Integration, Innovation & Inclusion: Pathways to Progress
Hon’ble Chancellor, His excellency the Governor of Odisha, Hon’ble President, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, distinguished deans and faculty, proud graduands of the day, their equally proud parents, ladies and gentlemen.
I feel privileged to be the Chief Guest for the second Convocation of
C V Raman Global University, an important milestone in the history of this young and aspirational University.
I am most grateful to the University for awarding me the Honorary Doctorate. This happens to be my 45th Honorary Doctorate, but this is the first one that I am receiving from this great state of Odisha. I accept this honour humbly. As a proud alumnus of our University from now on, and yes, I am using the word ‘our’ purposedly, I assure you that I will do my best to enhance our University’s honour and prestige.
I want to congratulate the graduands of the day for a great milestone in your life. This is a very very special day in your life. I also want to congratulate your parents and teachers for giving the best gift that they could have ever given you in life, namely education.
Universities can’t build the future of the young, but they can build the young for the future. You are fortunate that our University has equipped you fully with skills and tools to create your future.
I am impressed by the remarkably rapid progress made by the University. Within a short time, it has become India’s topmost skills University; it’s amazing global medal winning record, including the gold medals, could be the envy for any University. It’s unique education pedagogy linking knowledge and skill seamlessly is facilitating hands on joyful experiential learning. After all, students must ‘enjoy’ what they ‘do’ and ‘do’ what they ‘enjoy’. I am confident that our university can emerge as being among the topmost skills university in the world.
Three Pathways to Progress
There are just three pathways that can lift a university from good to great. They are integration, innovation and inclusion. Let me explain each one of them.
Integration has multiple dimensions. It is integration in the entire chain from learning to doing to delivering, it is integration across disciplines, it is integration across borders leading to internationalisation.
First, the challenge of integration from learning to delivering. In world class universities, education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship integrate seemlessly together. Education disseminates known knowledge. Research creates new knowledge. Innovation converts knowledge into wealth and social good. However, for innovation to move from mere ideas to actual impact in the society, we need entrepreneurship. Our University is doing the most remarkable job of this integration, especially with the most important partner, namely industry. The advanced skills centres established with industry partnerships are truly unique.
The second is the integration across disciplines. Breakthroughs in research take place at the interface of disciplines. Advances are generally the sum total of numerous creative ideas and interdisciplinary co- operation. Indeed moving from ideas to impact is not a unidimensional process. It is comparable to the intermeshing gears of a clock. The challenge before us is to make this intermeshing happen.Therefore, what we require is not just chemical or mechanical or computer engineers, but ‘solution engineers’, who are experts in such integration across disciplines.
The third is the integration within and across national boundaries. Our University must be sensitive to the needs and the aspirations of the people and society of Odisha, for which I have seen a great deal of laudable evidence. The word ‘global’ University sets a benchmark of having a global outlook, not just local; integrating diversity of thoughts and cultures with an open mind with the inspiring motto of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam.
I understand that our university has attracted 223 students from 25 countries even during the toughest time of COVID. In addition to the exchange of knowledge and culture, there is a huge opportunity to build a brand in skill in India across the globe.Besides this achievement in education, we must build productive global partnerships in research and innovation also.
Looking into the future, the very character of Internationalisation will not only change dramatically but will also spread rapidly due to the phenomenal advances in Information & Communication Technology. Digitization, virtualization, mobilization and personalization are the four new megatrends. All these will lead to game changing cocreative, self-organizing, self-correcting, asynchronous, dynamic and open systems that will be borderless and globally distributed.
Innovation is a successful exploitation of a new idea into the market, industry, society. It comprises the journey from mind to market place, from ideas to impact.
I am very passionate about innovation. I remember receiving the JRD Corporate Leadership Award on 21 February 1999 at the hands of the then Hon’ble Vice President of India. I had then tried to lay an agenda on Indian innovation movement. I had ended by expressing a hope.
”Finally, 1999 should be the year, where we should launch a powerful national innovation movement to propel us into the next millennium. It is only through the process of innovation that knowledge can be converted into wealth and social good. Through this movement, every citizen, every constituent of India must become an innovator. The I in India, should not stand for imitation and inhibition, it must stand for innovation. The I in IIT must stand for innovation. The I in industry, the I in CSIR must stand for innovation. The I in every individual Indian must stand for innovation. It is only this innovative India that will signal to the rest of the world, that we are not a hesitant nation, unsure of our place in the new global order, but a confident one, that is raring to go and be a leader in the comity of nations”.
I am happy to see a number of initiatives that have been taken by our University. In terms of scientific research I understand that 468 publications have been published and also 45 patents have been filed. The emphasis should be now on raising the bar on quality, aiming for breakthroughs in research, saying not just the first word in India but in the world.
It is very important to convert invention to innovation. Towards this purpose, I am particularly happy to see in our university not only the building of incubation centres as also the focus on entrepreneurship development but also the emergence of start-ups and technology driven next gen entrepreneurs, who will not be seeking jobs but providing jobs.
India has rapidly moved from a ‘starting-up’ nation to the fastest growing ‘start-up’ nation. It is setting new record of producing almost one unicorn per week. A unicorn means one billion dollar market cap company.
My own analysis showed that close to 50% of the unicorn start-ups have come from elite institutions like IITs and IIMs and the rest of them from tire 2 or tire 3 cities. This is a real democratisation of innovation. I hope that we will see a unicorn emerging from our university, and sooner rather than later.
Finally innovation must spread across the university as a way of life in everything we do. President Obama had said that education and innovation are the currencies of the 21st century. I would say that education in innovation and innovation in education are the currencies. The University must build on both.The classrooms will have to be reinvented to the changing times. It is the innovative combination of digital and physical learning that will create the future winners.
India needs growth, but more importantly, it needs inclusive growth, where no Indian is left behind. This means education for all, as also research and innovation that creates products and services, that are affordable to all, and not just a privileged few.
Our university has set exemplary standards in terms of inclusion in education. I was very impressed with the Safal program, based on a strong belief that skills can change life, and equally importantly, when you educate a girl you educate a nation.
This unique Safal program facilitates the education of orphan and destitute girls across the State. During their training, the girls are given different levels of education and skills and the University bears the entire expenses till their highest education is completed.To my mind, this is inclusion in education at its best.
In the same way, research and innovation at our University must be made inclusive. Let me explain by giving example of such inclusive innovation.
My mother Anjani Mashelkar brought me up against many odds that a poor, widowed and an educated woman will face.
She asked me never to forget our humble beginnings and do science that helps the poor. I created Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award in her name after her passing. The award recognises and awards game changing inclusive innovations that all characterised by extreme affordability and high technology and can be scaled up sustainably with speed. The award honours those who create not just best practice but next practice. Here are some examples of extreme inclusive innovation by five of the awardees out of the total thirteen over the past 11 years.
–iBreast is high-quality but simple breast cancer screening that avoids painful mammography available for every woman, that too at the extremely affordable cost of $1 per scan?
– Sanket is a pocket size portable high-tech ECG machine which can provide accurate reports immediately and that too at the cost of Rs 5 per test?
– SaveMom is a IoT based maternal healthcare solution that monitors pregnancies of poor rural women remotely for one rupee per day.
– OralScan is an innovative optical device that detects oral cancer rapidly and accurately at Rs 250, as against biopsy that costs Rs 2500
-Dozee is an IoT based remote monitoring system with 98.4% medical accuracy, which converts any bed into step up ICU bed in just 10 minutes, the costs being 10% of full fledged ICU system
As I always like to say science must solve, technology must transform and innovation must impact. These five are brilliant examples of extreme inclusive innovations giving transformative affordable solutions that can save millions of poor lives.
Building Engineers for our Future
In order to become topmost ranking University producing world class engineers, we must build both the minds as well as mindsets of the engineering graduates, who will build our future.
Much has been written about the mind of an engineer. For an engineer, two things are important. The first deals with learning habits of mind. That includes curiosity, open-mindedness, resourcefulness, reflection, resilience, ethical approach, and cooperation and collaboration.
Then there are engineering habits of mind. They include visualising, analysing, improving, adapting, systems thinking, problem finding and finally creative problem-solving.
Our University must develop amongst our students both the learning habits of mind and engineering habits of mind.
A leading education expert has said that two thirds of the senior school going students today will end up in jobs that do not exist today. If that is indeed the case, then how do we impart skills for future jobs, which we don’t even know what they are going to be. However, although the nature and type of jobs will keep on changing, there are certain skills that will be fundamentally required, no matter what changes take place. What are they?
It is generally agreed that the top 10 skills include complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility.
We test the students today by examining their domain knowledge, beat mechanical, electrical or metallurgical engineering. We have to devise new tools of evaluation, which are actually able to judge their competency in these top 10 skills.
Let us remind ourselves that the word “engineer” comes from the French word “ingenieur”, which literally means “an ingenious one”. To my mind, our ingenuity of exploring the new tools of knowledge from adjacent disciplines is going to be the key to our success. Finally, I would like to repeat the inspiring inscription on the Lamme Medal of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA, which simply says “The engineer views hope- fully the hitherto unattainable”. I firmly believe that it is in this new seamless world of the emerging engineers from our University will not only “view” the unattainable but also “attain” the unattainable.
Five Mashelkar Mantras
The beginning of your own life is not in your hands, but where you end up is.So remember, your aspirations are your possibilities, and therefore, keep your aspirations always high. You can’t predict your future, when you are beginning your journey.
When I was studying Newton’s laws of motion in school, I did not realise that I will sign in the same book as Newton did, while getting inducted in a ceremonial process as a Fellow of Royal Society in London.
Second, there is no substitute to hard work for becoming successful. Like instant coffee, there is no instant success.
I have myself worked 24×7, week after week, month after month, year after year and will do so till I take my last breath.
The golden rule is the following. Work hard in silence. Let success make all the noise.
Third, purpose, perseverance and passion matters. Always too early to quit. Quitters are never winners and winners are never quitters. Interpret FAIL as your first attempt in learning. Your best Guru is your last mistake as long as you learn from it.
Fourth, be always a part of a solution, never part of a problem.If you can’t find the way, create your own new way.You will keep on knocking on the doors. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t open. Create your own doors.
Fifth, there is no limit to human endurance, no limit to human achievement and no limit to human imagination, excepting the limits you put on your mind yourself.
Be `limitless’ in terms of your imagination. So every day, when you wake up, no matter how old you are, say to yourself that my best is yet to come and may be today is that day.
My young friends, all my best wishes and choicest blessings will be always with you, when you keep on climbing on this limitless ladder of excellence and bring glory not only to yourself, to your family, but also to our beloved University, our beloved state of and our revered motherland.