Nobel and Fields wisdom: For Make in India, first need Discover and Invent in India

Make in India programme, will not benefit the country in the long term unless backed by sustained investments in basic science and the fostering of the spirit of curiosity.

Written by Johnson T A | Mysuru | Published:January 5, 2016 2:21 am
nobel-make in india759 David Gross, Physics Nobel, 2004; Serge Haroche , Physics Nobel, 2012; Dan Shechtman, Chemistry Nobel, 2011; Manjul Bhargava Fields Medal, 2014.

Four Nobel laureates and a winner of the Fields medal — considered the most prestigious prize in mathematics — said Monday that efforts to make high-technology products in India, as outlined in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme, will not benefit the country in the long term unless backed by sustained investments in basic science and the fostering of the spirit of curiosity.

The five scientists were speaking at the Science Congress in Mysuru, where they are star attractions. David Gross of the United States won the Nobel prize for physics in 2004, Israeli scientist Dan Schectman for chemistry in 2011, French scientist Serge Haroche for physics in 2012, and British biologist John Gurdon for medicine in 2012, while Indian-origin Manjul Bhargava won the Fields medal is 2014.

“New inventions, technologies, products that can compete on the world stage are in the end based on new discoveries, new understanding of the workings of nature — what we call basic science, which eventually translates into applied sciences and technologies. So my suggestion is that you replace the slogan ‘Make In India’ with the slogan ‘Discover, Invent and Make in India’,” Gross said.

Gross said he was impressed by Modi’s ‘Make in India’ push while inaugurating the Science Congress Sunday but felt some elements for ‘Make in India’ were missing. “One should modify Modiji’s ‘Make in India’ slogan. I think it is a necessary goal for Indian society — you now buy and assemble in India at best. But in order to make in India and to be competitive in today’s world, you have to invent new products, new technologies in India, and in order to invent you will have to discover in India,” Gross said.

The share of investment in research and development in India has remained largely unchanged in the last 15 years, he said. “I gather that at the Indian Science Congress over the last 10 years every prime minister has promised to increase R&D spend from 0.8 per cent (of GDP). The numbers I am seeing are very flat. If this continues, there will only be a few centres of excellence in India. If you invest the way South Korea, China, US and Europe have done in science, you will start competing and leading,” Gross said.

Haroche said “basic science or science that is driven by curiosity is the foundation on which application and innovation can be produced”. Investments in basic science today “will take tens of years to translate into a better life and to translate into innovation and applications”, he said. The challenge for democracies, including India, is in getting politicians now focused on short-term electoral gains to invest in long-term goals like the development of basic sciences, he said.

“One of the weaknesses of science in democracies is the fact that it is difficult to look ahead in the long term. On the other hand, R&D needs freedom and the thing with science in China is that though they have the money, the freedom that exists in Europe and India is not there,” he said. Democracies like India need to invest in basic science with a long-term view while protecting the freedom of scientists, he said. “I am optimistic that if we do that then in the future democracies we will be able to sustain in comparison to China, even if China is doing more,” Haroche said.

Bhargava said India needs a cultural shift where people are oriented to pursuing science. “Right now, for several years the norm has been for talented people to go into engineering. You need to develop a culture in India where more and more young people who are talented and interested in science take up science and that will help not just making in India but also discovering in India,” Bhargava said.

Apart from a basic science foundation, a goal like Make in India also needs education to expand, Gross said. “You have to expand education by a factor of 10 because India is a huge country and education is an enormous problem. You have to increase the number of teachers by a factor of 10. You have to study other success stories,” he said, citing South Korea as an example.

For many people to think science is great, you have to teach them science at a very early age, said Shechtman. “Start teaching science in early primary school so that young people understand the world around them. It is a strategic plan. It takes years, 20 years, 30 years. But if you continue to do it year after year, the future of India will be very, very bright,’’ Shechtman said.

Gurdon said India needs to introduce financial schemes to fund young science aspirants since this can be “enormously beneficial in enabling those with real talent to get into science at an early age and become world leaders in due course”.

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    bonku
    Jan 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm
    Indian policy makers MUST understand that donkeys can not become a racehorse... They systematically kill/destroy the race horse breed and promote monkeys and donkeys and then select which of them can run faster ....
    Reply
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      bonku
      Jan 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm
      Investors are NOT cow loving morons and they also have so many options to invest in so many different countries. Why should they invest in India? As an Indian, I myself avoid investing in India, as I know how it would fail if I do not pay haftas to political leaders (besides party 'donation'), bribing bureaucrats, bowing to all the whims of the 'big boys' in INdian corporate lobbies (as there is ABSOLUTELY) no corporate governance and lastly, NO functional and effective judiciary to protect my investment and intellectual property. In reality, only those foreign investors invest in India who exploit Indian resources (both- cheap natural and human resources) and ease to break almost any law to benefit. But in the long run the county suffer, local talents and honest entrepreneurs fail. That's way more damaging than losing foreign investors.
      Reply
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        Personal_experince
        Jan 5, 2016 at 5:45 pm
        Flood all top posts in defense, Scientific insutions with incompetent misfit brahmins. Then they will be loyal to those s who appointed them in their never dreamt of positions. Not to the country! Skrew up every project. Protect them and their bers using official thugs like IB. India can become scientific boiling pot over flowing with bean counters. Science establishments in india are meant for generating top level employment for incompetent brahmins and low level employment for militant Keralites!
        Reply
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          Mithra
          Jan 5, 2016 at 2:34 am
          That's not in Indian blood. Gone are those days of Sir CV Raman, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. It was in Tamil blood and Bangla blood. No sooner they became part of Hindiya, it vaporized. For the past 68 years only suppression of indigenous talent by using it for criminal purposes in the name of integration. How long is it going to hold. Not long.
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          1. P
            Prion
            Jan 6, 2016 at 9:43 am
            Mug up / kiss / loose / choice is yours
            Reply
            1. P
              Pathetic
              Jan 5, 2016 at 2:43 am
              Where are the scientists and engineers? All of them converted to highly paid desk clerks called software engineers!!! M manufacture and convert into clerks- Indian success story. China is a failure in Indian eyes!!!
              Reply
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                Amit Mukhopadhyay
                Jan 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm
                I should also add electricity to the list of important Western discoveries. Nothing is anything without electricity, which was first produced from chemical sources (batteries) and later using the electromagnetic principle of my favourite scientist Michael Faraday.
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                  Amit Mukhopadhyay
                  Jan 5, 2016 at 7:37 pm
                  Meaningful contribution of the Orient to this civilization ended at least five centuries ago. Things started here but later we lost all of it. For example, take the case of fire arms. The entire world bows before the fire arms technology of the West while we have none. All we do is emble. But the very concept of fire arms began with "gun powder", chemical name potium nitrate, also called "salt peter". Gun powder was discovered in China, the Chinese people also developed the first applications of gun powder in the form of detonators, then the technology came to India (first came in north Bengal, the Darjeeling area), from there to north India, from there through Afghanistan to West Asia to Turkey and finally to West Europe. It is here that all the modern killer equipment that use gun powder (or its modern equivalents) were developed. Now we buy from West either the guns or their technology. Also, there are technologies that were invented and resources discovered in the West -- steam engine, automobile, petroleum, petroleum products, aeroplane, cement, gl, almost all medicines, paper, printing, computer, internet ... the list goes on. I say, take off West from our land today, within a second you will see only humans and nothing else. We simply have nothing of our own making. We only can copy, buy, or at best get things embled here.
                  Reply
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