A day-long digital conference on Rebooting the Economy through Science, Technology, and Research Translations’ (RESTART), organized on the occasion of National Technology Day, highlighted the importance of transformation of manufacturing companies post-Covid-19 pandemic, collaborations and that research should be brought closer to the industry in overcoming the present challenge.
Experts at the session on ‘Medicines and Medical Technologies for better preparedness to face Pandemics’ believed that the pandemic is a good opportunity for R&D and needs to be used for strengthening it. The Covid crisis has unfolded some of the best medical advancements and innovations in history like drug discovery, vaccines, and diagnostic tools, and other medical devices, as well as ways to preserve electronic health records. Experts pointed out how these medical innovations can be harnessed for better preparedness to face future pandemics.
Lead Healthcare experts from the UK Madhukar Bose explained that this pandemic had forced people to adopt new ways of primary care in the United Kingdom and said that now 90% of interaction in the UK happen through digital channels. Suresh Jadhav, executive director, Serum Institute of India, said that it might take months or years to come back to pre-Covid-19 days and technologies needed to be reworked to live in the present situation. He added that technologies such as appropriate face masks and best practices like social distancing need to be made a part of life.
The session on ‘Advanced materials’ outlined that to tackle pandemics like Covid-19, research needs to quickly switch over from being capital intensive to knowledge-intensive and should be brought closer to industry. Shekhar C Mande, director-general CSIR, pointed out that the strategy for CSIR is to shift from capital intensity to knowledge intensity of research, and we wish to become knowledge partners of many industries.
Speakers at the session agreed that the novel materials such as smart materials, special purpose alloys, engineering polymers and blends, graphene, composites, and others will be the key to revamping the industry’s product lines in the future. They described materials as the cornerstones for new-age technology solutions for complex functional problems. Research workers across the world are engaged in developing novel materials designed with specific properties and engineered to deliver focused functional requirements. Investment in such knowledge-based value-added materials will go a long way in accelerating the economic activities and ensuring an attractive return for the industry, they said.
The session on ‘Advanced manufacturing technologies for sustainable future’ discussed how manufacturing companies were undergoing digital transformation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Alok Nanda, chief executive officer, GE India Technology Centre, said, “Covid has forced the Industries who were sitting on the fence to go for digital transformation, which has brought a tremendous change”. Rajiv Bajaj Managing director Stratasys India pointed out that the world is moving towards mass customization and mass specialization today, and technology like 3-D printing plays a major role in it. BB Ahuja director, College of Engineering Pune, stressed that additive manufacturing could change the fundamentals of manufacturing, and hence needed to be adapted rapidly.
The session on ‘Global innovation & technology alliance for global economic leadership‘ emphasized the importance of global collaborations in dealing with the challenge of Covid-19. Addressing the session, Renu Swarup secretary, Department of Biotechnology, said, “In today’s scenario, virtual collaboration is the key to connect globally to fight against the common challenge of Covid-19, and collaboration between countries must continue with much vigor”.
“India is willing to collaborate and we are looking forward to international collaboration to fight the pandemic and win it over,” said SK Varshney head- International Cooperation, DST.
The inaugural session of the conference was graced by the dignitaries including the union minister of Science and Technology, Health and Family Welfare and Earth Sciences, Harsh Vardhan; Member, NITI Aayog V K Saraswat; principal scientific adviser Government of India, K Vijay Raghavan; secretary, Department of Science & Technology Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director-General, World Health Organization, and officials from DST and Technology Development Board (TDB).
The day-long digital conference brought together at one platform scientists, government officials, diplomats, academia, and representatives of industry. It was organized by the Technology Development Board (TDB), an autonomous organization of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).