Dr Raghunath Anant Mashelkar is known for his world-class scientific research in polymer science & engineering, for his transformative national research institution leadership, for his pioneering different movements such as evolving global systems for traditional knowledge protection, helping create strong yet balanced IPR systems, inclusive innovation movement based on the concept of Gandhian Engineering that he pioneered. He has been an influential thought leader in shaping Science, Technology and innovation policies in post-liberalised India.
The President of India honoured Dr Mashelkar with three of the highest civilian awards, namely Padmashri (1991), Padmabhushan (2000) and Padma Vibhushan (2014).
He has received a record of 47 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, from London to Pretoria to Wisconsin to Monash to Delhi.
Key Positions Held
He was the Director of the National Chemical Laboratory (1989-95) and later became the largest serving head of three major organizations, namely Director General of CSIR (1995-2006), Chairman of the National Innovation Foundation (2000- 2018) and President of Global Research Alliance (2007-2017). He has been the President of the Indian National Science Academy (2004-2006) and President of the Materials Research Society of India (2004-2006).
Contributions to Scientific Research
He has made pioneering contributions to the rheology of complex fluids, non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, diffusional phenomena in structured polymeric systems and polymer reaction engineering. His work in mechanistic analysis, synthesis and some breakthrough applications of novel stimuli-responsive polymers has received worldwide accolades. His latest work on supramolecular therapeutics is as novel as it is impactful.
Global Honours and Awards
Dr. Mashelkar has many firsts to his credit. He was the first Indian to win the most prestigious TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize (2018), the highest science prize by the World Academy of Science, the first Indian from India to be elected as Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors (2017), first Asian Scientist to win the Business Week (USA) award of `Stars of Asia’ at the hands of George Bush (Sr.), the former President of USA and the first and only scientist so far to win the JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award (1998).
He is only the third Indian engineer to have been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1660, the seventh Indian scientist to be elected as a Foreign Fellow of the US National Academy of Science since 1863, and the seventh Indian to be elected as Foreign Associate of American Academy of Arts & Science since 1780.
He has been elected as a Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Engineering (2003), Associate Foreign Member of American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2011), Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, U.K. (1996), Foreign Fellow of the Australian Technological Science and Engineering Academy (2008), Corresponding Member of Australian Academy of Sciences (2017) and Fellow of World Academy of Arts & Science, USA (2000).
He is a jury member for the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Prize of Engineering, which is considered as being equivalent to the Nobel Prize in Engineering.
Global Leadership Role
Dr Mashelkar drafted the historic Pretoria Declaration on ‘Global Knowledge Pool for Global Good’, which led to the formation of the Global Research Alliance (GRA). Its members included CSIR (India), CSIRO (Australia), FhG (Germany), DTI (Denmark), VTT (Finland), Battelle (USA) and SIRIM (Malaysia) with over 60,000 scientific and allied staff. He served as GRA’s President during 2007-2017.
He has been the only non-English President of the prestigious UK Institution of Chemical Engineers (2007) in its history and that too in its Golden Jubilee year.
He has been a member of the External Research Advisory Board of Microsoft (USA), Advisory Board of VTT (Finland), Corporate Innovation Board of Michelin (France), Advisory Board of Prime Minister’s National Research Foundation (Singapore), Advisory Board of Global Innovation Index (Geneva), OECD Advisory Board on Innovation for Inclusive Growth (Paris), WEF Global Agenda Council for emerging technologies (Switzerland), Board of Trustees of Medicine for Malaria Venture (Geneva), etc.
He was chairman of the CSIR (South Africa) International Review Committee and also the One-Man Committee to review WIPO’s World Wide Academy.
He was a World Bank consultant for restructuring R & D institutions in several countries around the world, such as Indonesia, Croatia, Serbia, Vietnam, Turkey, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Dr. Mashelkar’s connections with the international academic education and research community are deep and wide. He has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University (2007-2012), at Delaware University (1976, 1988), and at Technology University of Denmark (1982). He has been Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Professor at Monash University for fifteen years (2007- 2022), a record for this most prestigious professorship.
In India, he has been a Chancellor of Assam University, Silchar (2003-2005), Chancellor of the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (2013-2016.) and presently the Chancellor of the Institute of Chemical Technology (2010- date) and Chancellor of Jio Institute (2020 – till date.)
He has been the Chairman of the Research Advisory Council, IITB-Monash Research Academy, Mumbai (2014- till date), Chairman of the Board of Governors of IISER, Kolkata (2010-2014), IISER, Mohali (2010-2014), IIT, Gandhinagar, (2011-2014) and National
Institute of Pharmaceuticals Education and Research, Mohali (2001-2005).
Dr. Mashelkar has been on the Board of Directors of several reputed companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd., Tata Motors Ltd., Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Thermax Ltd., Piramal Enterprises Ltd., and KPIT Technologies Ltd. Godrej Agrovet Ltd, etc. He chaired the Boards of GeneMedix Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd., Vyome Biosciences Pvt. Ltd. and Invictus Oncology Pvt. Ltd.
He promoted innovation in the corporate world. He chaired the Reliance Innovation Council, KPIT Technologies Innovation Council, Thermax Innovation Council, Persistent Systems Innovation Council and Marico Foundation’s Governing Council. He currently chairs the New Energy Council of Reliance, which is making multi-billion-dollar investments in the total value chain, ultimately leading to one of the world’s highest producers of green hydrogen.
In August 1997, Business India named Dr. Mashelkar as being among the 50 path-breakers in post-independent India.
Research and Innovation Institution Leadership
When Dr. Mashelkar took over as the Director General of CSIR, he enunciated “CSIR 2001: Vision & Strategy”. This was a bold attempt to draw out a corporate-like R&D and business plan for a publicly funded R&D institution. This initiative has transformed CSIR into a user-focused, performance driven and accountable organization. This process of CSIR transformation has been heralded in the book ‘Scientific Edge’ by Jayant Narlikar as one of the ten most significant achievements of Indian Science and Technology in the twentieth century.
Earlier, as Director of India’s National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) from 1989-1995, Mashelkar gave a new orientation to NCL’s research programmes with a strong emphasis on globally competitive technologies and international patenting. NCL, which was involved only in import substitution research until then, began licensing its patents to multinational companies. This is a case study in the Harvard Business School course on entrepreneurship in emerging economies.
Dr. Mashelkar has been propagating a culture of innovation and a balanced intellectual property rights regime for over four decades. It was through his sustained and visionary campaign that growing awareness of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has dawned on Indian academics, researchers and corporates. He spearheaded the successful challenge to the US patent on the use of turmeric for wound healing and also the patent on Basmati rice. These landmark cases have set up new paradigms in the protection of India’s traditional knowledge base, besides leading to the setting up of India’s first Traditional Knowledge Digital Library. In turn, at an international level, this has led to the initiation of the change of the International Patent Classification System to give traditional knowledge its rightful place.
As Chairman of the Standing Committee on Information Technology of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), as a member of the International Intellectual Property Rights Commission of the UK Government and as Vice Chairman of the Commission in Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) set up by World Health Organization (WHO), he brought new perspectives on the issue of IPR and the developing world concerns.
16 Mashelkar Committees
He has chaired sixteen high-powered committees, popularly known in India, as ‘Mashelkar Committees’ set up to look into diverse national issues. These have ranged from the National Auto-fuel Policy to Reforms of the Indian Drug Regulatory System to Reforms in higher education. He chaired the High Powered Review Committee to review the Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs) in 1998, where the Committee recommendations were fully accepted by the Government of India to create NITs.
He had an early exposure to dealing with complex national tragedies.
At the age of 41, he was appointed the Technical Assessor for the One-Man Inquiry Commission set up to investigate the world’s worst man-made disaster, namely the Bhopal gas tragedy, where overnight over 2200 people lost their lives.
He was appointed by the Government of India as the Chairman of the Committee for investigating the Maharashtra Gas Cracker Complex accident (1990) when 34 people died.
Shaping Science, Technology and Innovation Policy
In post-liberalized India, Dr. Mashelkar has played a critical role in shaping India’s S&T policies. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India set up by successive governments for thirty years. He was also a member of PM’s National Innovation Council.
He pioneered the concept of Gandhian Engineering, getting ‘more from less for more’. His paper on the subject in Harvard Business Review coauthored with C K Prahalad has been named as being among the top ten ‘must read’ papers in innovation. It has also influenced the thinking on inclusive innovation around the world.
Along with Prof Anil Gupta, he has championed the movement of grassroots innovation in India over the past three decades, giving a place of pride to the innovations done by the people for the people.
He has propagated disruptive innovation for exponential yet inclusive growth all his life.
His book co-authored with Ravi Pandit & titled ‘Leap Frogging to Pole Vaulting: Creating the Magic of Radical yet Sustainable Transformation’, won the Best Business Book of the Year award at the Tata Lit Festival in 2019. His new book (2023) co-authored with Hersh Haladker, and titled ‘Exprovement: Exponential Improvement through Converging Parallels’ has become a national bestseller.
He pioneered the concept of the Golden Triangle, integrating traditional medicine, modern medicine and modern science, which led to several major national initiatives.
Dr Mashelkar has been contributing to social causes all his life. He has chaired the Corporate Social Responsibility Committees of Reliance, Tata Motors, Godrej Agrovet, etc.
He has been the Chairman of the Tata Affirmative Action Program (TAAP) Governing Council since 2012. TAAP supports programs to help scheduled casts, scheduled tribes and other deprived sections of the society.
Since 2007, he has been the President of the International Longevity Centre, India, which focuses on the challenges of the elderly, especially the poor ones.
He has set up in his mother’s name Anjani Mashelkar Foundation, which gives the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Awards. Since 2007, these recognised and supported the innovators, who make high technology work for the poor.
Since 2011, he has been the President of Pune International Centre, which is India’s leading think tank, well known for its outstanding policy research. He has been the Chairman of the Governing Council of Kherwadi Welfare Association, an organisation that creates a livelihood for the deprived and gives school dropouts a second chance.
He is the President of Swarupvardhini, an organisation that does many activities for social inclusion and supports the education of deprived children.
He chairs several awards committees that serve important social causes. These include Jamnalal Bajaj Awards for preserving and propagating Gandhian values, Earthcare Awards for outstanding climate change initiatives, FICCI – ISA awards for sanitation, etc.