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India launches Imprint-India project

The $150 million project aims to boost original research within India, solve major engineering challenges in the country's relevant domains, and accelerate the process of sanctioning funds for research work.

In a fillip to scientific and technological research in the country, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, launched the 1000 crore rupee ($150 million) Imprint-India Project last week.

Imprint-India (IMPacting Research INnovation and Technology), a joint initiative of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has been tasked with developing a roadmap for research to solve major engineering challenges in 10 technology domains relevant to India.

The project will serve as a catalyst to undertake original research within India, especially in sectors where the institutions of higher learning such as IITs and IISc look to foreign collaborators to take up their projects.

An Inter-Ministerial Group comprising officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), Ministry of Defence, Department of Science & Technology, Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of Rural Development, among others, will receive research proposals from various institutes to develop affordable technologies in India and fund those which are deemed worthy.

Being a single window mechanism, it will eliminate red tape and expedite the process of sanctioning funds for research work, thus relieving researchers from the control of bureaucrats.

The project will focus on 10 areas: Health care, information and communication technology, energy, sustainable habitat, nano-technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.

Though India ranks third in the world in terms of research publications and second in terms of patent filing in the field of nano-technology, it still has to import technology for research.

Likewise, most of the machinery for diagnostic imaging in healthcare is being imported, and it is here the Imprint-India Project will play a crucial role, by helping researchers in the institutes of higher learning to develop the technology indigenously.

Additionally, while conventional diagnostic practices are time consuming, labour-intensive, and require elaborate infrastructures and on-field pathologists, the development of portable, inexpensive point-of-care (POC) diagnostic devices will potentially lead to easier to spot diagnostics, without necessitating expensive infrastructures or expert personnel.

POC devices also offer rapid and affordable diagnostics for a greater number of patients, at their convenience, and includes rapid blood and urine testing, electrocardiogram, and oxygen saturation.

The prime minister, while exhorting enhanced industry-academia partnerships for innovative research and new technology development, said that it was important to look towards affordable technology. "Science is universal but technology has to be local," he said.

"Society is becoming technology-driven. It is important to understand the importance of this and look towards affordable technology. We have to think about how our institutions can set up their own incubation centres to help the industries," Modi added.

Correction 11:53am AEDT 9 November 2015: Conversion of 1000 crore rupees to 150 million US dollars.