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Published by api-3752698
Thoughts of Dr Raghunath Mashelkar
Thoughts of Dr Raghunath Mashelkar

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Published by: api-3752698 on Oct 16, 2008
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Thoughts of Dr R.A. Mashelkar
Compiled & Edited By
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On Education

The ones who get education are fortunate indeed. Two years ago, I was invited to present the Ramakrishna Bajaj Award to industrialist Kumaramangalam Birla, Narayana Murthy and F C Kohli. On way to the venue of the ceremony, I saw children from the slums picking rags at a time when they should rightly be at school. I could see himself as one of them many years ago and thought: \u201cI\u2019m here today driving down to give awards to great industrialists. That is basically because of education.\u201d

We had dedicated teachers who would not only impart knowledge to children but also good values. In fact, my entire life was made because of such teachers. The reason I turned to science was because of my Physics teacher Bhave who would demonstrate simple experiments to us. One of them was finding the focal length of a convex lens. He took us out in the sun, held a piece of paper, held the convex lens, there was a bright spot and he said \u2018this is the focal length\u2019. He held it for a while longer and the paper burnt! For some reason, he turned to me and said, \u2018Mashelkar, if you focus your energies like this, you can burn anything in the world. You can achieve anything in the world, don\u2019t despair\u2019. This gave me my philosophy of life, \u2018focus and you can achieve anything\u2019. We all must converge and focus. Bhave was a poor teacher but he would spend money from his pocket to take us out to show us things like soap making. Mashelkars were built because Bhaves were there. Where are those Bhaves now? What are we doing about it?

On Creating An Inquiring Society To Promote Innovation
We cannot allow the 'I' in India to stand for imitation and inhibition; it
must stand for innovation.

Innovation has to start at the grass-root level with our education system. In India innovation is not promoted, questioning is not permitted and creativity is subdued. Information is dished out in classrooms and asked for in exams. Take, for instance, Polaroid. When Edwin Land took his daughter on a holiday and photographed her, the little girl asked her father whether she could see the picture immediately, that\u2019s how Polaroid was created and then patented. We need to create a system where we develop a culture of asking questions, an inquiring society. Information is available to everyone, but it is the insight that matters. Conversion of information into insight through the process of inquiry will build and promote innovators. For this to happen, changes need to be made in curricula, in the teaching methods, in the examination system and in the evaluation process. We need to replicate and rediscover our best practices in India. The global digital network is inexorably shifting power from organisations to individuals, decentralising authority and accelerating innovation. At the corporate level, if companies do not become innovation-driven they will not survive. Corporates and the academics must work together. Corporates must look at academia as providers of ideas and windows of knowledge to the outside world. There must be progress through partnership.

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On Creating An Innovation-Centered India

Innovation thrives in a society that tolerates innovation and change and hence it must be part of our system \u2013 social, legal and political. Innovation cannot survive in hierarchies and where there is bureaucracy. It does not happen only in laboratories among scientists and technologists, but also at grassroots levels \u2013 among farmers, artisans and even among housewives. The government has created a National Innovation Foundation, which focuses on promoting grassroots level innovations. The NIF should create a national register of innovations that can be made available across boundaries over the Internet. It must be recognized that ideas are not the prerogative of the learned or formally educated

Another thing that is vital is vitamin M, where M stands for money. Innovation cannot work without money, hence we need venture capital financing. We still do not have good venture capital finance, we still play safe and do not take risks. Risk taking is an essential ingredient of innovation. Investing in ideas and thinking ahead should be part of our culture.

On Vision For Indian Science And Technology

I have always believed that the 21st century is going to be India\u2019s century. If that dream has to come true, then one of the key factors will be science and technology. I would like to see Indian science lead and not follow. In science, it is said that only two people matter \u2013 the one who says the first word and the one who says the last word. I would like to see Indian science do that.

Among the Nobel Prize winners, there is always an American. Why? They have made it a habit. I would like to see Indian scientists make it a habit. I would also like to see India take a technology leadership. We cannot be leaders in everything, but there must be five to six areas where we can be the best in the world. I would like to see the 21st century getting dominated by Indian products. I would like to see Indian brands based on Indian technology. I would like to see Indian science create wealth, so the world can take notice of India as a rich country with rich people \u2013 not merely in terms of physical wealth, but in terms of values as well.

On Patents And Awareness About Patents

We still stick to the culture of publish and perish instead of patent and flourish. When I took over as director National Chemical Laboratories (NCL) and floated the idea of spreading patent knowledge, it had very few takers. True patenting is a work of art. You have to possess the ability to not only think of ideas but also be able to write and read patents in such a way that you can bypass the fortress that the West sometimes manages to build. It is time we broke with

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