Invent in India, don’t just make in India, says Nobel laureate

David-Gross Nobel Laurete David J Gross | via Commons

Nobel Laurete David J Gross gave a thumbs down to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India slogan.

“What are you going to make in India, when there are already superior and cheaper goods already being manufactured in Korea and other countries,” he said at a public lecture at the Indian Science Congress in Mysore. Gross felt India could do better. “First you have to Invent in India for newer technologies, and for that you have to Discover in India.’’

Stressing on the need for developing natures to invest in fundamental and basic sciences, Gross pointed out that the approach of finding technological solutions to existing problems was a rather limiting attitude. “Transistors did not come from entertainment companies. Nuclear technology was not by discovered by oil companies with large budgets seeking alternate sources of energy but by men like Einstein.’’

He emphasised that science should also be pursued for sheer curiosity and a nation which did not encourage its youth to pursue basic science would lose brilliant minds to other nations where they were encouraged.

Gross gave the example of China, the world’s manufacturing hub at present. “But they realised that they couldn’t be manufacturing alone, they had to also invent in China, for which it was important to discover in China. I am not clear if that is the ambition of India, but it should be.’’

Gross said it was “depressing” to note the investment in basic sciences and research and development in India. Both China and India are emerging economies, China overtook the US in the Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) last year and India is projected to do so by 2045.

“In 2000, both India and China invested 0.8 per cent of their GDP in science and research. By 2010, China’s investment had risen to close to two per cent, while India’s was still at 0.8. Now, India has moved up to 0.9 while China’s investment is 2.8 per cent. I gather that every year at the science congress, the PM says the budget will increase to 2 per cent, but it never does. Look at other countries. Brazil, another emerging economy invests over 2 per cent of GDP in science and research, South Korea 3.7. Most European countries too invest around 3.7 per cent."

Gross, who won the Nobel in 2004 for particulate physics, said the Indian scientific and research apparatus was bureaucratic, rigid and ineffective and not up to standards of a country that would like to increase its investments.

“A lot need to change in how you manage science. I understand politicians, they are not sure how the money allocated will be spent. It is up to you (scientific community) now to change how those funds will be used. India has enormous potential.’’

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