How the Indian government is leveraging science and innovation for 9 societal missions of national importance

We have had the good fortune to interact with Prof. K VijayRaghavan who was appointed as the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the government of India last year.

Given that there are many scientific departments in India responsible for Research and Development, the role of the PSA is to initiate missions cutting across departments that are of strategic, technology and other areas of economic and social relevance. We facilitated the visit Prof. VijayRaghavan to Sweden last year where he met with Sweden’s National Innovation Council to understand their role.

Prof. K VijayRaghavan speaking at the Nobel Memorial Banquet Dinner at the Embassy of Sweden. Photo: Embassy of Sweden, 2018.

We were pleased to hear the announcement of setting-up of Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) by the PSA’s Office.

The PM-STIAC is an overarching Council that facilitates the PSA’s Office to assess the status in specific science and technology domains, comprehend challenges in hand, formulate specific interventions, develop a futuristic roadmap and advise the Prime Minister accordingly. PSA’s Office also oversees the implementation of such interventions by concerned S&T Departments and Agencies and other government Ministries.

The Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PMSTIAC) has launched nine missions of national importance. The missions that would be led by a nodal ministry with collaborations from other ministries, research institutions and industry partners. It is hoped that the new missions would strengthen research in different domains, connect science with the society, and promote innovations and economy.

Nine Missions

  • Natural Language Translation – Through a combination of machine and human translation, the mission aims to enable access to teaching and research material bilingually i.e. in English and one’s native Indian language.
  • Quantum Frontier – This mission aims to initiate works in control of the quantum mechanical systems, with a large number of degrees of freedom, as one of the great contemporary challenges in fundamental science and technology.
  • Artificial Intelligence – The mission focuses on efforts that will benefit India in addressing societal needs in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, smart cities and infrastructure, including smart mobility and transportation.
  • National Biodiversity Mission – Comprehensive documentation of India’s biodiversity with the potential for cataloguing and mapping all lifeforms in India including associated cultural and traditional practices. Assessment of the distribution and conservation status of India’s biodiversity.
  • Electric Vehicles – The mission aims to reduce India’s fossil fuel emissions and mitigate emissions by making Electric Vehicles economical and scalable through focused research, development and innovation and building of indigenous capacity.
  • BioScience for Human Health – The mission through the use of healthy and disease samples aims to understand the impact of nature and nurture on health. The mission aims to construct comprehensive reference maps of genomes and to understand the dynamics of how exposure to different environments have an impact on our bodies.
  • Waste To Wealth – The mission aims to identify, develop and deploy technologies to treat waste to generate energy, recycle materials and extract worth. The mission will work to identify and support the development of new technologies that hold promise in creating a clean and green environment.
  • Deep Ocean Exploration – The mission aims to scientifically explore the deep oceans towards improving our understanding of the blue frontier. The information from this mission will address issues arising from long term changes in the ocean due to climate change.
  • Agnii – This mission aims to support the national efforts to boost the innovation ecosystem in the country by connecting innovators across the industry, individuals and the grassroots to the market and helping commercialise innovative solutions. It will provide a platform for innovators to bring their technology ready products and solutions to industry 6 and the market thereby helping propel techno-entrepreneurship which can usher a new era of inclusive socio-economic growth.

In a world that depends on science and innovation to help address shared challenges, the creation of Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation and Innovation Advisory Council comes at an exciting time for both India and Sweden.

As most of the challenges faced today are global in nature, it is important that India effectively leverages international science and technology collaboration to address these issues. Sweden has strengths in many of the areas identified as the missions of national importance such as electric vehicles, waste to wealth, oceans research and bioscience for human health.

We are extremely pleased that the Swedish research and innovation funders are coming together to India in April 2019 to understand more about India’s research priorities. This will open many new doors for joint collaboration between Sweden and India. In the progress of their cooperation, we hope they will further strengthen their linkages and collaboration, and tackle bigger challenges for the needs of mankind!

Maria Lunander and Leena Kukreja