Blogger Themes

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Building innovation in India

MIT News
Sept 26, 2011

Despite a global economic downturn that has rippled across India, the country remains one of the world’s fastest growing economies, second only to China. India is also the planet’s second most populous nation, expected to overtake China by 2030.

In the first ever MIT-India Conference, held Friday, Sept. 23, at the MIT Media Lab, speakers from both MIT and India explored the challenges associated with India’s rapid expansion, including energy distribution, rural access to health care, and efforts to curb governmental corruption. One theme was prevalent throughout: India’s many hurdles also provide unprecedented opportunity for innovation.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, the conference’s keynote speaker and founder and chairman emeritus of Infosys Limited, said the time is right for those who choose to work in India.

“They can be part of an era where there’s so much confidence, there is so much hope, there is so much ambition,” Murthy said. “And there is so much that needs to be done.”

The conference featured entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, finance experts and government officials from India, as well as MIT faculty working on India-related projects. The one-day event sought to strengthen the relationship between MIT and India, which MIT Chancellor Eric L. Grimson characterized at the event as a “century-long friendship.”

In his opening remarks, Grimson noted that the friendship began in 1906 when Ishwar Das Varshnei became the first Indian to graduate from MIT. In 2010, his great-grandsons, twins Kush and Lav, followed in his footsteps, earning PhDs in electrical engineering and computer science. Today, more than 270 students of Indian descent attend MIT; Grimson cited the Institute’s many India-related projects — fifteen of which were featured in a Technology Showcase during the conference — as a strong bridge between the Institute and India.

“If MIT wants to stay on the forefront of technology, it has to maintain ties with India,” Grimson said.

The conference got underway with a panel discussion on energy and the environment. Panelists noted that as India’s population continues to expand, so too will its energy demands.

E.A.S. Sarma, former secretary of economic affairs in India, cautioned that the country “can’t go in a wanton manner for megawatts.” Sarma, now a social activist working to protect rural communities from pollution created by local powerplants, insists that communities should have a say when it comes to building new plants.

“If you bring people into discussions from the start, they may help develop benign processes,” Sarma said.

However, Robert Stoner, associate director of the MIT Energy Initiative, pointed out that above and beyond meeting the energy needs of India’s projected population growth, nearly 400 million current citizens already lack access to electricity.

While panelists discussed the potential contributions of solar, natural gas and nuclear energy, the overall consensus was that it would take a combination of approaches to solve India’s energy problem. And in many cases, those solutions will have to be extremely affordable.

“There’s opportunity for low-cost innovation in lots of areas,” Stoner said.
To read more click here...


Post a Comment