Science and Technology (S&T) Digest 16-30 June 2023, Issue 16
Dr Saroj Bishoyi, Research Fellow, VIF

In this Issue

I. Defence and Security

  1. DAC Accorded the AoN for Acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Drones
  2. DRDO Releases a List of 75 Technology Priority Areas
  3. Contract of Rs. 2725 Cr Signed with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd for MRLC
  4. Military Capability Development in the Emerging Warfare Landscape

II. STI in Space Sector

  1. Geospatial Solutions for the Indian Agriculture Ecosystem
  2. Mission for India's Maiden Human Spaceflight 'Gaganyaan' in August 2023
  3. Space-Based Imaging and Satellite Monitoring of Heritage Sites
  4. India-US Space Cooperation

III. Nuclear Technology

  1. AI Changing Information and Computer Security in the Nuclear World
  2. Computer Security Exercise for Response to Cyberattacks in Nuclear Security
  3. Safety Review of Japan’s Plan to Release Treated Water from Fukushima plant
  4. IAEA Reviews Safety of Nuclear Power Plants in Ukraine
  5. Efforts to Support the Safe, Secure Deployment of SMRs

IV. Emerging Technologies and Applications

  1. Omicron-Specific mRNA-Based Booster Vaccine Developed
  2. New Low Cost Technology Reduces Textile Effluent Pollution Significantly
  3. Liberalised Export Policy for Drones/UAVs for Civilian End Uses
  4. Twelve Startups Receive Seed Funding up to $5,000 to Scale up Innovations
  5. TRAI Releases a Consultation Paper on Tech Innovation
  6. Licensing Framework & Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing
  7. Management Strategies Crucial To Sustain Startups

V. International Cooperation

  1. GE and HAL Signed MoU for Manufacture of GE F-414 Jet Engines in India
  2. India-US Semiconductor Cooperation
  3. India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) Launched
  4. India-US Hi-Tech Handshake
  5. India-Philippines S&T Cooperation
  6. India-Thailand Defence Cooperation

VI. Regional and Global Trends

  1. US Chip Maker Micron to Invest US$600 Million on China Plant
  2. Intel Set To Gain US$11 Billion in Subsidies in Germany for Chip Plant
  3. US Announces $40 Billion Funding To Boost Internet Connectivity Nationwide
  4. Pentagon Struggles To Boost Its High-Tech Power
  5. YMTC Warns of ‘Turbulence and Disorder’ in Semiconductor Sector

I. Defence and Security

DAC Accorded the AoN for Acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Drones

On 15 June 2023, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for acquisition of 31 MQ-9B (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Tri-Services from the USA through Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route. The AoN included the number of UAVs to be procured along with associated equipment. The AoN noted the estimated cost of 3,072 million US dollars provided by the US Government. However, price will be negotiated once policy approval of the US Government is received. The procurement is in progress and would be completed as per the laid down procedure.Click here to read…

DRDO Releases a List of 75 Technology Priority Areas

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) organised an ‘Anusandhaan Chintan Shivir’ in New Delhi on 27 June 2023, with the aim to encourage Defence R&D within the industry and academia. On the occasion, DRDO released a list of 75 technology priority areas. The list identified by the DRDO is further divided into 403 technological categories, which further spread out to 1,295 current & future technology development tasks. Unveiling the 75 technology priority areas will provide a major fillip to the defence manufacturing sector by encouraging the industry to indigenise and innovate on defence technologies in order to place India on the self-reliance trajectory; thereby, promoting military technology design & development in the country through engagement with industry and academia.Click here to read…

Contract of Rs. 2725 Cr Signed with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd for MRLC

On 30 June 2023,the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a contract for Medium Refit with Life Certification (MRLC) of Sub-Surface Killer (SSK) Class of Submarine “INS Shankush” with M/S Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), Mumbai at an overall cost of Rs. 2725 Cr. Shankush is a SSK Class of Submarine to be re-fitted at MDL, Mumbai. Delivery of Submarine post MRLC will be in 2026. After completion of MRLC, INS Shankush will be combat ready and will join the active fleet of the Indian Navy with upgraded combat capability. This project is an important step towards development of MDL as Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) Hub for supporting the industrial ecosystem of India. The project would involve more than 30 MSMEs and would lead to employment generation of 1200 Mandays per day for the project duration.Click here to read…

Military Capability Development in the Emerging Warfare Landscape

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Anil Chauhan, has stressed on the need for military capability development in the emerging warfare landscape. Speaking as the Guest of Honour in a seminar & exhibition on “Technology Enabled sensor-Decision-Shooter superiority” on 30 June 2023, Gen Chauhan underscored the achievements of the armed forces in achieving synergy and transparency in numerous sensor and shooter capabilities, including integration of latest communication and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The CDS said that OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) cycle needs to be of a higher tempo to be in step with the pace of war fighting made possible with the cutting edge technologies. He emphasized that Capability Development is being done through a scientific process and mentioned that interoperability and integration will grow manifold with theaterisation. He stated that baseline understanding of space, cyber and EW technologies is important for all warfighters.Click here to read…

II. STI in Space Sector

Geospatial Solutions for the Indian Agriculture Ecosystem

Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare signed an MOU with Pixxel Space India Pvt. Limited, which aims to develop various geospatial solutions on pro bono basis for the Indian Agriculture Ecosystem using Pixxel’s hyperspectral dataset. The project focuses on leveraging sample hyperspectral data from Pixxel’s path finder satellites to develop analytics models focused on crop mapping, crop stage discrimination, crop health monitoring, and soil organic carbon assessments. This will enable the Government to develop use cases with hyperspectral data provided by PIXXEL. “Such types of collaboration with young startup will go a long way for developing innovative geospatial solutions using advanced satellite imaging technology”.Click here to read…

Mission for India's Maiden Human Spaceflight 'Gaganyaan' in August 2023

ISRO Chairman, S Somanath, said that the first abort mission for India's maiden human spaceflight 'Gaganyaan' would be conducted at the end of August 2023. The ISRO Chairman also said that 'the unmanned mission to orbit' would take place next year. Talking to media persons on the sidelines of an event at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), he said, the test vehicle is ready at Sriharikota and the assembly work of the crew module and crew escape system has also begun. When asked about the major challenges of this mission, the ISRO chief said the safety of crew members was the most important aspect of the Gaganyaan project.Click here to read…

Space-Based Imaging and Satellite Monitoring of Heritage Sites

Months after the ISRO and Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) agreed to collaborate to trace the history of India’s contribution in science and technology using evidence from ancient scriptures, raising questions about the scientific rigour of the exercise, officials from the space body said the project will instead use scientific tools such as space-based imaging and satellite monitoring of heritage sites. Officials at ICHR have now said their work with ISRO will majorly be in the field of archaeology and excavation using scientific technology.Click here to read…

India-US Space Cooperation

India has signed Artemis Accord during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US. While briefing the media about several significant decisions and agreements accomplished during PM Modi’s historic visit to the USA, especially with relation to signing of “Artemis Accord” and Joint Indo-US mission to the International Space Station in 2024, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh said, “Pact will pave the way for easing of restrictions on import of Critical Technologies”. The Minister said, the purpose of the Artemis Accord is a common vision with USA and other countries via principles, guidelines and best practices so that we could supplement each other's activities for peaceful purposes with transparency and also work together for avoiding harmful activities. India can participate in the US led Artemis programme for exploration of moon and other celestial objects.Click here to read…

III. Nuclear Technology

AI Changing Information and Computer Security in the Nuclear World

As Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies become increasingly sophisticated, they will transform industries, streamline processes and may even impact how we live our lives. The nuclear sector is no exception, and the benefits of AI can be expected in many processes and operations in nuclear and radiological facilities. At the same time, AI’s rapid advancement also brings with it a multitude of risks. Malicious actors may use AI to launch more advanced and targeted attacks or exploit it to compromise the integrity of networks, systems and sensitive information in nuclear and radiological facilities.Click here to read…

Computer Security Exercise for Response to Cyberattacks in Nuclear Security

Historically, nuclear facilities have focused on securing their nuclear material against malevolent attacks by putting in place physical protection measures such as guns, guards and gates. These measures are still used to successfully build fortresses around nuclear facilities, preventing theft of nuclear or other radioactive material, sabotage or unauthorized access to control systems. However, in recent decades, the threat of cyber attacks has escalated in our increasingly digital world. Any country, even those with the most advanced nuclear power and research programmes, can be vulnerable to attack. The development of national frameworks for computer security and response against cyber threats to nuclear facilities has become necessary.Click here to read…

Safety Review of Japan’s Plan to Release Treated Water from Fukushima plant

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, will travel to Japan from 4-7 July to present the comprehensive findings of the IAEA’s safety review of Japan’s plan to release treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant into the sea. In early 2021, Japan announced its Basic Policy for discharging the water – treated through the filtration system known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) – into the sea and requested the IAEA to review the safety of the plan. Over the past two years, the IAEA has conducted an extensive, impartial safety review based on three strands – technical, regulatory, and independent sampling and analysis – against international safety standards. These safety standards reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.Click here to read…

IAEA Reviews Safety of Nuclear Power Plants in Ukraine

In a statement on 30 June 2023, Director General Grossi said that IAEA experts have so far found no visible indications of mines or other explosives currently planted at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), but they still need additional access to carry out further such checks at the site. The IAEA experts have also been conducting regular walkdowns across the six reactor units and other areas around the site. Access to further areas is still expected, including parts of the turbine halls and some parts of the cooling system. The five basic principles for the protection of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) that DG Grossi established on 30 May at the United Nations Security Council state that there should be no attack from or against the plant and that it should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons – multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks.Click here to read…

Efforts to Support the Safe, Secure Deployment of SMRs

Around the world, countries are turning to nuclear energy to mitigate climate change and to improve energy security. Novel reactor designs are entering the scene, along with new modular manufacturing methods, all of which provide opportunities and challenges for deployment. An IAEA initiative is finding common ground among regulators, designers, operators and other stakeholders to support the safe and secure deployment of these advanced reactors, including small modular reactors (SMRs).The Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI), launched in 2022, is actively developing a series of tools and publications to help advanced reactors become part of the solution addressing climate change and energy security.Click here to read…

IV. Emerging Technologies and Applications

Omicron-Specific mRNA-Based Booster Vaccine Developed

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has announced that the Omicron-specific mRNA-based Booster vaccine developed using the indigenous platform technology by Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. and supported under the Mission COVID Suraksha, implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), has got a nod from the office of the Drug Control General of India (DCGI) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). DBT has facilitated establishing Gennova's mRNA-based next-generation vaccine manufacturing for developing the platform technology from proof of concept till Phase I clinical trial of the prototype mRNA-based vaccine developed against the Wuhan strain. The project was further supported under the Mission COVID Suraksha.Click here to read…

New Low Cost Technology Reduces Textile Effluent Pollution Significantly

A textile and apparel industry, located in the Hanumakonda district, of Telangana has been able treat its textile wastewater at a very reasonable cost. Thanks to an energy-efficient and eco-friendly technology developed using, bio-surfactants and membrane technology. Textile effluent is heavily contaminated with pollutants such as dyes, dissolved solids, suspended solids and toxic metals and there is a need for robust, efficient technologies to treat such effluent before they are discharged into the environment. NIT Warangal along with Prime Textiles, Rampur located in Kakatiya Mega Textile Park (KMTP), with support from IMPRINT, a joint effort of MoE and SERB, developed a pilot-scale textile effluent treatment plant using bio-surfactants (BS), cavitation (a process in which pressure variations in a liquid can in a short period of time cause countless small cavities to form and then implode--C), and membrane (M) technology. The use of BS in MBBR helped in dye removal and was effective in reducing operational time and cost (with respect to other biological treatment methods).Click here to read…

Liberalised Export Policy for Drones/UAVs for Civilian End Uses

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has simplified and liberalized the policy for export of Drones/UAVs meant for civilian end uses from India. This decision has been taken in line with the emphasis laid in India's Foreign Trade Policy 2023 on facilitating the export of high tech items which includes the promotion of exports of Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) manufactured in India for civilian end uses and taking into consideration India's international obligations on non-proliferation. All kind/type of drones/UAVs were earlier controlled/restricted for export under the category 5B of the SCOMET (Special Chemicals Organisms Material Equipments and Technology) list under Appendix 3 of Schedule 2 of the ITCHS classification of Import and Export Items.Click here to read…

Twelve Startups Receive Seed Funding up to $5,000 to Scale up Innovations

The winning 12 startups receive seed funding of up to $5,000 to scale up their innovations. Twelve top startups from across 9 Indian states working in agriculture, ed-tech, women’s livelihood, circular economy, and biodiversity were announced as winners at the 5th Edition of Youth Co: Lab National Innovation Dialogue India. Youth Co:Lab, co-created in 2017 by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation, aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship.Click here to read…

TRAI Releases a Consultation Paper on Tech Innovation

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a Consultation Paper on “Encouraging Innovative Technologies, Services, Use Cases, and Business Models through Regulatory Sandbox in Digital Communication Sector”. Regulatory bodies in many countries have established sandbox frameworks for telecom tech innovation. These frameworks allow testing new concepts in controlled environments, granting exemptions, allowances, or time-bound exceptions. These frameworks aim to promote regulators’ desire for innovation with economic resilience and consumer protection. In this background, Department of Telecom (DoT) requested TRAI to provide recommendations on framework for regulatory sandbox. Written comments on the draft sandbox framework are invited from the stakeholders by July 17, 2023 and counter comments by August 01, 2023.Click here to read…

Licensing Framework &Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing

TRAI has issued the recommendations on ‘Licensing Framework and Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing in India’. Submarine cables are vital digital communication infrastructure of today’s fast-paced global economy and are the lifelines of any country’s communication grid, empowering its business and economic operations. Today, the web of these cables traverses the maritime zones of several countries, connecting people and businesses across the globe. TRAI issued a Consultation Paper on ‘Licensing Framework and Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing in India’ on 23 December 2022. The comments and counter-comments received from various stakeholders are available on TRAI website. Click here to read…

Management Strategies Crucial To Sustain Startups

Dr. Jitendra Singh said that management strategies are crucial to sustain Startups and added that Jammu & Kashmir, being the birthplace of Aroma Mission (Lavender Cultivation), is being hailed as the torch bearer of Agri-tech Startup movement in India. India is leading the Startup Ecosystem in the world with more than one lakh startups & more than 100 unicorns today, what’s is desperately required is the change of government job mind-set and parents can play a pivotal role in it. The Minister said that the greatest sustainability of Startups lies with the management scholars like the ones graduating today from IIM Jammu who can contribute to the Start-up revolution that is progressing in India.Click here to read…

V. International Cooperation

GE and HAL Signed MoU for Manufacture of GE F-414 Jet Engines in India

In the June 2023 joint statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden hailed the landmark signing of an MoU between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the manufacture of GE F-414 jet engines in India, for the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Light Combat Aircraft Mk 2. This trailblazing initiative to manufacture F-414 engines in India will enable greater transfer of U.S. jet engine technology than ever before. The leaders committed their governments to working collaboratively and expeditiously to support the advancement of this unprecedented co-production and technology transfer proposal.Click here to read…

India-US Semiconductor Cooperation

Prime Minister Modi and President Biden hailed the signing of an MoU on Semiconductor Supply Chain and Innovation Partnership as a significant step in the coordination of two countries’ semiconductor incentive programmes. This will promote commercial opportunities, research, talent, and skill development. The leaders welcomed an announcement by Micron Technology, Inc., to invest up to $825 million to build a new semiconductor assembly and test facility in India with support from the Indian government. The combined investment valued at $2.75 billion would create up to 5,000 new direct and 15,000 community jobs opportunities in next five years. The leaders also welcomed Lam Research’s proposal to train 60,000 Indian engineers, and an announcement by Applied Materials, Inc., to invest $400 million to establish a collaborative engineering center in India.Click here to read…

India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) Launched

India-United States Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) was launched at an event in Washington DC, USA on 21 June 2023. The INDUS-X event was co-organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Ministry of Defence, and US Department of Defence (DoD) and hosted by US-India Business Council (USIBC). The event also saw a first-of-its-kind joint showcasing of innovative technologies by Indian and US startups. 15 Indian start-ups and 10 US start-ups, from multiple domains of maritime, AI, autonomous systems, and space, showcased their technologies to Indian and US stakeholders. The exhibition was visited by senior US officials, including Congressman Ro Khanna, and by Radha Iyengar Plumb, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, US DoD.Click here to read…

India-US Hi-Tech Handshake

Prime Minister Modi and President Biden participated in an India-US Hi-Tech Handshake event at the White House in Washington D.C. The event was moderated by US Secretary of Commerce, Ms. Gina Raimondo, and saw the participation of leading Indian and American CEOs of tech companies and startups. The thematic focus of the forum was on ‘AI for All’ and ‘Manufacturing for Mankind’. The event was an opportunity for both leaders to review the deepening technology collaboration between India and USA. Discussions focused on the role and potential of the India-US Technology Partnership in driving the adoption of an AI enabled inclusive economy to meet the needs of their citizens and the world. The CEOs explored ways of leveraging existing linkages between the two tech ecosystems, India’s talented workforce and advances made by India in Digital Public Infrastructure, to build global collaborations.Click here to read…

India-Philippines S&T Cooperation

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (SFA), Mr. Enrique A. Manalo, was on an official visit to India from 27-30 June 2023. In the joint statement issued on 29 June, External Affairs Minister of India (EAM), S. Jaishankar, and SFA expressed satisfaction at the commencement of institutional exchanges between their respective Departments of Science and Technology, with the convening of the first Joint S&T Committee meeting in July 2021. SFA highlighted that India is one of the Philippines’ priority foreign partners in S&T. They noted that a new Programme of Cooperation (POC) on S&T for 2023-2026 has been finalized and recommended continued engagement in this area.Click here to read…

India-Thailand Defence Cooperation

The Department Defence Production (DPP), MoD, organized a briefing and interaction meeting with Thailand delegation led by Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Royal Thai Air force (RTAF) – Air Marshal Piboon Vorravanpreecha in New Delhi on 22 June 2023 showcasing defence industries cutting-edge capabilities and fostering bilateral defence cooperation between two countries. The Indian Defence Industries presented their state-of-the-art defence capabilities to Thailand delegation marking a significant milestone in strengthening bilateral defence cooperation between the two nations. The event was aimed to deepen mutual understanding, explore potential partnerships, and contribute to the regional security.Click here to read…

VI. Regional and Global Trends

US Chip Maker Micron to Invest US$600 Million on China Plant

US memory chip giant Micron Technology said that it plans to invest 4.3 billion yuan (US$602 million) to upgrade its chip packaging plant in Xian, a decision that comes just four weeks after Beijing imposed a partial ban on its products being sold in China. In a statement published on its official WeChat account, Micron said, it would acquire the operations of its outsourcing partner Powertech Technology, and add new buildings to the site to “better meet Chinese customers’ demand”. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said in the statement, which was only in Chinese, that the plan shows the firm’s commitment to its China operations and the local team. Betty Wu Mingxia, the recently appointed general manager of Micron China, said the deal would allow the US company to directly manage all chip packaging and testing operations.Click here to read…

Intel Set To Gain US$11 Billion in Subsidies in Germany for Chip Plant

Intel Corp is set to receive almost US$11 billion in subsidies from the German government for a chip manufacturing complex in the eastern part of the country. The company postponed the start of construction at the plant – which it had previously agreed to build in Magdeburg with €6.8 billion (US$7.2 billion) in government aid – at the end of last year because of economic headwinds and had been asking for more funds, people with knowledge of the situation said. Germany has now expressed a willingness to grant roughly €10 billion as part of negotiations, people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Germany increased subsidies to Intel to €10 billion after the American chip giant postponed construction at a plant in Magdeburg amid high inflation.Click here to read…

US Announces $40 Billion Funding To Boost Internet Connectivity Nationwide

The White House has announced about $40 billion in funding to be allocated across the country in an effort to bring areas without internet access online in the coming years. The White House billed the announcement as the kickoff of a three-week “investing in America” blitz, in which Biden and other officials will highlight how money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other legislation passed under Biden are boosting infrastructure around the country. Roughly 8.5 million locations across the country currently are not connected to the internet, the White House said. Vice President Harris said that 24 million people in the U.S. do not have access to high-speed internet either because they can’t afford it or because they live in communities without a fiber optic connection.Click here to read...

Pentagon Struggles To Boost Its High-Tech Power

Russia’s use of military drones in Ukraine has grown so aggressive that manufacturers have struggled to keep up. China’s strategy for a “world-class military” features cutting-edge AI. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has struggled through a series of programmes to boost its high-tech powers in recent years. Now Congress is trying to put new pressure on the military, through bills and provisions in the coming National Defence Authorization Act, to get smarter and faster about cutting-edge technology. But the military’s own requirements for purchasing and contracting have trapped it in a slow-moving process geared toward more traditional hardware.Click here to read…

YMTC Warns of ‘Turbulence and Disorder’ in Semiconductor Sector

Chen Nanxiang, chairman and acting chief executive of top Chinese memory chip maker Yangtze Memory Technologies Co (YMTC), warned that “significant uncertainties” lie ahead for the industry owing to those disruptions in his keynote presentation at the opening in Shanghai of the three-day trade show Semicon China, the world’s largest semiconductor exhibition and conference. According to Chen Nanxiang, the global semiconductor industry is facing turbulence because of rising geopolitical tensions and the national security concerns of some countries, threatening the sector’s future growth.Click here to read…

Contact Us