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Visit of Western Norway University of Applied Sciences Delegation to MP-IDSA

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  • September 13, 2023
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    A nine-member delegation from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences visited Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) on 13 September 2023 for an interaction. The scholars of MP-IDSA were in attendance.

    Executive Summary

    The session explored the common areas of interest between India and Norway. The agenda focused on several key aspects, including the exploration of shared interests in the realm of renewable (non-traditional) energy sources. The interaction delved deeply into the significance of exploring clean energy sources and emphasised the importance of researchers giving priority to clean and sustainable energy solutions. It also highlighted the necessity for collaboration and briefly touched upon ongoing collaborative efforts between India and Norway in this regard.

    Detailed Report

    Dr. Uttam Kumar Sinha, Senior Fellow at the MP-IDSA, initiated the conversation by providing an overview of the Institute's history, its goals, and its mission. He also highlighted the Institute's longstanding collaborative history with Norway and various other nations. Subsequently, Gp. Capt. (Dr.) Rajiv Kumar Narang, Senior Fellow at MP-IDSA, shared his insights regarding India's objective of establishing itself as a leading hub for drone technology by the year 2030. He underscored the pivotal role that drones play in diverse sectors, including agriculture, disaster management, and commerce. He observed that the majority of the drone industry is currently driven by private sector entities.

    He illuminated the key features of the Drone Rules, 2021. He explained how these rules stimulated development of policies and procedures for pilot certification, the assignment of Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) to each drone, insurance coverage, and certification by the Quality Council of India. He acknowledged that there was initially reluctance to open the skies for private players. However, over time, the situation has evolved in India. Presently, India can proudly claim to have 28 type-certified drone models, 66 drone training schools, 6,600 drone pilots and 10,700 UINs. Notably, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, has developed a comprehensive course on drone technology offering an M.Tech program in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Engineering.

    To facilitate drone operations, the Indian airspace has been divided into green, yellow, and red zones. The red zone is specifically identified as a no-drone area, where drone activities can only be conducted with prior permission from the Central Government. Notably, over 90% of the Indian airspace falls within the green zone. DigitalSky, an online platform hosted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has introduced a single-window system for the approval and management of activities related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in India.

    Drones have played a pivotal role in the SVAMITVA initiative, a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, aimed at establishing property ownership in rural   regions through the mapping of land parcels using drone technology. This initiative has deployed approximately 1,671 drone teams across 31 States and Union Territories in India. Moreover, drones have also been instrumental in trials for the delivery of life saving drugs. Indian startups have played a major role in the evolution of the Indian drone industry.

    Furthermore, Gp. Capt. Narang observed that the Indian Government has formulated a policy for the export of Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for civilian purposes. Notably, three drone startups are now listed on the stock market, underscoring the significant growth potential within the sector. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) located in Kanpur and Chennai, along with their dedicated incubation cells, have played a pivotal role in fostering the growth of drone startups aimed at tackling a wide array of challenges.

    India has also recognised the uniqueness of its requirements and aims to evolve into a manufacturing ecosystem that contributes to the global supply chain. Furthermore, Gp. Capt. Narang highlighted the potential domains for technological collaboration in the drone sector, including unmanned traffic management, advanced air mobility, secure communication, command and control systems, electronic components, Internal Combustion engines, and hydrogen, solar and other new power sources for drones.

    On the Norwegian side, Geir Kåre Resaland, who serves as the Pro-Rector for Regional Development and Pro-Rector for Research at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, provided an introduction to the university, shedding light on its history, goals, and objectives. He emphasized the university's commitment to fostering collaboration in research and education at the local, national, and international levels.

    Furthermore, Professor Dhayalan Velauthapillai, whose research centers on the potential of nanomaterials in generating clean energy, underscored the imperative of ensuring energy security. The importance of energy security was accentuated by the energy crisis Europe faced in 2022. Professor Velauthapillai stressed that the escalating energy demands of the future are inevitable, making it imperative for researchers to prioritise clean and sustainable energy sources.

    Additionally, he highlighted how solar cell technologies hold promise for meeting future energy needs. However, he also pointed out challenges, such as the monopoly over the supply chain, predominantly held by China in this context. Monopolisation of a critical technology poses significant challenges, and both the European Union and the United States have initiated efforts to address this issue.

    Considering that the development of clean energies, like solar cell technology, requires substantial capital investment, African and Asian countries are likely to face hurdles in this regard. Professor Velauthapillai emphasised the necessity for global collaboration in developing new types of solar cells and other clean technologies to address these challenges collectively. Furthermore, he underscored the ongoing collaborative initiatives between India and Norway in the field of hydrogen production. He also shed light on the university's exchange programs, which facilitate knowledge sharing among international students. In addition, he emphasised the importance of integrating Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence into various academic departments, recognising their vital role in shaping the future across various fields and industries.

    Subsequently, Nanthini Nagarajah, a PhD scholar at the university, presented her research on sustainability transitions within the context of a developing country, using Sri Lanka as a case study. She placed significant emphasis on the pivotal role played by the diaspora, specifically the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, in knowledge creation and exchange. Nanthini highlighted how the diaspora acts as a crucial coupling mechanism, facilitating connections between the global and local spheres through informal networks. She particularly emphasised the importance of networks such as Higher Education and Research Collaboration on Nanomaterials for Clean Energy Technologies (HRNCET) and Advanced Nanomaterials for Clean Energy and Health Applications (ANCEHA).

    Questions and Comments

    Following the presentations, there was an interactive session with questions and comments from the participants. Dr. Sinha pointed out how the Indian Government has implemented various policies to harness the potential of the Indian diaspora. In response, Ms. Ruchita Beri, a Consultant at MP-IDSA, underscored the significance of the diaspora as both a cultural and strategic asset to a country.

    Gp. Capt. Narang delved into the challenges associated with green energy production, particularly concerning hydrogen, where achieving the requisite temperature is a significant hurdle. He also discussed the future prospects of hydrogen and solar cell technology within the drone sector. Additionally, he stressed the importance of collaborative efforts and the necessity for joint ownership of intellectual property to overcome these challenges effectively.

    Jonathan Økland, an Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical & Marine Engineering, emphasised that researchers are actively collaborating in their field, often working together on research papers. Notably, the industry is playing a crucial role in funding many of these research endeavors. Industry presents problems to the universities, and researchers work on finding solutions. This collaboration has also led to companies funding PhD programs and other research initiatives.

    Professor Velauthapillai elaborated on the challenges associated with hydrogen shipping and how they are actively working with Indian universities to develop materials that can facilitate the production of green hydrogen. Additionally, he discussed the potential of combining supercapacitors with batteries as a means to generate energy, showcasing innovative approaches to energy production and storage.

    A notable collaborative effort between an Indian Institution, the Coimbatore Institute of Technology, and the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, commenced its joint academic and research initiatives in 2010. The first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between these two institutions was formally established in 2011. The research groups from both sides have been actively engaged in collaborative work, focusing on the modeling, synthesis, and characterisation of nanomaterials specifically designed for applications in solar cell technology.

    The delegation highlighted how the internal structure within the university plays a crucial role in facilitating researchers with patent and technology transfer agreements. This structure helps streamline the process of transferring research findings into practical applications and commercialization.

    Gp. Capt. Narang observed that India s Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is a suitable platform for global partners to establish technology collaboration with start-ups and industries of two countries.
    Dr. Sinha concluded the discussion by emphasising the instrumental role of MP-IDSA in facilitating technology-related collaborative efforts and its commitment to bridging the gap between scientific advancements and policy formulation.

    Report was prepared by Mr. Rohit Kumar Sharma, Research Analyst, Strategic Technologies Centre, MP-IDSA.