all” academy. By this I mean an academy that simultaneously pursues a quest for both excellence and relevance. Indian science should not be judged only by the “H index,” which aims at a global measure of excellence, but also by an “I index,” which should measure the abil- ity to provide Indian solutions to the specifically Indian problems of 800 million resource-poor people.

Are young Indian scientists ready to accept this challenge? The answer is a resounding yes. India’s Council of Scientific and Indus- trial Research launched its Open Source Drug Discovery challenge in 2008. Since then, the 3000 young graduate student participants have made some breathtakingly creative contri- butions, ranging from increasing our understanding of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to the synthesis of novel compounds that could lead to drugs for tuberculosis treatment. Tech- pedia (www.techpedia.in/) has posted over 100,000 undergraduate projects by students in their early 20’s, the majority of which reflect their impatience with crippling societal problems. I witnessed this impatience in rural Maharashtra last month: Vidarbha has the highest incidence of farmer suicides, and the young scientists there asked me only one question: What can scientists do to stop these suicides? So there is a community of energetic and compassionate young Indian scientists with great passion in their bellies. And this community is set to grow exponentially, as India’s Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scheme aims to support a whopping 1 million science students by the end of 2013.

India should be listening seriously to its future scientific leaders. Yet, disappointingly, young scientists have no venue in which to express their views on the big questions facing India—from the huge recent controversy about genetically modified eggplant, to the public protests at Jaitapur regarding new nuclear power plants. Nor have young researchers been involved in the design of the Indian Planning Commission's 12th 5-year (2012–2017) plan on science and technology. A new Young Academy should, therefore, provide an influential voice for the next generation of Indian scientists. This Young Academy should be borderless, taking the disciplines of the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humani- ties into its fold; and dynamic, harnessing the power of technology and social media. And it should have a mind of its own, with a constantly questioning, “yes, we can” mindset. The youth of India are ready for a Young Academy. It’s time to get to work to form it.

– Raghunath Mashelkar

10.1126/science.1220166
www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 335 24 FEBRUARY 2012  , 891 Published by AAAS EDITORIAL

Message of appreciation By Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for Techpedia

I am extremely happy to see an initiative of SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) which has led to mapping of the mind of engineering youth of our country in an unprecedented manner. When I visualized the concept of India as a knowledge society, my dream was that people in different disciplines and walks of life would be able to coordinate their pursuits to make India a developed country. There are more than six lacs technology students in the country, each one of whom does a project in the final year. We seldom are able to know who all are working on similar problems so that they can network with each other. Sometimes, we rediscover the wheel. Unless a society puts premium on originality, creativity, innovation and competitiveness, it may not be able to develop an inclusive growth and developmental model. Techpedia.in provides a basis for integrating disciplines across sectors and spaces over time. Large number of micro, small and medium enterprises face technological problems which affect their competitiveness. Since they provide jobs to the largest number of people, their ability to employ more people also suffers. If problems of MSME can become the basis for the projects of engineering students, we could improve productivity on one hand and help engineers become better professionals on the other. I notice that Honey Bee Network is also trying to link the problems of informal sector and the grassroots innovations pooled at NIF (National Innovation Foundation) with the student projects. That will help generate better markets for the innovators whose technologies may need lot of value addition to compete with the products of large companies. It is essential, every year minimum ten grass root innovators transform his products into commercially available products for societal needs.

I compliment the team led by a young engineer, who with his friends could mobilize more than 100,000 projects by 350,000 students from 500 colleges in such a little time. I wish SRISTI’s techpedia team a great success in the future so that the technological edge of our society at all levels, in all sectors and in different regions of the country gets sharpened to make India an innovative and a developed society. The Decade of Innovation could not have begun better. I am particularly pleased to know that several of the innovations by the school children are also being valorized by engineering college students.

I wish all the energy to the team and hope that they will continue to link academia, industry, informal sector and the creative youth of the country.

Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam 

Envisaging an university based innovation ecosystem at BPUT, Odisha sooner

Setting up local chapter of National Innovation Club 

To harness the creative potential of youth, each college under BPUT may form a team of students and faculty members to set up a National Innovation Club. The club will coordinate all the local activities related to innovation at college level. A vibrant knowledge Network has to be created across sectors and space in the state of Odisha. Primarily the clubs will pursue four functions: [a] search, [b] spread, [c] sense and [d] celebrate creativity and innovation in the region. BPUT will implement such an innovation model comprising its four lac plus students and faculty members across the state that almost every student will be inspired to do something new. Each National Innovation Club at college level will adopt and adapt these guidelines and execute in their college.  In case innovation clubs want to take up additional activities, they should feel free to do so. They can take up value addition in local ideas, test some of the innovations, modify the design or cover the whole value chain of Innovation including student based entrepreneurship. The club may also extend its efforts and include activities like skill development and other complementary activities. Some colleges may have already industry-institute cell or support system for innovation/design/entrepreneurship and similar activities. These teams and coordinators of the ongoing activities which already exist within the college can also be taken into the Innovation team so that they can contribute meaningfully for the goals of these clubs. 

BPUT will issue a notification to all colleges to set up these innovation clubs to start with. 

General Guidelines for setting up National Innovation Club at Every BPUT College: 

1)      Each club will have an executive committee (EC) mentored or guided by a faculty member/s.

2)      The Executive Committee will have students of various branches/batches as members.

3)      Faculty members: As far as possible, each branch will have one faculty member in the advisory Committee.

4)      Student members: Ideally, there should be one student from each branch and batch i.e. from mechanical engineering, there will be four students from each batch or year, first, second, third and fourth year.  The nominated students should be active in related activities and not necessarily based on their academic performance. Idea is to promote their innovative thinking and leadership skills.

5)      Industry members/external members: Principal /Director of the college may nominate some active local industry members, innovators, entrepreneurs, grassroots innovators, policymakers or representative of organisations related to innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry chamber as a member of the advisory club. 

The members of the executive committee at a college will be nominated by the Principal/Director of the College. The Training and Placement Officer of the College, faculty from industry-institute interaction cell, alumni cell or similar authority from college associated with innovation/R&D may be a member of the Club. The Principal/ Director will be the patron of the Club. The coordinator of the innovation club will execute all the activities in consultation with various stakeholders and play crucial role not only in the club but also in entire innovation framework at BPUT. 

Activities of Club 

The list of the Club members is to be sent to the concerned authority at BPUT.  To coordinate these activities of the club, each College is required to publish the list along with their contact detail at their own website. BPUT will also publish the name/contact detail of each coordinator of innovation club in all the affiliated colleges.  This will help forge lateral linkages between Innovation Clubs and industry clusters, social organizations, communities, public systems and within various innovation clubs too. The best practices of each innovation club along with activities/achievements may be published on the web link of the club in each college. BPUT may design a separate web section on its website where the activities and other things may be highlighted from all clubs so that others will know and try to contextually replicate the best ones. The clubs may help each other, share resource and creating complementary strength amongst the nearby innovation clubs of the colleges. All colleges may not have all resources and support systems.  These clubs will create a horizontal support network so that each  team of students gets adequate help at their colleges right from problem/project identification to take it further,  if possible till the final  user. BPUT will create a forum virtually on its web platform where all these innovation club coordinators across university will share ideas and create possibility of huge co-creation for designing better innovation policy and execute them locally.

•        Each student club member will remain as a point of contact for the respective department/batch and sense the unmet needs of the whole branch/batch and take it up for discussion within the club for suitable action. These may vary from locating an appropriate MSME, getting IPR support, design and fabrication need, mentoring support or other similar activities.

•        The club members will meet every month formally to gauge the progress and create strategies to improve ideas consistently and develop further agenda. The reports/findings/need gaps and others achievements are to be posted on the college web page of the club for lateral learning and finding opportunity.

•        The club will create connections between innovations, innovators, MSMEs, challenges, knowledge networks, related public institutions to provide the best opportunity to every final year student doing innovative projects.

•        The club will coordinate the capacity building workshops /seminars/innovator interactions/innovation exhibitions at the college level and report to the university.

•        The student members of the club can contribute to the process as alumni after they pass out of the college so that the respective club will gain from their experience in supporting innovation related activities.

•        Each club will host group meetings with nearby innovation clubs periodically to share their learnings.  They may invite nearby clubs to share their success, challenges so that faster support systems can be created.

•        Principal/Director of the college and the coordinator of the club can re nominate/change members if needed and take a look at the progress periodically to take suitable measures.

•        An annual report/analysis of innovation related activities and learning can be made and shared with every stakeholder of the college and also with the university.

•        The University will arrange capacity building workshops for the Innovation Club coordinators and principals periodically to share various strategies, process, efforts, policies and lateral learning frameworks so that continuous improvement can be done in the activities at the club  level.  Later on such efforts can be extended to the student coordinators too at the  zonal/local level coordinated by a group of clubs supported by the University. These will give opportunity to learn for the central policy makers too and blend the contextual innovation protocols for improving efficiency at University level.

National Innovation Clubs 

During the current decade of innovation, Hon’ble President, Shri. Pranabh Mukherjee has exhorted the academia to set up National Innovation Clubs in every university and college.  These clubs will promote inclusive innovations by linking the creativity in formal and informal sector.  Primarily, the clubs will aim at four functions: [a] search, [b] spread, [c] sense and [d] celebrate.

Search: 

Unless young students go out into the field, villages, urban workshops, slums and other MSME clusters to find out innovations by common people as well as others, they would not know the creative potential that already exists in our country.  They can mobilize ideas from school children, college students, roadside mechanics, farmers, artisans, homemakers and others for solving various problems or improving the quality of life through incremental innovations.  Every time a hidden innovation is brought to surface, many more people feel encouraged and may start trying to solve problems through their own genius.  If every college and university starts mapping creativity in its hinterland, the whole society will bristle with positive energy and unleash tremendous dynamism in the economy.  

The innovations in different fields such as technology, education, institutions, public services, private enterprises, cultural creativity, governance at different levels, etc., will be documented first in a synoptic way and then detailed documentation will be taken up of the more significant ideas.  In different courses, these ideas and their documentation can be incorporated as a part of curriculum.  The social, cultural, ecological, industrial and institutional connect are extremely important for overcoming possible alienation of people in certain areas.  

Spread: 

Diffusion of existing innovations whether sourced from Honey Bee Network and National Innovation Foundation [NIF] or other depositories have to be shared with the local communities in a systematic manner through various creative pedagogies and performances.   In fact, searching innovations without sharing may neither appear very credible nor even ethical.  In the process of sharing, the students and faculty will themselves become aware of how creative our country is and how limited is the support extended to these people/communities by the formal sector including academia.  Such a realization will do more to trigger introspection and generate empathetic culture for blending ideas from formal and informal sector.  The students can organize exhibitions, have street theatre performances or follow other means of creating awareness about innovations in the nearby villages, schools, communities, clusters of industry, government departments, etc. 

Sense: 

There are a lot of problems in our society which have remained unsolved for long.  Unless we benchmark the persistent problems and try to address them within the means available, we may develop an attitude of living with them indefinitely.  Such an attitude will never let our society progress in the long term.  Idea here is that students from different discipline should benchmark unsolved problems or challenges in different sectors, at various scales affecting numerous social groups.  In technology institutions, third year students can go to both MSME clusters and units and informal rural and urban sector and benchmark the problems to be addressed.  They can be given credit for identifying the problem and writing a synopsis on it.  In the final year, they can take up projects to address these problems in one or two terms.  Accordingly, they can get credit for that too.  Practical examples of such a process are given at www.techpedia.in.  The innovative solutions can be given prizes at university level and also at national level through competitions like Gandhian Young Technological Awards [techpedia.in/award].  In social sciences, one can identify gender and other cultural problems and address them likewise through action research approach.  Language related students can help improve the linguistic skills of school children and develop innovative pedagogies.  If every student develops one lesson for any one topic and for any class, a huge repository of open source local language lessons for school children can be developed to overcome the asymmetry in access to basic education.  Different challenges can be sensed and responded. 

Celebrate: 

During the interactions with different social and institutional segments, a lot of outstanding achievers will be identified in the hinterland.  There may be an outstanding doctor who may have contributed in a big way for making the communities almost disease free or a teacher who has created a very rich learning environment in a school or an innovator who has solved a problem or a public or private functionary who has created public goods for larger social development.  There may also be outstanding artists, writers or other change agents who need to be invited in the universities to inspire students and create an insatiable desire to excel and serve society. 

National Innovation Clubs can be coordinated by the students under the oversight of empathetic faculty members.  Students should have as much flexibility and freedom as possible.  They should organize interactions with the innovators in different fields and try to add value where possible, help in diffusion, create markets, provide linkages with other innovators and stakeholders and forge a knowledge network around innovations.  They should not remain restricted only with local innovations.  They should also mobilize ideas from outside for local development and vice versa.  If a few sessions can be organized in different courses to rigorously analyze the heuristics, triggers, motivations, outcomes and ecosystem characteristics, more and more students may feel encouraged to take risk and try new ideas. 

NIF will support the value chain development in the case of innovations from informal sector and by school children.  The mandate of NIF is restricted to support ideas, innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge practices from the unorganized sector by individuals or communities who have not received any professional training or support.  The educational, cultural, institutional and other governance related innovations will be pooled by Society for Research and Initiatives for Technologies and Institutions [sristi.org] and linked to various other programmes.  In due course, support may be mobilized to give traction to these ideas.  At present, the major contribution will be to give voice and visibility to the innovative ideas in various sectors. 

Volunteers from among faculty, staff and students will hopefully join hands with the innovators at different levels and in different sectors to ensure widest application for creative and compassionate ideas.  Collaborative culture is likely to emerge when learning across formal and informal boundaries gets reinforced. 

 

1% of Budget for young entrepreneurs: Chandy

Kerala Chief Minister makes the announcement on Google Hangouts, connecting with 50 lakh students

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced on Thursday that one per cent of the State Budget funds would be set apart for young entrepreneurs.

Addressing nearly 50 lakh school and college students across the State through Google Hangouts online, the Chief Minister said that this was the first time that such an allocation was being made in a State Budget in the country. A policy document on youth entrepreneurship would be released in 30 days.

Mr. Chandy said that the youth entrepreneurship programme started in the information technology and telecom sectors would be extended to agriculture, health, cinema, culture, tourism and other areas. Hi-tech agriculture would be encouraged. Entrepreneurship development clubs would be started in all colleges.

Later, talking to the media, the Chief Minister said that the proposed Budget allocations under different heads would come to about Rs. 500 crore. He said that students of 2,092 high schools, besides many higher secondary schools and colleges, had listened to him through Google Hangouts and Victers Channel live streaming.

Prof Anil K Gupta talking about Techpedia in world SME conference

So, this is Techpedia, this portal was created practically in the last six months (techpedia.in). So with the help of the students of SVNIT Surat, Hiranmay and others, the team of students. In the last six months, we have now, 104 thousand projects, done by 3 lakh students from 500  technology institutions of the country – IITs, NITs, Polytechnic’s. Now there’s a map of the minds of the young people and let us say you write ‘Laser’, you will know which student is working on which aspect of laser technology. Other medium and small industries do not have the capacity to do R & D so much themselves. These are the institutions which are supposed to do R & D work, and final year students are supposed to do projects. My second appeal to the minister is that kindly consider making a very systematic, organic link between  technical education  and MSMEs. The problem faced by the SME sector must be posed to the students, every batch, in the final year. And they should be projects on those problems so once they solve, atleast even if 1 percent of the projects lead to products or services, 6000 new products will come out every year because there are atleast 6 lakh students. Some estimates show that they may have increased about 10 lakhs in the last year.