The tie-ups of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with educational institutions should turn into centres of excellence and encourage scientists of Indian origin working abroad to return to reverse the brain drain and make it a “brain gain,” Union Minister for Defence A.K. Antony said here on Tuesday.

Inaugurating at Bharathiar University (BU) the Rs.18-crore DRDO-BU Centre for Life Sciences, he said science was indispensable. Quoting Jawarhalal Nehru, he said science alone could solve problems of poverty and hunger, the lack of sanitation and illiteracy and help in preventing vast resources becoming a waste.

Mr. Antony called for judicious use of funds for science and technology to support the largest army that had a manpower of 1.3 million. He said Indian soldiers not only worked in extreme conditions but also with the United Nations on various missions. Their physical and mental health should be given priority. It was important that the man behind the weapon was fighting fit.

The DRDO’s tie-up with academic institutions was an investment in futuristic life science technologies that were vital for the armed forces, the Defence Minister said.

The BU-DRDO centre was the first one to be established and made fully functional. He called for research aimed at innovation, since the government had declared 2010-2020 as the decade of innovation.

Mr. Antony said the DRDO, particularly its life science cluster laboratories, had taken up aggressive efforts to promote recruitment of non-resident Indian scientists. DRDO and life science research laboratories had come up with specialised and customised products for land, sea and air forces.

Scientific Adviser to Minister for Defence Vijay Kumar Saraswat said 52 laboratories of the DRDO were working on a road map to convert a man in the army into a system by himself, rather than being helped by various entities. He said industries, national laboratories and universities had converged into one entity. He stressed partnering with small and medium-scale industries.

Chief Controller (Research and Development) W. Selvamurthy recounted the 22-year association of DRDO with Bharathiar University. Making the soldier fit had benefits for the civil society. Ten per cent of Rs.8,000 crore was spent on research activities in association with academic institutions of excellence.

Rural Industries Minister Pongalur N. Palanisamy said that to establish the centre the Union government gave Rs.14 crore, the State government Rs.2 crore and university provided Rs.2 crore. Bharathiar University Vice-Chancellor said the centre at the university had taken up 35 projects at an outlay of Rs. 2.15 crore.

The university also planned a joint venture with Sainik School at Amaravathi to formulate appropriate curriculum. For 70 per cent of the students not joining the course, a specialised course related to defence requirements was the need. The university planned to establish a Defence Centre for Joint and Strategic Logistics to provide support to national security establishments such as armed and paramilitary forces.