Future of Science, Technology, and Innovation

by B.H.S. Thimmappa

Fast Forward to Progress in STI

Science, technology, and innovation (STI) play a significant role in the industrial, agricultural, commercial, and social sectors from discovery to development and commercialization. STI has a profound impact on higher education, technical/scientific skills, and work in specific domains. Many sophisticated instruments have made our job easy and enhanced working speed in the offices to produce rapid results. It is essential to use scientific knowledge to develop a competitive edge in specified fields by becoming an expert in a particular field. The effect of new scientific inventions, the advancement of technology, and breakthrough innovations make people professionally competent in creating an enabling environment in a specific field and achieving different breakthrough scientific results, frugal/advanced technologies, and transformational innovations (redefining the sector) through extensive research work. The more the degree of change involved, the more amount of value is created and breakthrough innovations are certainly better than incremental innovations. We need a strong interlink between science, technology, and products for effective functioning and to create a conducive climate for distinct work that would lead people to contribute new products, processes, or systems to humankind in an era of globalization. We have to go ahead with the immense impact of STIs to strengthen our performance and progress through professionalism, skill development, and research work. The STI will bring beautiful changes in every walk of life through many new things of daily use, fast communication technology, swift transportation, many medicines, medical equipment, machines and devices, meteorological services, and scientifically developed seeds in the modern age. In the future, we need to enhance energy conversion efficiency, agricultural production, manufacturing biodegradable/recyclable products, green and clean processes, and multiple functionally advanced systems.

Science is a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena based on unbiased observations and systematic experimentations. The purpose is to find true explanations for the things that happen in the world around us to provide an accurate picture of how nature works. The scientific method uses the theory to form a hypothesis, design a study to test the hypothesis, perform the research with observations, and generalize from observations. Scientific discoveries will shape our future and the incredible contributions of modern science, genetics, computer science, modern medicine, and pharmaceutical chemistry are well known. Technology involves the application of science for practical purposes, especially in industry or in our everyday lives. Technological developments enable factories to the mass production of goods and trade. It is used to generate tools, techniques, materials, and sources of power to improve conditions of life and productive work. It is the purposeful application of scientific knowledge in the design, production, and use of goods and services. The various technology readiness levels include concept formulation, proof of concept at the laboratory scale, prototype development and testing at the pilot scale, product/service testing in field trials, offering commercial production/service, and proven technology as per established market. Innovations are new ways to achieve tasks. Types of innovations include mechanical (tractors, cars) chemical (pesticides), biological (seed varieties), managerial (extra pay for work, overtime), and institutional (water users’ association, patents, banks, stock market, conservation districts)It is useful to distinguish between process innovations (new biotechnology procedures) and product innovations (Bt cotton). As globalization increases competitive pressure, technological innovation is the key to success in many industries. Process innovations help make manufacturing more efficient and product innovations help protect margins by offering new features. It is essential to have indigenous technologies to establish a manufacturing base in the country and to witness a radical transformation in industrial growth. We have to move in the direction of inspiration, imagination, ideation, invention, innovation, and incubation involving concepts, strategy, design, creating products/processes/systems, and marketing aspects. The way to achieve higher standards of living for all is through a sustained focus on STIs, and taking advantage of better tools, methods, and organization. The specific objectives of this article are to reiterate the importance of STIs to fulfil the roles and expectations of society and to refocus and broaden the scope of STIs for improving academic/work practices in education, skills, and work. 

Impacts on Education and Employment

The development of STIs has profound implications for managing the future pattern of social progress and economic growth. The nation’s future can be shaped by harnessing modern STIs and channelizing the youngsters’ energy in the right direction. Scientific discoveries, technological innovations, and emerging technology development will bring about considerable improvement in human living and macroeconomic conditions. Creating an extensive reservoir of human resources with scientific and technological skills significantly impacts the growing economy. Promoting STI and outstanding contributions in providing scientific progress, new technology, and disruptive innovations in several sectors such as healthcare, industrial development, nuclear research, military empowerment, and energy would help achieve the millennium development goals in the emerging world order. The ten major scientific breakthrough discoveries of 2022 include nuclear fusion creating more energy than used to start, the James Webb telescope, human organ transplant, flu vaccine, changing an asteroid’s trajectory, artificial intelligence for artists, mRNA vaccine for malaria, advances in cancer treatments, injecting human cells into rat’s brains, and creating a life without sperm or eggs. The eleven breakthrough technologies of 2022 include new forms of online authentication, covid variant tracking, long-lasting grid battery, artificial intelligence for protein folding, malaria vaccine, proof-of-stake to verify transactions, covid drug, practical fusion reactors, synthetic data for artificial intelligence, axiom one-space tourism, zero-emission train, and a carbon removal factory.

There can be a tremendous improvement in the higher education of the country through some serious reforms to perform and transform. We have to create a renewed vibrancy in modern scientific education to have an exciting learning experience by enabling institutions, policies, systems, and resources. It is essential to raise the level of higher education quality by changing the nature of teaching and learning to create positive development in society. Multiple research projects must be undertaken in higher education institutions/universities supported by industry and government agencies. However, a systematic bias based on a one-sided narrative-induced perception needs to be corrected in the allocation of funds to collaborate with academia. Funding used for the right research and development projects to solve societal or industrial problems can boost innovation and knowledge generation. We have to take advantage of the training received by Indians abroad and a significant infusion of sophisticated instruments will eventually result in a strategic shift from extension to original research. Further, entrepreneurship and innovation are the catalysts of growth, and change from being dependent on imports to a country of exports is necessary. The government has to take various reformative steps in creating a holistic industrial ecosystem through forward-looking policies to attract substantial investments in several sectors. We have to attract the biggest manufacturers in the world to open their production units in India to become partners in our growth story (mega and ultra-mega industries). The government must invest more to build better quality human resources for better health/environment that can work for the nation’s development with environmental/climate justice. Further, we have to inform the public through rigorous top-down awareness programs, publishing reports, felt experiences, gripping stories, multiple art shows/events, gallery walks, street plays, panel discussions, and inclusive community-based initiatives. The three Ds i.e. distinct, dynamic, and diverse-describe the transformation process that has to be strictly followed to make significant progress in sustainable development. We have to start with creative ideas that have enormous values manifest in a variety of ways, be interactive within a new framework incorporating innovation, theory, methods, and technology, and further think about evidence-based science education from all perspectives including visual, sound, kinaesthetic, abstract, and movement aspects. STI has a very positive impact on education and at the same time may also pose some negative effects. Meeting the skill demands of the fourth industrial revolution requires strengthening learnability, the willingness and ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn, among the current and future workforce. The impact of technology on work has exponentially increased the rate of production and speed at which business occurs. The future trajectory of science and technology research involves interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary theoretical and practical activities, hypothesis/data-driven research, data-intensive science (big data analytics), automated processing of library content, seamless integration between data and publications, team research and collaborations, distributive and collaborative research, and virtual research environments. Future trends and innovation include passion-driven pursuit leading to innovation (nanotechnology product for clean water), the purpose-driven pursuit for innovation (ceramic water filter), public-private partnership (PPP) for competition-driven pursuit, people-centric pursuit, and product/process/system innovations. We have to live peacefully with nature by adopting environmental solutions, accommodating biodiversity, and maintaining development, in a world under the clutches of the climate crisis. 

The type of technology used in education settings involves smart boards, projectors, and television. Some of the trends transforming learning include video (streaming and live), learning management systems (LMS), collaboration platforms, data visualization, and massive open online courses (MOOC). Shifting the classroom dynamics and preparing students for a technology-based world is taking place with greater accessibility and increased flexibility of advanced digital platforms, the advent of online testing, online learning content, differing interactions between faculty and learners, and improved ability to meet special needs. However, a rapid transition to online learning with insufficient bandwidth and with little preparation would result in poor transmission. It is essential to embed technical skills such as project management, functional and analytical skills, digital skills, big data analysis, coding and programming, and problem-solving skills to have the right talent for the right role and contribute to the overall development of learners. The positive impacts of technology in the future world of work include the creation of new tasks/jobs outside traditional career paths, changes in the economics of different work arrangements, work-from-home possibilities, increase demand for workers in some existing jobs, integration applications to automate data entry, remote surgery, medical/legal consultancy, and change in workplace structure (videoconferencing/workstation). A future that works involves automation, employment, productivity, and technology. The visionary leadership, aspirations, and selfless service efforts help the scientific forces to become more efficient than ever before. The negative impact of technology in the workplace includes distraction, addiction, lifestyle diseases, and lack of real connection with employees.

The recent developments in science and technology would certainly have impacts on skills, education, and work. Such examples include biologically engineered blue rose, square watermelons, sea slugs regenerating brand-new bodies, ultralight supertetrahedral aluminum, artificial photosynthetic prototype, integrated photobioelectrochemical systems, optical fibers, lasers, light emitting diodes (LEDs), compressed ultrafast photography, immune checkpoint blockade therapy (ICBT), charming new particles, gene editing for designer babies, full-color X-ray, eye drops instead of glasses, water on mars, birth control pills for men, bio-inspired plastic, mega-magnets, ultrathin platinum, designer nanocrystals, electric ink, liquid biopsy, 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs, smart fabrics, mega-scale desalination, anti-aging drugs, xenotransplantation,  hydrogen planes, direct air capture (DAC), energy storing bricks, sweat powered smart watches, self-healing concrete, plastic eating bacteria, artificial neurons on silicon chips, and molecular/nanoarchitecture to name a few. Gene and cell therapies can lead the way to a new age of customized medicine. Many of these science and technology developments would impact employment and higher education sectors. We can have driverless cars/tractors, customized medicines and treatments, blockchain technology, artificial human heart tissue, virtual/digital currency, shopping without manual checkout, quantum computing usage, cow-milking machines, ecoware products, civilian uses of drones, brick-layering robots, algorithm to write new stories, electronic nose and tongue, electric vehicle charging stations, private industrial parks, and robots that harvest plants and fruits in the future. As new areas of application development happen more employment opportunities are generated in the education, research, industry, and service sectors. Building connections and collaborations between academia and industries may take time, effort, and dedication for a healthy relationship to spark hope, inspiration, creativity, and thoughtfulness. Let us have the strength, courage, and hope to carry on despite multiple challenges because it directly concerns us in adding meaningful value across sectors.

A Land of Options and Opportunities

The creation of a world-class industrial infrastructure and preparing the industry for future global developments is a necessity. The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0 technologies) incorporates multiple visions and different disruptive technologies (LED technology, digital photography). Artificial intelligence (AI chips, medical wearables in healthcare), robotics and drone technology, automation devices, 3D printing, gene mapping and targeting, decentralized apps and quantum computing, lab-grown organs, internet of things (IoT), connected ecosystem (5G connectivity and enabled devices), advanced machine learning, virtual and augmented/mixed reality, and blockchain technology have a profound impact on manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare sectors. A rapid transition in the energy sector from non-renewable to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal on a large scale around the globe should take place to proceed in the direction of achieving sustainable development goals. The immediate challenges include covid-19 drugs, synthetic blood, artificial leaves, human body spare parts, and drugs for cancer and tropical diseases. The future challenges in STI include the enhancement of energy conversion efficiency in the various chemical, mechanical, sound, magnetic, light, nuclear, thermal, and electrical energy transformations. We need to move rapidly towards a quality culture through the quantum changes we make in the quality of work processes and systems, the way we think/work, positive minds, and innovation culture. The 21st century is the century of explicit knowledge innovation and the practical application of tacit and explicit knowledge is required to realize sustainable innovation and development. STI learning, unlearning, and relearning are a part of creating a circle of impact at the individual (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective), local, societal, national, field-level (design, development, research, entrepreneurship), and global levels. We have to look at the universal concerns with a different perspective to evolve an effective mechanism to protect the environment, divert peoples’ energy toward creative endeavors with a participatory approach, and make significant progress in STI teaching, research and application. The future of STI looks bright for the largest living democracy in the world to become a global industrial/investment hub in several sectors. Let us work together toward personal and professional development to contribute to the STI strength of the nation to reach greater heights and achieve the public purpose of making the world a better place.

Indian and industry leaders should deliberate on issues ranging from climate change, transformative innovation, digital cooperation, and resilient value chains for the benefit of society and the country.  We have to identify the route we want to contribute by investing time, effort, or money to make an impact as the citizens of the future. The four major routes involve i) volunteering time with an organization in ‘social service’ ii) employment in an institution as an ‘employee’ iii) wanting to donate to an organization as a ‘donor’, and iv) starting some business on your own as ‘entrepreneur’ (micro, small, and medium sector enterprises) via support and engagement. The expectations of the world of work involve a strong understanding of basic concepts, principles, and practices, the ability to read and interpret domain-specific drawings/tasks, precise measurements using modern analytical instruments, awareness of new materials/processes and principles of design, good in communication skills, soft skills and information management, and ethical principles, and professional ethics. Apart from the application of STIs in our everyday lives, it is widely used for the planning and formulation of policies and effective public administration of the central or state governments. Government schemes supporting core sector start-ups and diversification of local businesses go a long way in achieving sustainable and inclusive development and economic growth. The development of greenfield smart cities, social entrepreneurship, multi-modal connectivity for seamless transportation, entrepreneurial training and development scheme, consumer connect initiative, and work on innovative projects provide an opportunity for youth to set up their units. It is important to explore other sectors such as textile, bio-fuel, electronics, semiconductors, spare parts manufacture, digitization, 3-D printing, food processing, and forest products. Striving for continuous improvement through smart hard work, learning from failure, and persistently making progress is essential, and if we pursue perfection in STI we can catch excellence!












About the Author:

B.H.S. Thimmappa is a writer from Udupi, India

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