Jefferson Fellow 2013-, Former Senior Science Advisor, State Dept/USAID
President Obama and Prime Minister Modi of India are committed to significantly deepen and broaden the engagement between US and India and recently pledged to ensure that partnerships in science, technology and innovation are a key component of US-India relations for the 21st century. They emphasized the role that science, technology and innovation partnerships can play in addressing pressing challenges in areas such as food, water, energy, climate, and health. They focused on developing innovative solutions that are affordable, accessible and adaptable and meet the needs of the people of the two countries as well as benefit the global community. This blog highlights two of the activities spurred by their call to action.
On December 18-19, 2014, representatives from the US National Academy of Engineering (USNAE) and the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) convened a joint symposium on “Engineering Education in the 21st Century: Issues Related to Grand Challenges”. They met at the hallowed halls of the historic National Academies building on Constitution avenue in Washington DC to discuss how one could best align the “Grand Challenges of Engineering for the 21st century” conceived by the US National Academy of Engineering and the grand challenges for India’s development in the 21st century for the mutual benefit of both countries. The issues covered were, research, industrial partnerships and workforce development.
Grand challenges for India’s development seamlessly aligned with many of the Grand Challenges for Engineering proposed by USNAE especially in areas important for India such as, Energy Harvesting and Energy Security, River Science and Water Resources, Sustainable, Green and Smart Cities, Agro-Bio-Nano Technology, Sustainable Healthcare, Big data for Development and Network and cyber security. Unique attributes of the US–India partnerships are the shared belief that innovation and entrepreneurship are essential for addressing societal needs, the potential for a meaning engagement of the dynamic and dedicated Indian diaspora in the US and the excellent opportunity that India presents for scaling solutions as well as for transferring appropriate technologies to other developing countries.
One of the main goals was to explore the potential of forging mutually beneficial partnerships that will facilitate India’s engagement in the implementation of a Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), based upon the U.S. model. The Grand Challenge Scholars Program aims to create leaders for the 21st century globalized world so that they can address complex social issues with a systems engineering approach. The program also prepares engineers to shape public policy, to transfer technical innovation to the market place, and to inform and be informed by social science and the humanities. This was the first meeting of its kind to be organized between US NAE and the corresponding institution from any foreign country and will be the first step toward an international GCSP initiative. Officials involved at various stages of the US GCSP presented elements of the GCSP and shared their experiences regarding the issues involved in starting such programs locally as well as nationally. Indian representatives focused on their views about potential benefits and the relevance of such a program in India, how it might be launched there, the potential impediments as well as shared thoughts on anticipated reactions from schools, students etc. A document of commitment will soon be released that describes the core educational principles needed for tackling the Grand Challenges that could be signed by institutions of engineering education and research in India.
The second event was the organization of the "Global Partnerships for Energizing Development” workshop on January 6th in Bangalore, India to bring together stakeholders representing academia, industry, entrepreneurs, NGO’s and government to design and implement programs at the nexus of Engineering Education and Entrepreneurship for promoting sustainable development in India. The workshop touched upon a) Applied Research & Development, b) Definition of “Problem-sets” and “Solution-sets”, c) Education, Training and Workforce Development, d) Industrial Liaison and Partnerships, e) International Exchanges, f) Testing/Quality Control of Appropriate Technologies and Products and g) Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The goal was to promote global partnerships to deliver practical, contextual and vibrant programs at engineering colleges across India, which are mostly in or near urban areas, to address India's development needs, which are primarily in rural or peri-urban areas. The types of partnerships include, 1. Partnerships between US and India across academia, industry, government, youth, NGO's and diaspora 2. Rural-Urban Partnerships in India for service learning and 3. Partnerships between Engineering Education and Sustainable Development that take advantage of the large scale of engineering education to address large scale problems.
Frugal Engineering and Innovation for India offers a fantastic test bed for engineering under constraints because of the necessity to conserve resources (doing more with less), working through lack of infrastructure (lack of roads, transportation, electricity, broadband etc.), the need to optimize price (improve affordability without compromising on quality), and finally the huge scale of the problem (which is both a challenge and an opportunity). The response following the workshop was overwhelming and it is time now to put shoulders to the wheel and move the initiative forward.
It is expected that these activities are a great beginning that will herald a strong and sustained mutually beneficial partnership between US and India and bring to bear science, technology, innovation and partnership for global development.