'Technology can help tackle world's challenges'

Speaking notes for British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata Bruce Bucknell at a panel discussion on 'India-UK: partners in technology and innovation'.

BDHC Kolkata

We live in an age of rapid technological change. We have just gone through an information technology revolution. But we are only just beginning to understand the costs and benefits to us of the rapid transmission of data in digital form.

Digital technology itself enables us to transfer other technologies at the push of a button to anywhere around the world. With the development of such machines as 3D printers, we can now re-create objects anywhere, anytime by anybody.

Ladies & gentlemen – thank you very much for coming to this event this evening. I’m Bruce Bucknell, the British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata. I’m here to raise your anticipation about the India-UK TECH Summit that will take place in New Delhi next month on 7-9 November. This evening’s event is one of many organised by my colleagues in the British High Commission and Deputy High Commissions around India.

I’m delighted to be here with a representative of one of the main co-organisers of the event, Mr Kaushik Bhattacharya from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), who will give an overview of next month’s TECH Summit. This is not the first TECH Summit that the CII has co-organised with the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India and a partner nation. But we hope, of course, it will be the best.

We have assembled an eminent panel of experts to talk about aspects of technology here this evening. They are:

  • Mr Sudipto Mukherjee, Titagarh Wagons
  • Mr Sudip Datta, IIDS Ltd
  • Ms Rupa Misra, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Dr Kunal Sarkar, Medica Superspeciality Hospital
  • Dr Baidurya Bhattacharya, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

And as well as hearing from them, I’m very keen to hear your questions and thoughts. At the end, we have refreshments so please stay and continue more informal interaction.

Let me set the scene for this evening.

I think we all know what technology is, but I’m very struck by how difficult it is to define. There appears to be two definitions – one is about means:

  • technology is the techniques, skills, methods and processes used to produce goods or services.

Another is more about ends:

  • technology is the machinery and devices developed from scientific knowledge.

I think technology is an amalgam of means and ends but it exists because humans create and use it. It is both the machines and systems embedded within those machines often in minute forms in the form of micro-processors, which can be operated by individuals who don’t know how the machine or the technology works.

But it’s not just machines. Technology is – or allows us - to grow organic materials, coat materials with substances the thickness of a single cell, manipulate particles. It can be bio- micro- nano-tech, e-tech, i-tech or any other prefix.

To help me prepare for today’s event, last week I visited the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur and talked to its senior leadership. I’m delighted that its Director, Prof Partha Chakraborty, will be one of the eminent Indian technologists speaking at the TECH Summit and Dr Bhattacharya is here with us this evening.

I was delighted to hear about all their collaboration and partnerships with British institutes of research and higher education. We talked much about how technology can help tackle the major challenges we face in our world today like clean water, climate change, congestion in cities and so on. But also the challenges that new technology poses to job creation, possibly the greatest challenge to all governments around the world.

As we talked, Prof Chakraborty noted that we may already have the technology that can help with these challenges – but we just don’t know it. Some of the solutions to these challenges can be very low tech if we are willing to use them. So, for example, our reliance on plastics - the waste of which is drifting around in the world’s oceans - could be reduced if we returned to using jute widely as a material for packaging.

Some of you will know that the announcement of Britain as partner nation at this year’s TECH Summit was made by the Indian Prime Minister when he visited Britain last November. As PM Modi noted, Britain and India are an unbeatable combination. The TECH Summit provides a major opportunity to showcase the best of British and Indian technology, and for leading technologists, entrepreneurs, business people and government officials to meet and work out new partnerships.

I’m not going to spoil any surprises for those who plan to attend the TECH Summit. You can see for yourselves via website what we have in store. What I would like the panel to discuss this evening is:

  • what are the main technologies that are needed for the development of Kolkata, West Bengal and the rest of east and North East India

  • in which areas do you think Britain could provide the solution?

  • what more do the businesses, research institutions and others need to do to make better use of technology?

Having posed those rather open questions, I realise that we could talk for hours and hours. We need to reduce the scope of our discussion, and focus on certain sectors. These are, of course, sectors that we are focussing on at the Tech Summit event, and for which we have experts here tonight.

Those sectors are:

  • advanced manufacturing
  • smart cities
  • healthcare and life sciences
  • use of information and communications technology (ICT)

Our use of technology is dependent on the level of effort we put into scientific research. So as the last theme, I also want to hear about the research needs for this part of India.

Thank you.

Published 21 October 2016