View from India: Karnataka, top nanotech and investment destination

The ninth edition of the Bengaluru India Nano 2017, India’s premier nanotech event, kicked off in Bangalore on December 7.

The two-day event has attracted around 50 domain experts and 10 international delegates who represent their area of expertise. The event aims to encourage research in nanotechnology and make it commercially viable for mass requirement.

Karnataka’s capital city, Bengaluru, is hailed as the Silicon Valley of Asia and is now emerging as a hub for nanotechnology. For instance, the Government of Karnataka is providing financial support for various R&D projects and infrastructure developments in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology for higher education institutions, based on the recommendation of the Vision Group on Science and Technology (VGST), chaired by Prof CNR Rao, a Bharat Ratna awardee, which is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India, given for performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.

The fact that we have VGST, a dedicated apex advisory body to encourage and promote science and technology education and research in Karnataka, speaks for itself.

“With an aim to popularise developments in science and technology among the general public and to provide an opportunity to develop scientific temper, scientific thinking and spirit of inquiry among students, particularly in rural areas, we are establishing 25 Science Centres in our State,” said M. R. Seetharam, minister for planning, statistics and science and technology, addressing the gathering at Bengaluru India Nano 2017. Vision Group helps in identifying high thrust and priority areas to build core competence and foster research in this frontier field in order to address present and future developments.

“According to a study conducted by Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) ’til September 2017, Karnataka has emerged as the top destination for investment and one of the reasons is our strong foothold in the R&D sector,” explained K. Ratnaprabha, chief secretary of Karnataka. Several R&D units have contributed towards providing a favourable ecosystem in Karnataka. A case in point is the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), a multidisciplinary research institute situated in Jakkur, north Bangalore. Funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, JNCASR provides a vibrant academic ambience covering broad areas ranging from materials to genetics and hosting more than 300 researchers. 

Against this backdrop, the city is understandably gaining a strong foothold in the emerging field of nanotechnology, which is considered as the next big technological revolution. The thrust is on leveraging nanotechnology for commercial usage.

Another highlight is that the state is opening out new channels to engage and create scientific temperament among students. A move in this direction is the establishment of a 3D planetarium with state-of-the-art projection systems in Mangalore. The planetarium, which will be open to the public in January 2018, is being built at an estimated cost of Rs 35.69 crore.

“We are also establishing five more mini planetariums in other parts of the state. There will be one such planetarium in Dharwad, Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Madikeri and Gadag. We have also upgraded the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bengaluru with a modern projection system at a cost of Rs 12 crore, as per the present day requirements,” added Seetharam. The Planetarium carries the promise of an immersive viewer experience, thanks to its ability to recreate the cosmic image of the sky through six digital projectors.

Encouragement is also being given to startup companies, many of which are already working on the application and integration of nanotechnology in the multidisciplinary domains like electronics, biotechnology, information and communication, food, energy and computer science. Some of them are already using this technology to improve their traditional products portfolio to compete with other brands in the market.

“The more work you do in nano, the more possibilities come up in this field. Nano science is a sophisticated science with applications in diverse professions like agriculture, medicine, drug delivery, physics and the engineering world, among others,” said Prof. CNR Rao, chairman, Vision Group on Science & Technology and Nanotechnology, Government of Karnataka, adding, “We will become a mature participant in this space in about two years’ time. When it comes to fundamental research, we occupy the third spot in the world.”

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