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Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry

January 1st, 2010

Scientific capability will decide our ability to overcome challenges: PM

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh

Unveiling his vision for making India a 21st century knowledge power, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on January 3 called for "liberating" Indian science and attracting Indian origin researchers to work in the country to "convert brain drain into brain gain".

Addressing around 6,500 scientists from across the country and abroad, after inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress at Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Singh firmly put the upgrade of India's scientific and technological capabilities at the heart of the country's aspirations to "re-emerge as a knowledge power in the 21st century".

Excerpts from his speech:

"If India has to re-emerge as a knowledge power in the 21st century, then it can only be by developing a strong capability in science and technology. It is particularly appropriate that this Congress is being held in Kerala which has led the way in education and human resource development. I recall it was in Thiruvananthapuram that we launched India into the era of space exploration.

In the past few years our Government has invested heavily in expanding and upgrading the science, technology and innovation system in our country as well as in supporting a more broad-based educational base. We have worked hard to do what is good for science. We need to do more because scientific capability is what will determine our ability to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

"Last month, world leaders came together at Copenhagen to grapple with the threat that climate change poses to our planet and to our way of life. It is a problem that is challenging the knowledge and wisdom of humankind. We were able to make only limited progress at the Copenhagen Summit and no one was satisfied with the outcome. And yet, there is no escaping the truth that the nations of the world have to move to a low greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficient development path.

All over the world, countries are chalking out strategies to achieve greater energy efficiency and a shift to renewable sources of energy. They are also chalking out strategies for adapting to such climate change as is inevitable. India must not lag behind in these areas. Indeed, we should plan to be among the leaders in the development of science and technology related to mitigation and also adaptation to climate change. The market for such technologies is not just India. It is indeed the whole world.

As far as energy is concerned, renewable and clean energy supplies will need to pay a much bigger role than what they do currently. Nuclear and solar energy supplies will need to increase considerably. The agreement reached last year with the Nuclear Suppliers Group represents a landmark in lifting long standing restrictions on the transfer of nuclear fuel and technology to India. I am confident that we can now plan for an accelerated nuclear power development programme.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh

We have also decided to launch a Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission for the establishment of 20,000 MW of solar generation capacity by the year 2020. The mission provides an opportunity to our indigenous scientific institutions to contribute in this important area. I am very happy that a PAN IIT programme for Solar Energy Research has been launched by our Ministry of Science and Technology to drive down the costs of solar energy technology options through R&D-led innovations. The Ministry has also launched joint development programmes with knowledge networks of the European Union and the United Kingdom on solar energy research with investments of 5 million Euro and 5 million, respectively, on each side.

Strengthening food security is an important area of emphasis in our scientific efforts. Better weather forecasting is critical for sound agricultural management. A Geo-spatial Technology Applications Mission to provide crop planning, monitoring and flood management has recently been mounted.

Strengthening food security is an important area of emphasis in our scientific efforts. Better weather forecasting is critical for sound agricultural management. A Geo-spatial Technology Applications Mission to provide crop planning, monitoring and flood management has recently been mounted made a great difference to the production of cotton. These must be given full weightage, with regulatory control based on strictly scientific criteria. Subject to these caveats, we should pursue all possible leads that biotechnology provides that might increase our food security.

Providing affordable healthcare and improving the quality of life of our elderly population is yet another major challenge facing us in the 21st century.

It is a matter of pride that scientists of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research have recently succeeded in mapping the genome of an Indian through a collaborative national research effort. I also commend the DRDO for developing a new and rapid diagnostic method for detecting the H1N1 virus. We need to build our scientific capabilities in a way that they can respond in real time to problems such as pandemics. Scientific capability depends on our S&T education and research infrastructure.

Under the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research or INSPIRE scheme, we will soon be announcing the name of at least one science awardee per school in the age group of 10-15 in the entire country.

We are keen to make our science education outreach inclusive and also affordable. Last year I had announced a special package for the North Eastern Region. We have since started implementing a similar package for the Science & Technology sector in Jammu and Kashmir.

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