The Grand Challenges India Meeting 2017 which was attended by over 250 participants, both from the country and around the world, traced the achievements and the challenges of the Grand Challenges India projects in its five years journey of converting science to impact.
The meeting was inaugurated on 21st March, by the Honorable Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan as Chief Guest.
“We need mechanism for innovation diffusion that is practical, works at larger scale & also public policies that create demand for innovation, “Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out while inaugurating the four day meeting.
The Hon’ble Minister also launched a publication titled ‘Grand Challenges India; Our journey so far’, which was a compilation of stories of some of the projects that have been funded under the Grand Challenges India umbrella, with a special emphasis on their impact and emphasized on the importance of innovation to improve the quality of life of people.
Each of the partners of the Grand Challenges India initiative spoke on their hopes for the future of the partnership. Dr. Renu Swarup, Senior Advisor, Department of Biotechnology and MD BIRAC spoke on building organizations for encouraging innovation and Dr. Nachiket Mor, Country Director of the India Office of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke on the role of Grand Challenges India.
Dr. M K Bhan, Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee, Grand Challenges India spoke on growing Grand Challenges and broadening our base for innovations. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research and Secretary, Department of Health research, in her talk addressed the importance of bridging innovations in science and health program implementation and delivery and Prof. K VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT and Chairman BIRAC delivered the keynote address.
Professor VijayRaghavan stressed on the need for right kind of science and technology policy that can create enabling institutions. He highlighted how the grand challenges had created a worldwide network of experts of different subjects who could be pooled in to resolve challenges as they evolve.
Grand Challenges India Meeting 2017 was held from 21st March 2017 to 24th March 2017, at the Ashoka Hotel, in New Delhi. This meeting was hosted by the Program Management Unit at BIRAC (PMU-BIRAC) and was jointly partnered by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BIRAC and the Wellcome Trust.
Representatives of all the partner organizations; the Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and USAID India were present, as were young researchers and students, and eminent researchers and program officers from a variety of institutions and funding agencies.
The meeting consisted of six main scientific tracks; All Children Thriving (ACT), Healthy Birth, Growth and Development knowledge integration India (HBGDki India), Knowledge Integration and Translational Platform (KnIT), Discovering the Science behind Implementation Research and two unique tracks; Science talks and the Igniting Young Minds series.
The All Children Thriving session continued the ongoing dialogue with regard to how the All Children Thriving (ACT) grants, as part of the Healthy Birth Growth & Development initiative, could best address stunting and ensure healthy physical, immunological and cognitive development with a particular focus on South Asia. The track brought together expertise in science, policy practice, and social entrepreneurship to discuss current progress in projects funded under the ACT grant. Grantees from India and Bangladesh presented their work.
The HBGDki sessions were divided across 2 days, with the first session presenting an overview of the HBGDki platform and the history of HBGDki India, with discussions on the platform and approaches to knowledge integration, an introduction to the visualization platform, and case studies. The second session was a workshop where the participants had an opportunity to explore the software that was being used to clean and analyze the data being uploaded into the platform.
The KnIT platform session provided an overview of the platform, its aims and objectives and details on how this platform is working.
Discovering the Science behind Implementation Research was designed as a panel discussion to explore the opportunities and challenges in converting research to policy with specific focus on case studies and practical experience from a host of experts in the fields of nutrition, maternal and child health and sanitation.
The meeting not only aimed at bringing together experts just in the fields of health, maternal and child health and nutrition, but also young researchers and eminent researchers from allied areas such as bio-engineering, design etc. Two unique tracks were therefore included; Science Talks, which were interactive sessions with eminent researchers both from India and abroad, on cutting-edge research that they are working on in the area of public health and, Igniting Young Minds, which were a series of scientific sessions by young researchers from India who showcased their extraordinary work.
The meeting ended on 24th March with a Closing session, where the Valedictory speech was given by Professor VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT and Chairman BIRAC.
A site visit was arranged on 25th March for the interested participants to the Gurugram Civil Hospital, Gurugram as part of one of the All Children Thriving India grants.