On the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi October 2 inaugurated the Vaibhav 2020 Summit, a global virtual event for overseas and resident Indian researchers and academicians.
Vaishvik Bhartiya Vaigyanik (in short, Vaibhav) is aimed at bringing Indian-origin luminaries in academic institutes and research and development (R&D) organizations across the world and resident counterparts on a single platform to debate upon collaboration mechanisms to strengthen academic and a science and technology (S&T) base in India for global development.
Attended by over 3,000 academicians and scientists of Indian origin and over 10,000 Indian scientists, the event will conclude October 31.
“The need of the hour is to ensure more youngsters develop an interest in science. For that, we must get well-versed with the science of history and history of science,” Modi said in his inaugural speech.
“Through Vaibhav, we present to you a great opportunity. An opportunity to connect and contribute. Your efforts will help India and the world. After all, when India prospers, the world also takes a leap ahead. These exchanges will certainly be useful. Your efforts will help create an ideal research ecosystem. It will merge tradition with modernity. It will make India provide homegrown solutions to the challenges we face. It will create prosperity for others. It will help India create disruptive technologies,” he told those attending.
Principal scientific advisor K. Vijayaraghavan and 16 overseas panelists — from the United States, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Brazil, and Switzerland — working in domains such as computing & communication, sono-chemistry, high energy physics, manufacturing technologies, management, geo-science, climate changes, microbiology, IT security, nano-materials, smart villages, and mathematical sciences interacted with the prime minister during the inaugural session.
Each speaker was allotted two minutes to briefly introduce and present their case to Modi — on what India needs and what they could offer.
Dr Arogyaswami Paulraj, professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, known as the father of MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) who was a lead member of India’s recent National Forum on 5G, was the first to speak at the summit.
His talk was focused on India’s development toward Information and Communication Technology (ICT). He said ICT will be playing an underlying role in almost all the sectors of a nation.
He highlighted how it is imperative for India to invest more in R&D for ICT.
“R&D is dominated by companies headquartered in a few countries, like the US, China and some in Europe. However, no country, including the United States, is self-reliant. And India, despite 30 years of trying, no company has not been able to enter this industry in a full-fledged manner,” said Paulraj.
He also said that “India can become a core ICT power.”
The country has to expand its current base and resource by hundreds of times for that. He also admitted that the country is not currently equipped for that task.
“Our current government structures are not designed to deliver this and we clearly need an empowered commission.”
Paulraj later told indica News: “This was an excellent initiative by prime minister Modi and several academics in science & technology from around the world shared their views.”
He said: “The prime minister gave a stirring speech emphasizing his vision of reaching out to the world in science & technology to build India. This is good news. India must more effectively join the global science & technology ecosystem to bring industrial and societal benefits, and thus advance the dream of Mahatma Gandhi for a truly inclusive society with economic and social justice to each and every one of its citizens.”
Subramanian Rangan, a professor of strategy and management at INSEAD, France, said it was vital for India to build credibility and trust among global peers.
“Technology is very important, but without trust, technology does not get us far. We have seen other countries that have invested so much in technology including artificial intelligence and space, but when you are not trusted, then people cannot invest in India,” said Rangan.
He also said, “Our predecessors invested in the Indian Institute of Technology and today I would plead with you with the same rigor, to invest in the complementary IIT, which is the Indian Institute of Trust.”
“We can buy technology; we can make partnerships on technology. But trust we must build we must make trust in India,” he added.
He said Indian companies lack trust among its peers in the global stage and even with its partner countries such as the United States.
Harish Bhaskar, a professor at Oxford University, UK, talked about how important it is for India to invest in R&D in creating new inventions without a particular outcome.
He said: “We cannot predict the economic needs of tomorrow, so it is very safe to say that we need investment to develop technologies and new ways to use them for whatever economic need we have in the future.”
He also noted how important it is to collaborate with the world rather than work in silos.
“We need to have a world meeting team where we have to work together as a team. And that also builds trust amongst collaborators. So, the scientific base will have more trust when we work collaboratively with each other not as advisors, not on committees but working together.”
Professor Darwin Solomon, an executive director of the Garwood Center at the Haas School of Business, University of California, and also known as the father of Smart Village Movement, talked about the importance of focusing on developing innovative technologies and smart cities in India in collaboration with the leading nations.
He highlighted how along with his peers, he has been actively addressing many gaps that exist in India. He noted three areas of initiatives where he has been focusing.
The first one, he said “is to establish India as a major manufacturing hub for diversifying global supply chains. Second, is to develop digital infrastructure for early and secondary education for skill development for the 600 million humans in India to leverage digital platforms, together with holistic education. And lastly, is to build ecosystems to key sectors to mitigate pandemic risk in the area of digital health, create transparent agricultural platforms and deepen financial inclusion.”
He also talked about how he has been playing a foundational role in some of India’s upcoming smart city projects.
Talking to indica News, Solomon said: “These are great ideas, and good to see the prime minister bringing great people together but you have to orchestrate… and he is a good orchestrator but I think he has a very complex country.”
Solomon felt professor Rangan nailed India’s problem.
“He said if you don’t have trust and you may have all the technology in the world and money in the world no one will work with you,” Solomon said.
“Don’t teach to rush after money, run after knowledge asset. Trust is more important than technology and companies will come to you.”