Collaborative research needed for rapid academic diffusion

Global consultancy major McKinsey & Co in its 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report on Disruptive Technologies identified 12 major technologies that would change the way humans would behave and work.

Published: 14th January 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th January 2017 11:09 AM   |  A+A-

Global consultancy major McKinsey & Co in its 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report on Disruptive Technologies identified 12 major technologies that would change the way humans would behave and work. The resultant economic impact of these across promising applications by 2025 is important for businesses and policy makers to prioritise needs, seize opportunities and confront the inevitable change to drive socio-economic growth.

Human Genome Project

According to the report, the cost of CDC-7600, the world’s fastest super computer in 1975, and an iPhone 4 with equal performance in 2013, is $5 million and $400 respectively. The number of knowledge workers at the end of 2012 was over 230 million. It took 13 years and costed $2.7 billion for the Human Genome Project. Google’s autonomous car was driven for over 3,00,000 miles with only one accident due to human error. The efficiency of North American gas wells increased three times between 2007 and 2011. There was a 85 per cent drop in cost per watt of a solar photovoltaic cell since 2000. These pre-2013 improvements had tremendous economic potential by 2015. The number of people with Internet access will increase by two to three billion by 2025. The knowledge economy will create an impact of $5-7 trillion by 2025. As per Derek Thompson’s ‘IBM’s Killer Idea’, the cost of another Human Genome Project will be $100 and the sequencing time one hour. Autonomous cars would address 1.5 million driver-caused car deaths by 2025. North American oil production will increase by 100 to 200 per cent because of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and the share of solar and wind energy in the global electricity production will be 16 per cent by 2025. There is a similar Indian parallel.

In November 2015, the Government of India through the Ministry of Human Resource Development has embarked on a catalytic scheme called IMPacting Research INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) for social development and economic prosperity. This scheme is predominantly driven by all the IITs and IISc to undertake path-breaking research in 10 identified domain areas with each or a group of IITs focusing on a particular domain(s). As on date, 259 proposals have been approved for funding by different ministries. The 10 domain areas selected seem to share a commonality with many of the 12 technologies identified by McKinsey. Though the direction of research is aligning in the right path, the number of institutions engaged in IMPRINT needs a broad-based approach.

In an Economist article published in November 2016, it was reported that from the representative set of companies in 24 of the 35 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, while the top 5 per cent have increased their productivity between 2001 and 2013, others remained stagnant. Researchers found that this divergence varies across sectors, and the gap between leaders and laggards establishes a common pattern of management in the top 5 per cent firms. However, though the inherent nature of competitive capitalism ensures that the best practices are spread faster in the economy, in Schumpeter’s own words, successful companies are standing on ground crumbling beneath their feet widening the gap between the elite and the rest because of diffusion problem. Such a scenario cannot happen in research-driven education.

IMPRINT scheme for research can ensure coherent synergy via collaborative research through broader institutional framework to ensure rapid diffusion of best practices in a knowledge economy. The research vector’s direction is clear. The quantity can be broad-based as collaborative research will elevate higher education through academic diffusion.

S Vaidhyasubramaniam
Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University

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