'India's tech progress to safeguard national interest'

P K Mishra, the principal secretary to the prime minister

India's pursuit of advancement in critical technologies is to safeguard its national interest and not to dominate others, said P K Mishra, the principal secretary to the prime minister, on Wednesday.

Addressing the 41st Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) here, he said scientists should not just be content with developing technologies and their applications but must aspire to make India a global leader and an important stakeholder in the new international protocols.

He also suggested three Rs -- requirement, resources, and relevance -- as key factors in determining the country's quest for advancement in emerging technologies.

"Our requirement is to seek advancement in key technologies of the future to safeguard our national interest in a constantly evolving geopolitical arena and ensure socio-economic progress through application of such technologies. Our pursuit of technological advancement is not for exerting influence or dominating others but to make it a level-playing field," he said.

The top bureaucrat emphasized the need to develop a strong understanding as well as insight in technological changes and anticipate focus areas in order to first gain, and then maintain, a competitive edge.

This is critical not just for geopolitical and national security reasons, but also to ensure that the country sits at the high table in global dialogues and initiatives in the field of innovation as well as trade and commerce, Mishra said.

He said the availability of key resources could be a limiting factor in the quest for key technologies. But this could, on the other hand, offer an opportunity to innovate, he pointed out.

Using such initiatives in emerging technologies, the DRDO must hone its skills so as to become a net producer of value-added resources, he said.

Emerging technologies, he observed, must be relevant to development efforts, and spin-offs from them would support in various spheres.

He also cited the example of space technologies developed by the ISRO to help farmers in different ways.

"Similarly, innovative use of artificial intelligence in agriculture, manufacturing industry, and even use of smart materials could be of immense relevance to various sectors of the economy," Mishra said.

Referring to the young scientists laboratories, Mishra said they should not work in silos.

In 2015, the government sanctioned establishment of seven young scientists centres headed by the younger lot in the DRDO.

Mishra said the scientists should keep abreast with associated researchers in related fields and the requirements of the industry.

"This logic extends to the cross-platform integration of focus areas in these five labs, because the focus areas are interdependent in their technological premise as well as applications. Hence, they need to talk to each other," he said.

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