Its a chicken and egg issue. While I understand csaurabh's frustration, it makes no sense to blame baniyas, as they are no different than businessmen anywhere else. Right now the 'baniyas' are being smart and using labor arbitrage to their advantage. Even the government is exploiting low-tech approaches to get results - when you can invest in (relatively) straightforward technology to create an additional rail corridor to boost the GDP by a good margin, why spend time focusing on developing nanopositioners, diode lasers and other stuff? As Suraj has pointed out so many times, simply providing electricity, water and roads is good enough to boost GDP, improve HDI, and win elections.
The argument that we need to be able to 'build everything from scratch' is also really hard to justify, especially given our current situation. When the US was building up to become a tech superpower, it relied on key enabling technologies from abroad, and continues to do so. By no means am I saying we should not focus on becoming self reliant on manufacturing or measurement technology, but a LOT can be done with the manufacturing technology itself. Knowing HOW to use the manufacturing technology is, IMVHO, just as important as the manufacturing technology itself.
I think India needs to be forward looking and focus on being able to reach a point where current cutting-edge technologies
can be researched and produced, not solely catching up on stuff mastered by others 30 years ago. Nowhere is this need more apparent than in nanofabrication. Posters on BRF and commentators elsewhere talk about how India needs to catch up on numerous technologies - quantum computation, communication, telecom equipment, sensors, imagers, photonics, microfluidics, advanced solar cells, next-gen power storage, etc. Advancements in these areas now almost exclusively require advanced nanofabrication techniques.
Therefore, modern nanofab facilities are a must to be current on these technologies. These facilities are highly specialized, require custom buildings and tremendous training to operate. While most of the equipment and personnel can be imported (see KAUST
; imported facilities and labs), but what cannot be easily imported is the know-how of using the fabrication methods. While China has been assembling numerous clean room facilities and nanofabs, they have invested a lot of effort in trying to train people and steal process methodology to manufacture these technologies - I have seen this happening first hand. Interestingly, these nanofab processes will also be required to realize many next-gen manufacturing technologies and catalyze revolutions in other areas. Sort of a self-feedback loop. Oxford Nanopore
is a great example of the power of fabrication know-how. These guys spent decades to come up with an alternative to the most commonly used form of DNA sequencing - Illumina dye sequencing
- that relies on reading out variations in electric charge along a strand of DNA by pulling it through a nanopore. The technology
is quite amazing and in the long run will eventually replace the Illumina based approach. The point is this: there is no scope of this being developed now, or even 10 years from now, if major steps are not taken to get cutting-edge fabrication methods and know-how into the country.
While the current PLI scheme is great, the GOI needs to place additional focus needs to be placed on accessing deep tech and making it available. One way would be to partner with companies that are experiencing some pain right now - and Intel comes to the top of my mind. Intel missed out on both the ARM and the fabless manufacturing revolution. They missed out on GPU-accelerated neural nets as well, and now Apple, amazon and google are all pursuing their own processor lines. That being said, Intel is still formidable; I think the GOI should try to lure Intel with a two-fold approach:
- Semiconductor Foundries: While Intel has so far missed out on this opportunity, India is a major untapped market. We have long talked on this forum about inviting TSMC and similar companies, but Intel might be more willing to explore new sources of revenue at this point, given the GOI provides enough incentive.
- Academic Research: The GOI can invite Intel and other companies to invest in the creation of nanotech core facilities around the country. Here, the companies can be compensated for their investment with the ability to perform research at these facilities and for some fair share of the IP generated using them. In exchange, the companies will provide investment, equipment, know-how, and technicians to operate these facilities optimally. Such core facilities have been developed around the world and are very successful in creating new IP; it may also help in attracting some talented researchers back to the country.
Of course the above could be with any other company as well, I just thought embattled Intel might be worth a shot. Any such deal would be complex - the dual use nature of the technologies that can be manufactured, along with the IP rights, need to be carefully managed. However, research in these new fields needs to be kick started in the country.