BENGALURU, India India's national nanotechnology program is rolling out as the first of three Institutes for Nano Science and Technology is inaugurated under the federal government's $250 million national initiative in support of nanotechnological research. The regional government of Karnataka partner with the government in the establishment of the first institute, eager to promote Bengaluru a global hub for nanotechnology as in the past it has promoted it as a software hub.
The nanotechnological institutes will also develop products and technologies, spreading interest in nanotechnology by establishing laboratories in universities in hopes of developing the manpower in this field that is now in such short supply. Other efforts include a major program using nanotechnology to improve photovoltaics' performance, special emphasis is likely to be given to the development of nanosensors.
India has drawn up a five-year plan expected to make the country a hub for nanoscience and nanotechnology and has appointed a vision group headed by C.N.R. Rao, an international authority on nanotechnology, the chairman of the Science Advisory Council to the prime minister of India and the one whose leadership is expected to drive current plans.
Rao's work on nanotubes, through which junction nanotubes were developed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research (JNASCR), Bengaluru, found even earlier application in IBM's efforts to design the world's smallest transistor. JNASCR, the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, currently lead the country's efforts in nanotechnology.
"India is lagging behind the U.S. and Japan, where annually a couple of billion dollars are invested in nanotechnology research and development. Even China has a head start and is putting in a few hundreds of millions of dollars into its nanotechnology efforts," Rao said.
"We can catch up if we start working from now on, but we will not be able to match their efforts if we do not do much work on this front in the next couple of years. India has missed many a technology bus, but we should not miss this one," he added.
The first national nanotechnology-related event, called Bangalore Nano, will begin Thursday, December 6, said M.N. Vidyashankar, secretary of the department of information technology of the Karnataka government. Substantial delegations from Japan, Germany and Australia will participate in this first annual event.
The European Union, a partner in Bangalore Nano, has already pledged itself to joint R&D with India in nanotechnology and has set apart a fund of about $15 million for projects set to start as soon as next year.
Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia plans a multibillion "Nanocity" in Chandigarh, northern India, envisioned as another Silicon Valley, and investments of $300 million have already been funneled into the project. In the U.S., a number of Indian Americans have recently formed the Indus Nanotechnology Association, hoping to provide a common platform for researchers, entrepreneurs, technologists and investors of Indian origin seeking to leverage the emerging nanotechnology industry.