leadership award lecture in 1999.
Considered India's foremost technocrat, Mashelkar is the director
general of the premier Council of Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR), the largest chain of industrial research
and development institutions in the world with 38 laboratories
and 22,000 employees.
Mashelkar is as well-known for his administrative skills
as for his scientific prowess. He has single-handedly turned
around the fortunes of CSIR and transformed it into the premier
research institute that it is today. He has initiated a nation-wide
campaign to create an enterprise culture that brings science
and industry together to benefit the country.
His achievements in science and research, and intellectual
property rights issues have won him global recognition. His
pivotal role in shaping the direction of science and technology
in India has won him several prestigious honours:
- Padma Shri in 1991 and the Padma Bhushan in 2000, among
India's highest civilian honours
- He is one of only three Indian engineers to have been
elected as a Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), London in 1998
- Elected Foreign Fellow of US National Academy of Science
in 2005, being only the eighth Indian to have been elected
- Foreign Fellow of the US National Academy of Engineering
- Fellow of Third World Academy of Engineering, UK in 1996
- Fellow of World Academy of Art and Science, USA in 2000
Born into an extremely poor family, Mashelkar's story is
one of determination and fortitude. An excellent student,
he had to struggle to finish his education because his mother
could not afford to send him to college. A timely scholarship
from the Tata Trust in 1960 helped him finish his engineering
and doctorate degrees. He was awarded a doctorate in chemical
engineering from Bombay University in 1969 and has worked
in various academic capacities in Europe and the US such as
lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Salford
in England and visiting professor at the University of Delaware
in the US.
In 1976 he returned to India at the behest of prime minister
Indira Gandhi to join the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL).
He went on to become the director of NCL, steering the institute
to meet international standards. Today its reserch products
and services are sought by multinational companies. Mashelkar
instituted a polymer science and engineering division in NCL
that is considered among the best in the world today.
Turning around CSIR
When Mashelkar took over the reins at CSIR in 1995, the
institute was steeped in outdated policies. With his customary
dynamism, he conceived a plan to transform CSIR into a best
in class institute. His white paper CSIR 2001: Vision and
strategy ushered in an era of performance and innovation.
He outlined a plan to develop CSIR into a corporate-like
R&D centre and transformed it into an organisation focused
on conversion of knowledge into wealth for bettering society.
This change has been heralded as one of the 10 most significant
achievements in the field of science and technology in India
in the 20th century.
A staunch advocate of protecting India's intellectual property
rights, Mashelkar turned the focus of research at CSIR into
developing affordable, user-friendly products. The intellectual
property rights management policy of CSIR resulted in it occupying
the first place in patent filings among developing nations
in 2002. It also accounted for 40 per cent of all the US patents
granted to Indians in 2002.
Under his dynamic stewardship, CSIR has doubled its turnover
in 10 years, since 1995 and its researchers received 196 patents
in 2004, up from eight in 1995. As Mashelkar puts it, "India
developed nothing in the 20th century. The 21st century has
to be different."
Mashelkar has been rooting for a strong intellectual property
rights (IPR) regime in India for over a decade. His strategy
for IPR in India is primarily focused on the protection of
the interests of the poor and equitable sharing of resources.
"Knowledge without innovation is of no value. It is through
the process of innovation alone that knowledge is converted
into wealth and social good, and this process takes place
from firm to farm," he states succinctly.
His campaign has increased awareness about intellectual property
rights among the Indian scientific community and has helped
design the science and technology policy in India. He waged
a successful campaign against the US patent on the use of
turmeric for healing wounds. A major milestone, this case
was the basis of a new prototype in the protection of India's
traditional knowledge wealth.
The turmeric case was path breaking because it led to the
first revocation by the US Patent and Trademark Office of
a US patent based on traditional knowledge in the third world.
As a result, India's first traditional knowledge digital library
was established to protect knowledge from bio-piracy. Mashelkar's
success also spurred a change in the 'international patent
clarification system' to give traditional knowledge the place
that it deserves.
Mashelkar popularised the issue of IPR in India in his official
capacity as chairman of the standing committee on information
technology of World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
and as a member of the International Intellectual Property
Rights Commission. He is also the vice chairman of the commission
on intellectual property rights innovation and public health
(CIPIH) established by the World Health Organisation.
Ranked among '50 most influential people in the world'
In 2005 he was ranked among the '50 most influential people
in the world' in intellectual property rights by the international
magazine Managing Intellectual Property. The citation
says, "Dr Mashelkar is India's foremost IP specialist,
whose influence spans the local, the national and the international."
"Nations that do not create knowledge societies will
vanish into oblivion. But those that do create these knowledge
societies will have the potential to lead the world,"
he declared emphatically at the 16th Dr C D Deshmukh memorial
lecture in 1999. He believes that once the process of creating
knowledge systems is in place, India can become a leader.
Mashelkar was instrumental in setting up the National Innovation
Foundation in 2000, an organisation to facilitate and appreciate
grass root innovators. Many developing countries have adopted
this model because of its resounding success. Mashelkar urges
Indian scientists to publish, patent and prosper rather than
just publish. He reasons that, "If Indian society has
to become a knowledge society, then it is important that every
Indian becomes a knowledge worker."
Before donning the mantle of a scientific administrator,
Mashelkar was known the world over for his pioneering research
in polymer science. He has made groundbreaking contributions
in non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, gel science and polymer
His research in transport phenomena, thermodynamics of swelling,
super swelling and shrinking polymers, modelling of polymerisation
reactors, and engineering analysis of non-Newtonian flows
is regarded as the benchmark for polymer scientists globally.
Mashelkar has more than 230 research publications and 20
books to his credit. In recognition of his exemplary work,
he has been honoured with the honorary doctorate in science
by over a dozen universities including universities of London,
Salford, Pretoria, Delhi and Wisconsin.
A dynamic, multifaceted personality, Mashelkar has created
history in all that he is involved. He has been an instrument
of change in post-liberalisation India. He has relentlessly
taken up the cause of the poor and developing nations. He
has chaired several high-powered committees looking into diverse
issues like higher education, national auto fuel policy, rectifying
the Indian drug regulatory system, coping with spurious drugs,
Mashelkar is a scientist, administrator, technocrat, activist
and visionary all rolled into one. A true leader, Mashelkar
embodies Mahatma Gandhi's advice: "Be the change you
want to see in the world".
Compiled by Vibha Rao