Nanotechnology in India

Nanotechnology in India
Krishna Ravi Srinivas
GEST Project Meeting, Preston 16th
March 2012
Nanotech in India
• Nanoscience & Technology Initiative 2002-2006-Rs 350 Crores
• 2007-Launch of Nanotechnology Mission- $200 million under
Department of Science & Technology
• Number of Projects 22-2002 , 34-2009-2010
• Centres of Excellence -19 in 14 Institutions –basic R&D
• Autonomous Institutions, CSIR labs, Universities – major R&D work
is being done
• Other ministries also fund nanotechnology related projects
• DBT major funder in health related nanotechnology, energy, water,
agriculture and studies on toxicity have been funded
Institutional Capacity & Funding
• First phase basic science funded
• Nanomission applied is given importance but
basic research is still funded
• Institutional capacity is limited to few centers- so
nanotech research community is small
• Private sector R&D minimal- mostly in
pharmaceuticals, consumer goods (water filters)
• Lack of critical mass of scientists in key areasscientists working on fullertones is much less
than China
Nanotech & Ethical Issues
There is an absence of ethical issues being debated
Only two studies have been done on perceptions of scientists working in NT-very limited sample
Group at CTRI, Lucknow working on toxicity studies but there are not many groups on ELSI
issues in NT
One reason is NT is confined to labs and centres- no major product in the market
Ethical issues in NT in India in terms of access, equity and inclusion will be articulated and
Policy statements indicate awareness of potential to benefit common people
"Understanding the immense potential of nanotechnology and its wide ranging applications to
benefit common people, DIT initiated the Nanotechnology Development Programme in 2004,
through which it plans to create R & D capacity and infrastructure in nanoelectronics at national
level. The emphasis is on small and medium level research projects in specific areas of
nanoelectronics such as nanomaterials, nanodevices, carbon nanotubes (CNT), nanosystems,
nanometrology, et al.”
But there is awareness among some scientists who are willing to discuss them (interviews at
NanoScience Centre, IISc, Bangalore)
Nanofoodtechnology R&D in infancy – hardly any funding under Nanomission except one project
at TNAU, Coimbatore but there is no discussion on ethical issues in nanofood technology
Right now there is no regulatory framework – so existing laws like EPA,
Factories Act, Drugs &Cosmetics Act are applicable
No clear policy/guidelines on regulation- DST constituted a working group
on regulation of NT
Little debate on regulatory structures/regimes on NT for India- only
academic debate
There is no nanotechnology industry- nor has been much commercialization
ARCI, Hyderabad commissioned a study on impacts of its product
Nanosilver based water filter on environment, issues in recycling, collection
and Life Cycle Analysis
Not much involvement of civil society or trade unions in this
Coverage in media is limited except some stories like the one that appeared
in Forbes India
But sooner or later regulation has to be given the importance
Strength & Weaknesses
Strength: Support &funding, availability of human resources and institutional
capacity for inter-disciplinary research – almost all areas are funded and
new centers have been set up to foster specialization as well as interdisciplinary research
This has resulted in increase in number of publications and research
Weaknesses: lack of private sector involvement, human resource base is
restricted to selected institutions and research groups are limited in number
Lack of commercialization of research done in earlier phase and under
Govt. support sustains it but any cut in allocation to Nanomission or
Minsitry of S&T will affect the funding
Absence of debates on ethical issues or regulation
Public perception not known- no civil society involvmebnt
What next
The need to consolidate and translate research to products is to be prioritized –
CNR Rao, NanoMission
Govt. may opt for regulation and hence may call for consultations but
experience with biotechnology regulation indicates that framing regulatory
regime will be a major challenge
Some acts like Factories Act, Drug & Cosmetics Act may be amended
ISI working with other bodies on nano-standards at global level –hence
standards may be deployed if there is a consensus on that
More work is needed on identifying ethical issues, studying public perception
and regulatory issues
Nanotech as a test case for access, inclusion and equity- how to do that
Conclusion – Questions and Questions
There are advantages and disadvantages in studying ethical issues an
emerging technology- nanotech is a good example
But what to do if ethical issues are not raised by govt. or stakeholders and
how to identify relevant ethical issues in the Indian context
How to identify an appropriate regulatory regime for NT in the absence of a
globally accepted framework – should India wait and watch
Should India start working on regulations and start by improving
upon/modifying current ones or should opt for a new framework
What principles should guide product development and R&D in NTHow to overcome weaknesses and enhance capacity and competence in
We hope to engage with these issues and questions rather than coming up
with quick fixes or answers at this stage