K Radhakrishnan file photo

Renowned space scientist and honorary distinguished advisor, Department of Space/ISRO, K Radhakrishnan on June 12 expressed concern that India lost its edge in the field of engineering and innovation nearly four decades back due to slow adoption of modern technology, resulting in the country still relying heavily on import of capital goods, biomedical equipment as well as vital systems for strategic sector.

Delivering the convocation address at IIT Guwahati, he said, “It is a startling that India continues to be a major importer of capital goods, aircraft, modern transport systems, electronic components and products, computers, biomedical equipment as well as vital systems for the strategic sector.”

“When the world moved ahead with engineering and innovation since the 1980s, the Indian Industry started losing competitive edge due to slow adoption of modern technology from either foreign sources or through indigenous S&T efforts, albeit a few exceptions in the strategic sectors,” he added.

Pointing to a ‘positive trend’ among some major Indian industrial houses in investing in own technology development centres,  Radhakrishnan said, “The national challenge is how well we channelize their inventive power of our demographic dividend in the frontiers of science and inter-disciplinary team-efforts on relevant and substantial problems besides inspiring and facilitating them to generate scientific and technical knowledge that would manifest as cost-effective and reliable processes, products and services with utility in the domestic and global market place.”

“We have a sterling political leadership, a renewed industrial urge, an enabling ambience and a will-to-do-it by all stakeholders for a leap forward,” he added.

He also underlined the need for equitable distribution of wealth, improvement in standards of living and environmental sustainability while targeting for economic growth.

“As a nation, we have a long way to move up in science, technology and innovation, even while being proud of several accomplishments of global standards and high national impact, essentially emanating from certain islands of excellence,” Radhakrishnan added.

Dwelling on the advancements made in the field of space technology by the country, he underlined the contributions of Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan in building the ISRO.

“ISRO went on to build national Systems using space technology and concomitant institutional tie-ups with all stakeholders. We recognized the subtle difference between space endeavour and space enterprise. Space commerce became a prominent factor and a vibrant space industry emerged,” the former chairman of ISRO added.

He further noted that the hallmark of India has been the focus to help humankind through Earth-oriented Satellites for communication, remote sensing and navigation, along with an effective institutional tie-up with all stakeholders.

“Self-reliance has been our obsession, not just an objective. That is evident from our strides in satellite technology and launcher technology,” he said, mentioning the successes of Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan.

Exhorting the graduating students to explore their own avenues of excellence, Radhakrishnan said, “Amidst your pursuit for exciting scientific and technological pursuits, enterprising business endeavours and entrepreneurial excellence, you should ponder on the avenues available to contribute for the nation and humanity at large. Each one of us can make a difference for the country and each one of us should strive to leave a legacy when you leave this world.”

Altogether 1354 students received their degrees at the 21st convocation of IIT-G, with Anup Agarwal, who completed BTech (Computer Science and Engineering), being awarded the President of India Gold Medal for being the topper in all branches, and Sarath Chandra Neriyanuri, who completed BTech (Chemical Engineering), receiving the Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma Gold Medal for overall general proficiency among all undergraduate students.

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