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Home > Tech Reiews > Tech Report Last Updated: 15:26 03/09/2007
Tech Report #79: December 4, 2006

Indian Science & Technology Report:
November, 2006


  • The majority of the Indian population lives in the country's 600,000 villages, and any development, whether scientific or technical, must address the issue of the benefits that will be accrued by rural populations. This has an immense socioeconomic connotation, and must be kept in mind when considering the overall picture. It is essential for any development plan to address this issue.
  • Energy security will play a major role in India's development in the coming decades. Major research and development (R&D) efforts will be required in order to achieve projected goals in the areas of renewable and nuclear energy. If these plans fail, India must have alternate strategies in place, in case it must begin to import a higher percentage of it's energy supply in the coming decades.
  • However, India's energy policy cannot be seen in isolation from current global efforts at reducing fossil fuel consumption. India (and China) will come under pressure to cut down on fossil fuels once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 and negotiations to find a replacement fuel begin. There is no getting away from responsibility for India, because total emissions from the country are likely to be very large in the future.
  • India's agricultural sector is in need of a second "Green Revolution."
  • India has had several success stories, including programs in Space, Atomic Energy, and Agriculture. Commercially, the Pharmaceutical (Pharma) and Information Technology (IT) industries have been doing very well.
  • It is likely that Indian technology companies will develop strong links with research laboratories outside of India, especially if domestic laboratories are found to be insufficient. Indians may discover that their core competence is in engineering rather than science. The country's high-technology industry would probably not suffer much if public laboratories were to decline. Many Indian companies can afford to fund research in Western institutes, and some Indian technology companies have been acquiring companies in the West. ATIP estimates that Indian companies have acquired approximately 350 companies in Europe and the United States (US) within the past year.
  • Good scientific and technical research and education are being carried out in a variety of India's institutes and universities. However, the majority of universities are far behind the research institutes in both infrastructure and the quality of faculty.
  • India missed out on the microelectronics revolution and the opportunities for developing advanced materials. Current investment in these areas is both untimely and inadequate. As documented by earlier ATIP reports, India has begun investing in nanotechnology rather belatedly as well. The present assessment is that there are far too few skilled scientists and technologists, and that Indian industry has not been providing enough funding.
  • The Indian education system is based on a mixture of meritocracy and social compulsions. The country has a longstanding tradition of looking for scientific talent by holding examinations at the national level. Most universities in India are weak, and some experts and educators believe that a significant number are beyond repair. Most senior appointments in the educational system have been political, which is a continuing trend. At best, these universities are capable of producing graduates who have some knowledge, but are not employable without considerable training. On the other hand, the fact that they can produce a large number of partially educated people is useful in and of itself.
  • Major long distance education policies and their implementation are helping with the production of an acceptable manpower base.
  • Research in a few areas of purely theoretical science is excellent. On the other hand, experimental science is at least a decade behind, in comparison to leading research centers abroad. In general, ATIP believes that India's recent successes have been largely in engineering, not science, and that many government research institutions are far below international levels.
  • The future role of government science and technology (S&T) institutions is not clear. There is a serious crisis of leadership therein, and a new generation of leaders has not appeared - an issue that will take at least a decade to resolve, if not longer. Will the national laboratories deteriorate, and what will be the impact on the country if they decline considerably? These are serious questions that ATIP cannot presently answer.

India is currently high on the radar of many countries, particularly the US. Its path to becoming a developed nation utilizing S&T is full of promise as well as uncertainty. The success or failure of India, with its huge population working in a democratic structure, will have a global impact. This report provides an overview of the uncertainties involved, along with both the strengths and weaknesses of the country's S&T situation. ATIP believes that India's recent successes have largely been in engineering, not science, and that many of its government institutions are below international standards. ATIP also believes that the overall quality of science in India over the past two decades has at best held steady, and at worst been declining. In contrast, the quality of engineering and technology development has been improving during the same period of time. Overall, this has been good for the country's economy in that it has resulted in the creation of a few technology industries as well as a large number of new jobs.

(This is the "Executive Summary" portion of the captioned report. Please refer to ATIP for the full text.)

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