The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences and VP, CSIR Dr Harsh Vardhan, has urged the private sector to “look within” rather than “without” for answers to their needs for technological competitiveness and breakthrough products. “Make in India is happening already –in the institutions and laboratories of the Centre of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Science & Technology and other wings of the Ministry. Our scientists are getting accolades at the highest forums abroad, but sadly for the country, Indian industry is unresponsive,” the Minister told newspersons after his visit to the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) in Thiruvananthapuram today. Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “This institution is developing technology processes and engineering products with wide commercial possibilities. It is also offering consultancy services in a variety of fields. There is scope for handshake with the private sector.”He pointed out that the Prime Minister’s call for “Make in India” needs to be translated on the ground through collaborations between the private sector which owns more than 70 percent of the manufacturing sector and the S&T laboratories, 85 percent of which are in the government sector.
CSIR-NIIST, founded in 1975, has recently been adjudged by Nesta, a UK-based independent organisation for evaluating innovations in S&T research as the top organization in India. The organization has already received some of the highest awards in the country like the Infosys award, TWAS award, SSB prizes and been elected to the top scientific academies of the country. Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out, “There is hardly an area in which CSIR-NIIST is not active. Its agricultural breakthroughs are helping farmers in the north-eastern region; research into palm oil benefits is opening the world’s eyes to a new and inexpensive way to beat malnutrition; industrial enzymes developed here are already in commercial use and its presence is also significant in the area of extracting rare earths from beach sand.”
“In China an institution under CSIR-NIIST would be perceived as a national asset and every manufacturing unit would be making a beeline for its processes and products. Sadly, in this country the emphasis has been on seeking foreign technology and the reality there is that foreigners seldom part with the best,” the Minister pointed out. Dr Harsh Vardhan remarked that our scientists have developed cutting edge technologies which are most suitable for India. Yet there is very little awareness.” The Minister, accompanied by Dr M.O. Garg, Director-General of CSIR, visited the laboratories in CSIR-NIIST, which includes a modern Photochemistry laboratory, High-resolution TEM facility (which is also used by other institutes in the region and the IITs), pilot-plant facility in the Agro-Processing and Natural Products Division, the Centre for Biofuels, and pilot plants on lignocellulosic bioethanol and industrial enzymes in the Biotechnology Division and pilot plants for waste water treatment in Process Engineering and Environmental Technology Division.
The Minister remarked, as a medical doctor he wants to see this institution’s success with research into palm oil and fresh ginger used for health benefits of young children. Awareness on this low cost option needs to spread. A pilot plant facility has been established on the production of bioethanol from agricultural waste, which is first such facility in the country under public sector. The Minister remarked that this programme is vital for attaining self-reliance for the country under energy sector, especially for transport sector. CSIR-NIIST has taken-up projects targeting the technological developments that have potential to create green micro-enterprises and generate income and employment for low income groups. Some such activities included anaerobic extraction of natural fibres, natural fibres based biodegradable products, development of house-hold waste management and sanitation devices, which is of high relevance for the Prime Minister’s Swachha Bharat program. In the area of building construction, coir and banana reinforced polymer composite panels developed by NIIST, which are used as building components (e.g., doors) and furniture. Dr Harsh Vardhan said that our scientists have justified former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘Jai Vigyan’ call.”