On 21st February, 2022, the 128th birth anniversary of the legendary Scientist and administrator, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, his contributions to development of Institutions in India was celebrated through an expository lecture “CSIR – Promises Kept and Gifts yet Undelivered”, by Prof. Girish Sahni, former Director General of CSIR (council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Bhatnagar was close to Nehru and other top leaders who advocated technology led development of the country and time and again emphasized the need for utilizing the science base for development. The CSIR, founded in the year 1942 has the motto ‘to provide scientific industrial R & D that maximizes the economic, environmental and societal benefits for the people of India. Dr. Sahni was delivering the 9th lecture in the series “Institution Building and Nurturing Initiatives in Independent India” initiated by the Society for Promotion of Science and Technology in India to Celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, 75th year of Indian Independence. The session was attended online on zoom and many more viewed the same on the Facebook page of SPSTI. These lectures are held in association with in association with the Chandigarh chapters of the Science academies INSA, NASI& INYAS and Punjab Engineering College (PEC) (Deemed to be University), Chandigarh with support from the Haryana Council of Science Innovation and Technology. Today’s online event started with remarks from the Guest of Honour, Prof. Sarit Das, former Director of IIT Ropar who pointed out that Indian Institutions are still young compared to globally established ones and therefore need to be nurtured by the government. He lauded the synergetic environment brought about by the creation CRIKC, the Chandigarh Regional Cluster of Scientific Research Institutions.

Prof. Sahni further informed that presently the emphasis at the Govt. level was to cultivate CSIR into generating funds for itself while maintaining its role of societal value creator. While CSIR is one of the Govt’s large organizations for application of science and technology, like Space and Agriculture, its import is not felt immediately. A rocket launch is broadcast far and wide; a new seed variety also generates immediate attention but not so for a new industrial process! The question is often raised ‘what has Indian Science given to Industry?’ The answer to this is that CSIR has made myriad contributions to the development of Industrial products. In recent years just six products/ processes has resulted in total value creation of Rs. 30,000 crores. These are Rice Bran Oil, Streptokinase, Tractors, Vitrified Tiles , Soft coke oven and Terafil water filters. Similarly just two pharma products generated anothe 30, 000 crores. CSIR contributes in a plethora of fields, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, tractors, pesticides and parakllel processors to name a few.

The IPR revolution was led by CSIR and saw a huge leap 2005 onwards. The number of patents is very large but the question remains how many will translate to useful marketabe products. The lab to market process involves mainly 4 steps – Science and new knowledge to intellectual property to product and services to societal value. Most remain at the first two stages. The leap from there requires a huge amount of investment. China has done it although with different model. We have many example of similar achievement, but we need to create a vibrant, viable ecosystem. Taking cue from the white revolution, Dr. Sahni said ‘We need Kuriens and the Ecosystem’. Today most startups are in IT areas, which needs to change. One encouraging set of data shows that the external cash flow (ECF) shows a remarkable increase in industry contribution as compared to Govt. contribution over the past decade. These are sure steps towards ‘Science for Technology and Technology for People’.

Following the talk, a deep discussion ensued during the Q&A session. The speaker and chief guest were introduced by members INYAS, Dr. Amit (IMTECH) and Dr, Neha Sardana (IIT Ropar). It was attended by many eminent scientists including Prof. N Sathyamurthy, ex-Director, IISER Mohali, Prof. A K Grover, ex-VC, PU, Vice President, SPSTI, Prof. Keya Dharamvir, Gen Secy, SPSTI etc.  The formal vote of thanks was proposed by Mr Dharam Vir, President, SPSTI.

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