Hyderabad city cluster project launched, to link research, industry

The city cluster project, which is being implemented by the PSA’s office at the behest of the PMO, began in August with Pune. It is likely to be launched in Delhi-NCR later this month. The Bengaluru city cluster will also be launched this year.

The Centre Friday launched the Hyderabad iteration of its city cluster project to create a platform to bring together academia, R&D labs, industry and government to tackle challenges facing the city.

Launched by Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan and Telangana Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao, the Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) envisages a consortium of governmental and non-governmental affiliates to identify core issues facing the city as well as broader issues such as agriculture and sustainable mobility.

The city cluster project, which is being implemented by the PSA’s office at the behest of the PMO, began in August with Pune. It is likely to be launched in Delhi-NCR later this month. The Bengaluru city cluster will also be launched this year.

“The issues arising now are far more complicated and require all of us to come together. The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised this need and has also been an example of how successful these collaborations can be as science, industry and government came together to tackle the problem. There are over 39 labs in Hyderabad but the present challenge is that they don’t work together but in silos. It is also important for all these institutions to work together for the social and economic development of the city,” said Vijay Raghavan.

Minister Rao said like in other countries, there needs to be a stress on cross-functional course

credits. “There are numerous instances in the US such as that of a humanities student eventually becoming a doctorate in biotechnology. We have over 60 labs in Telangana with government and private combined and these can form a vibrant scientific ecosystem here. Hyderabad is well on its way to becoming the vaccine capital of the world with one third of vaccines being developed here,” he said.

Two of the major challenges facing India are the lack of investment in R&D as compared to other countries, and the lack of investment by private enterprises.

Also, as of 2018, India had 156 researchers per million citizens, which was far lower than the global average of 1,500. India’s patent office ranked sixth by total number of patent applications received, with 46,582 applications.

These are the among issues that the PSA’s office is trying to solve through the project.

The reason why Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Pune and Hyderabad have been chosen for the initial clusters is because these cities already have a critical mass of S&T-focused organizations and institutions, apart from well-developed diverse industries. Bengaluru is dominated by IT&ITES, Heavy engineering (including aerospace and defence), and biotechnology. Pune ‘s strengths are in automotive, software and pharmaceuticals and life sciences. The NCR-Delhi has a strong presence in automotive as well, along with a presence in agriculture and food processing, while Hyderabad is well represented in software, metals and life sciences.

Prof. Ajit Kempbhavi of the Pune cluster said: “There are a number of verticals that we have identified that Pune needs such as sustainable transport and e-mobility, water management and tree cover etc. But one of our first initiatives which will begin later this month is a 10 part lecture course that the Serum Institute will conduct for us on vaccines. This will be attended by medical doctors, researchers, PHd students etc and the idea is to get people interested in choosing vaccine development as careers. Our flagship programme that we are very excited about is creating an epidemiological database, quite like what John Hopkins has, which will help Pune take far more informed decisions on health and diseases.”

While the Pune cluster has begun work, the soon to be launched Delhi NCR cluster, which already has 35 affiliates, has also identified its verticals including water security, air pollution, sustainable mobility including e-mobility, AI in healthcare and effective education.

Prof Ashok Ganguli of IIT Delhi that is leading the NCR programme said: “One of the projects we will look at is the waste water from the Barapullah drain and also the drainage system of the NCR region. Rain water has natural pathways and we want to see how it can be trapped and harvested to increase ground water levels. We are also already in talks with the Delhi Government on setting up e-charge stations across the city for electric vehicles.”

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