The Centre has identified six cities — Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad — for development as City Knowledge and Innovation Clusters. These clusters are being planned to provide a connect between the existing research and knowledge at an institution and various industries that exist in the city or state.
The project is being spearheaded by the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) on a priority basis under its agenda for the first 100 days of the NDA government’s second term.
PSA officials said the concept notes for all cities are ready and consultative meetings in some cities have already been initiated. According to them, 20 national-level laboratories are already on Bhubaneswar’s roster and over 30 different business houses or industries have participated in various meetings in Pune.
“There is a huge amount of knowledge and fiscal resources, which exist within a city or region. If we can seamlessly connect these independent entities into a virtual platform, we will be able to optimise the resources, and various sectors will be able to work in partnership instead of in silos,” Scientific Secretary Dr Arabinda Mitra said.
“For instance, if a particular industry has a problem that needs to be solved, which can be done by scientists or maybe even an instrument that one of the R&D labs have, today there is no access or even knowledge of the existence of this equipment or technical solution. The idea is to bring all of this together,’’ Mitra said.
For this purpose, each city cluster will have a nodal office headed by a CEO, who will be selected by the stakeholders. “This could be an industrialist or a scientist or an academic. Anyone that the stakeholders think is an appropriate appointment,” an official said. Government officials, such as municipal commissioners, will be a part of the city cluster.
Officials said the project will assist industries in gaining access to existing technology, and help academic institutions and R&D facilities commercialise this technology.
The nodal offices will be run and funded by the PSA’s office for the first three years, within which time the stakeholders will have to look at how to make the initiative independent of government funding and sustainable.
“When the financial and scientific sectors come together, many problems can be solved. Problems of shortage of landfills and dumping waste, conserving and reusing water, traffic snarls — can the city come together and solve these problems? We are looking for solutions outside decisions taken by the government or the civic administration. We are looking at the city’s residents having a direct involvement in solving the city’s problems,’’ Mitra said.
The government’s hopes are anchored in the experience of Chandigarh that has experimented with a version of the project called Chandigarh Region Innovation Knowledge Cluster (CRIKC) where the city has opened its laboratories to students of Panjab University. “The Chandigarh model has done so well that the Governor is looking at how to extend it to the rest of the state,” an official said.
Officials said the aim of the project is that over a period of time, city clusters will be able to bid for international projects and seek international funding from organisations like the World Bank.
Given how the project seeks to enhance collaboration of research and facilities in the clusters, the government is also planning to set up I-Stemm, a web portal which will function as a nationwide inventory of all public funded institutions — both academic and R&D as well as all scientific instruments and infrastructure. As many as 350 institutes have already signed up for I-Stemm, officials said.