Capability, Governance and Nanotechnology Developments: a focus on India Summary report of the Round Table Discussion held at TERI

on 8th October 2007
Nanotechnology (NT) is poised to revolutionize the world by offering novel products, processes, services and enhancing existing ones, in wide-ranging fields such as manufacturing, energy, agriculture, medicine and environment, potentially transforming them/these sectors. Several developing countries including India are investing public money in nanotechnology R&D and increasingly the industrial sector and venture capitalists in these countries are following suite. Globally, as yet, the majority of the nanotechnology related products in the market (close to 500) are largely tailored to developed country consumer products such as textiles, sports goods, cosmetics and home furnishings. Nonetheless, it is believed that nanotechnology could act as a key potential tool in serving to attain the Millennium Developmental Goals and solving several developing country problems. With this background, the Science and Technology Area of the Resources and Global Security Division in TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) organized the first of its stakeholder dialogues surrounding nanotechnology (NT) policy and social issues. The Round table discussion on NT and Development held on 8th October 2007 at TERI is a part of a three-year International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supported study on Capability, Governance and Nanotechnology Developments: a focus on India The discussion was held with the objective of understanding the status of NT in India and providing insights into the approaches facilitating its application in meeting India’s development goals. The dialogue aimed at addressing the following questions in particular: • • • Is nanotechnology R&D focused on specific sectors and what are its implications for developmental goals? What are the various driving forces influencing choice of nanotechnology applications? What are the resources, strengths and gaps in Indian nanotechnology scenario (investment, institutional, infrastructural, manpower)?

The roundtable began with a presentation by TERI introducing the IDRC project and the discussion. Presentations were also made on Nanotechnology for Rural Development (Dr. Anil K Rajvanshi from NARI), Nanotechnology and Development – An Industry Perspective (Mr. Sougata Bhattacharya, I-CanNano) and Nanotechnology: Small Ideas For A Big Impact (Dr. P Deb, Tezpur University).

The need is to come up with road map for nanotechnology in India so as to define the trajectory of nanotechnology was greatly emphasized upon. • • • • Understanding and regulating risks • • Generally risk is measured in terms of ‘science’ that appears to be neutral and is independent of who is measuring risk.Following are some of the important points that emerged from the discussion: Prioritizing nanotechnology R& D and Application • The stakeholder group agreed that a prioritization of action needs to be done taking a two-tier approach – what is required immediately and what is needed in the long term. The decision making process at present bypass public discussion and public participation Therefore. there are many areas where nanotechnology can play a role in improving the life in the rural areas such as. there is need to bring this to the public body at the local level but the real challenge in doing so is the ability to make right decisions at the local level given the complex nature of the technology and its implications. agricultural implements. etc. Here the academia. Ethical issues and regulatory requirements pertaining to nanotechnology need to be addressed either by the government or through government channels/mechanisms. There are different stages at which nanotechnology may be applied in context of addressing developmental goals. Generally corporates shy away from taking risk of the latter category. which is capable of taking such risk could pitch in and work in a collaborative mode. Very few groups are working on the issue of toxicity aspect in nanotechnology and there is no proper documentation of work being done in these areas. which is measuring it. Energy is another sector with great potential for nanotechnology applications.environmental risk and financial risk. Even the • • . Besides. the critical challenge lies in correctly identifying focus areas in the Indian context and taking up of responsibility by the scientific groups to work on these issues. In nanotechnology risk has to be understood in terms of the party. construction materials. Nanotechnology applications in agriculture sector has not been deliberated upon sufficiently but given the huge dependence of people on this sector there is a need to focus on agriculture as well. Further. clean water. While the issue of the level of public investment into nanotechnology is being debated. It was also pointed out that there is a need for research on whether nanotechnology is specifically focusing on any of the MDG goals or not. in the defense sector the potential applications of nanotechnology could be explored. Also. There was a view that there is a need for scientists and decision makers to have more insights into science and development needs related aspects. an efficient monitoring system could help in making programmes a success. Risk has to be understood at two levels .

D programmes funded by industry Fostering entrepreneurial capabilities • • Learning from the past experiences in ICT where major development were individual driven. Lack of investment from industry is observed to a greater extent in nano science. loosely bound (having environmental effect) and fixed (having no/little environmental effect). Report of Royal Society of London has done extensive study on toxicological effect on environment and has found two categories of nanomaterials viz.. funding organizations and the market. . Technology development and deployment • • It was observed that currently. Presently the nanotechnology landscape is uneven and its dynamics are not clear so.• nano particles that may not be toxic per se can create environmental problems once they are disposed off. There is a pressing need to bridge the gap between R&D institutions. Also. Industry can sponsor some of the candidates for nano education programmes and there could be joint projects for Ph. Also. there is a need to create entrepreneurial cells in nanotechnology. R&D in nano S&T in India is mostly science with less of technology. there is a need for some kind of technology control. Development of nanotechnology is a generic problem as experienced in any other technology and the chain of lab to technology development is fairly weak. which provide support for development of technology from lab to production. there is a huge gap between research and development and technology applications. In the field of incubation and entrepreneurship there are already 20 incubation centres supported by DST in different parts of the country. It is important to determine whether there are enough business opportunities to venture into a totally new domain. there is a scheme ‘Techno-Entrepreneurship Programme’ jointly promoted by DST and DSIR. For this at first we should go for intensive education in nano S&T. Since India is building nanotechnology from scratch there is a great chance to build it right and excellent. a question was raised as to whether laboratories exist to test protocols developed to speed up the market launch of the product? • Greater industry participation • • Large corporate bodies have not yet taken up nanotechnology because they are not in a position to control the technology into their channelized production process. Building education base • • • It is important to define the level of nanotechnology related education in India.

instead of ‘nanotechnology for development’ the focus should be on ‘technology for development’ Addressing the Information gap • There is a huge information gap on what is happening in nanotechnology in India. infrastructure is lacking and gaps exist between what technology is developed and how much it is applicable to the society. Indian research papers are generally single author papers whereas Chinese papers have collaborations both at international level and national level. This information could then be disseminated to concerned institutions and facilitate solutions on the field. e. A field study by agency such as TERI could be undertaken on the requirement of the people in the rural areas in relation to nanotechnology applications.. A newsletter inviting people from all over India to send briefs electronically on the happenings/current developments in nanotechnology can help in the process of information sharing in the field. • • Greater stakeholder engagement • • • There is a need for technology development. Some agency such as. using nanostructures to compress an solidify methane in the cylinders used for cooking) An institutional network having personnel’s from scientific as well as social science background is required so as to have a view from a policy research angle. • • . passive (improving an already existing product) and active (new applications of nanotechnology in making products not existing earlier. which are stakeholder driven and not company driven. It would be useful if such a status report is regularly updated. Since nanotechnology has large impact on all kinds of S&T therefore. Need for research in benchmarking in nanotechnology in terms of research papers and patents.g. There is a great potential for the media to play a very important role in raising public awareness on nanotechnology Other cross cutting issues • There are two kinds of nanotechnology viz. Holding a stakeholder dialogues such as the present initiative could be a step in that direction. One of the greatest challenges before a Nano mission is how to drive technology development from bottom up rather than top down..• • Although we have enough resources. DST or TERI may institute a study on the status of nanotechnology in India.

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