By Saroj Mohanty IANS | 6 months ago


New Delhi, Feb 16 : India will collaborate with the four other BRICS countries in science and technology to generate new knowledge and develop innovative products, services and processes, critical to its and the grouping's growing economies.

Science and technology ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) met at Kleinmond, southeast of Cape Town, South Africa, last week and agreed to promote partnerships also with other strategic actors in the developing world.

They zeroed in on five sectors of climate change and mitigation of natural disasters; water resources and pollution treatment; geospatial technology and its applications; alternative and renewable energy; and astronomy to share experiences and complementarities.

India would thus drive geospatial technology and its application, while Brazil will lead climate change and natural disasters. Russia would head water resources and pollution treatment.

New and renewable energy and energy efficiency would be led by China while South Africa would steer astronomy.

Thirumalachari Ramasami, secretary, department of science and technology, represented India at the first ministerial on "A Strategic Partnership for Equitable Growth and Sustainable Development".

The ministers reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) -- a copy of which is available here -- to stimulate joint investment in the development of high technologies, create common technology platforms and set up centres of applied research and innovation laboratories.

The MOU, officials said, will serve as the "strategic inter-governmental framework" that would be signed by the heads of state and government at the 6th BRICS Summit scheduled for July in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The Feb 10-11 meeting, held as per the "eThekwini declaration and Action Plan" adopted at the Durban Summit last year, also ensured complementarities vis-a-vis cooperation with Africa, notably regarding increased access to technology as well as the launch of the BRICS Business Council and the BRICS Think Tanks Council.

The ministers suggested the establishment of mechanisms to transfer technology and knowledge and the creation of a student exchange programme within the group to address their human capital challenges.

"The meeting is a clear demonstration of our commitment to intensify cooperation in science, technology and innovation (STI) within the BRICS framework", said Derek Hanekom, South African minister of science and technology.

Hanekom said the University of Cape Town has discovered a novel chemical compound which has "exciting potential" to both control and eradication of malaria.

India and South Africa are hosting components of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, promoted by the United Nations.

The participants declared their intention to face the common global and regional socio-economic challenges, and emphasised that the basis for cooperation in STI among the bloc's countries should be centred on people and the public assets in order to support equitable growth and sustainable development.

"We agree that people centred and public good driven science, technology and innovation, supporting equitable growth and sustainable development, shall form the basis of our cooperation within the framework of BRICS," they said.

The Kleinmond meeting took place in the context of the First BRICS Summit held in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the leaders at that time envisaged cooperation in the field of science, technology and innovation with the aim to engage in fundamental research and development of advanced technologies.

There is already broad agreement amongst the BRICS partners on possible priority areas for cooperation. These include exchange of information on science, technology and innovation policies and programmes and promotion of innovation; food security and sustainable agriculture; nanotechnology; biotechnology and technology incubators.

The 3rd BRICS Summit in Sanya, China, in 2011 resulted in member-countries setting up working mechanisms that include a BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation senior officials meeting and the STI Working Group.

The BRICS ministers visited the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) site in Carnarvon, where the world's biggest and most sensitive radio telescope, will be jointly built by South Africa in collaboration with Australia and New Zealand.

The telescope is a combination of thousands of dishes and antennas, whose total collecting area will be approximately one square km, giving 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes.

It will address unanswered fundamental questions about our universe, including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond the earth.

(Saroj Mohanty can be contacted at saroj.m@ians.in)

(Posted on 16-02-2014)