Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dr. R.A.Mashelkar of CSIR

Dr. R.A.Mashelkar, Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR):

Yes, it was an unbelievable time. In fact, Mrs. Gandhi was really concerned that Hargobind Khurana, who got the Nobel Prize [1968, Medicine] , actually came here [India] and could not get a job. So she said to Dr Nayaduma, who was my predecessor, the director general, “Just go, spot the brightest, and offer them a job on the spot.” That was how I was brought back.

Of the changes brought by the internet:

The library you see, I remember the journals used to come here by sea mail. It used to take four months for them to arrive. Today, I have 3,000 e-journals for our students. [Contemplate also how the availability of journals in India affected the "In re '639 Litigation," concerning nabumetone.

Of the need for patents:

Well, it’s like this. I remember Robert May, the president of the Royal Society, used to say that the UK is great in coming up with new ideas, and lots of wealth is made, not in the UK, but in Europe and the US. It was the same thing for India. We would generate new ideas but we would not patent them, others would. So we’ve changed the paradigm. In this laboratory, we’ve changed the paradigm. We’ve said it’s not ‘publish or perish’, but ‘patent, publish and prosper’ because there is a wealth creation potential.

Absolutely. Even Nobel laureates have patented; Einstein had patents, 34 of them. This entire issue in India has been, very frankly, Saraswati on the one hand and Lakshmi on the other, we have kept them apart. Whereas that part of the world discovered the route from Saraswati to Lakshmi. Today, I am very happy to say that when we talk about India as a global research design and development platform, with companies like General Electric setting up their R&D centres in this country, its beginning was here.

We wanted to create wealth here. I remember going to the General Electric R&D centre in Schenectady and actually marketing. Basically, they shook hands with us with mutual respect because they saw a flag on their territory which came on the basis of an idea. I have always said, it’s not the big budget, it’s the big idea that matters. Our partnership with GE flowered from there and one day Jack Welch said: “If they are so good, why are we not there?” And that is how the General Electric R&D centre came up here and today we talk about 150 such centres coming up. That’s why when we talk about India as a global innovation hub, its beginnings can be seen now.

Query: I believe 67 per cent of the graduates who are unemployed are science graduates.

Indeed. You know, I am currently the president of the Indian National Science Academy. Just last, month we brought out the India Science Report and it shows these statistics.

You know, what has happened with the drugs and pharmaceuticals industry? Their R&D spending has gone up by a factor of five in the last four years; new R&D centres are coming up, they are looking for hundreds of Ph.Ds.

Query: You said that Michelangelo became a great painter because somebody gave him a wall to paint on and you said that the US gave you your wall to paint on.


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