The Northeast has an abundance of natural resources. The North-East Institute of Science and Technology in Assam conducts research on these resources to develop products and processes useful in lending a helping hand to the common man in the region.

Among the various regions of the country, Northeast India has several unique features. By the Northeast, we mean the area covered by the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. It has China on the north, Bangladesh on the southeast, Bhutan on the northeast, and Myanmar on the east. Nearly 90 per cent of its borders form our international boundaries, signifying its strategic importance.

The region is mostly hilly. It abounds in a variety of flora and fauna. Nearly half its area is covered by forests. It is rich in forest resources, including valuable trees such as sal, teak, bansom, simul, bamboo, and cane, apart from a variety of aromatic and medicinal plants. The region has many timber-based industries. It produces a major share of tea in the country.

Nature has been generous to the region. It is endowed with rich deposits of minerals, petroleum, and natural gas. There are coal deposits as well. It has a perennial water system from the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. However, the region is not in the forefront of Indian States when we grade them on the basis of development indicators. The economy of the region is not industrial, but predominantly agrarian of a traditional style with low productivity. Northeast India has great potential for development in sectors such as energy, petroleum, natural gas, agro-industries, food processing, floriculture, and paper manufacture. The high literacy of the region is congenial to introducing a development-oriented, industry-friendly atmosphere, drawing from the results of scientific research.

An institution that conducts a great deal of scientific research and systematic studies with a focus on the development of the Northeast in particular is the North-East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST), Jorhat, Assam – 785 006; Website: www.rrljorhat.res.in.

NEIST, formerly a Regional Research Laboratory, was established in 1961. It is one of the multidisciplinary laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, under its Chemical Science Group. The emphasis of investigations in the institute is the development of indigenous technologies by utilising the rich natural resources of our country. The institute is committed to goal-oriented research for the development of know-how for a wide range of industries and extension works. The institute has generated more than a hundred technologies in the areas of agro-technology, biological, and oil-field chemicals. Many of these proved to be commercial successes. They led to the setting up of new industries in many parts of the country. Further, expertise has been developed in the following:

# Natural products chemistry

# Drug and drug intermediates

# VSK (vertical shaft kiln) cement

# Plant technology

# Agro-technologies

# Petroleum microbiology and petrochemicals

# Crude oil transportation

# Paper and paper products

# Beneficiation chemicals

# Ecology and environmental studies

# Geotechnical investigations

# Foundation design engineering

# Soil and building materials

The extent of scientific and technological innovations may be quickly appreciated from the fact that the annual turnover of the products produced with NEIST technologies within the country is Rs.110 crore.

Notable achievements

Let us look at some of the significant achievements of NEIST.

Development of know-how for “Arteether,” a potent new-generation anti-malarial drug active against chloroquin-resistant malaria strains.

Development of vertical shaft kiln (VSK) for mini cement plants. Technology for a 30,000-tonne-per-annum plant has also been developed to cater to national and international needs.

Development of a series of pour-point depressants for transportation of highly waxy crude oils.

Development of agro-technologies for important medicinal and aromatic plants.

Contribution to extensive cultivation of citronella grass and extraction of oil, leading to the establishment of a major citronella based agro-industry in the region. This has generated employment for nearly 22,000 people in the rural sector.

Development and introduction of agro-technologies for mushroom cultivation and popularisation of several protein-rich edible mushroom varieties.

Process development for several special pesticides.

Process development for speciality papers and boards including thermographic paper, carbon-less copy paper, direct copy paper, carbon paper, gummed paper tape, and ceiling boards.

Development of a new process for utilisation of banana plants for production of fibres useful for making twines and fabrics in the conventional jute-processing machines, and also for making eco-friendly products such as carpets, doormats, bags, flower vase, table mats, purse, flower basket, wall-hangings, and shopping bags

Multiplication of certain medicinal perfumery and endangered plant species by tissue culture.

Establishment of the North-East Ecology Park, to act as a gene-cum- research park for plant breeders and biotechnologists.

Establishment of a network of digital 3D seismic stations along with a central recording observatory equipped with remote dial-up facility for online data transmission and processing.

Further, many other technologies and processes developed by the institute are available for transfer to industries. Some of these are new agro-technologies, building materials, low-cost cement based on rice husk as fuel, ceiling boards from agro-waste, ferro-cement elements for roofing and storage tank, drug and drug intermediates, caffeine from tea waste, beneficiation additives for ores and minerals, flow improvers for crude transportation, boards and other coated papers, domestic edible oil expeller, medium density fibre (MDF) boards, paraffin wax from Fuller's earth, regeneration of lubricating oils, chlorinated paraffin wax, and designs from solid-waste disposal.

This list reveals that the institute has a special emphasis on research leading to products and processes that are most useful in lending a helping hand to the common man in the region, thereby lightening the burden of his life and raising his standard of living. This approach may be slightly different from that found in many of our big laboratories engaged in high-tech research. Students who love this ambience congenial to social commitment will have a rewarding experience in the institute.