Breathing Life into a Hub of Knowledge

 
In this age of knowledge, the drivers of economic growth have been identified as science, innovations and technologies. With its plan to set up the Rs 300 crore Life Sciences Park at Trivandrum, the Kerala government has taken a definitive step towards building that crucial bridge which will span across both science and economics.
  
Promoted by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, the futuristic Life Sciences Park will be established in 260 acres of land consisting of an Incubation Centre and a Technological Centre. Both these centres are aimed at encouraging start ups and entrepreneurs to establish themselves in the area of Bio-IT. The areas of focus would be Bioinformatics, Pharmacogenomics, molecular modelling – in short, anything concerned with biotechnology, nanotechnology and life sciences.
 

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The Benefits of Life Sciences Park:
  
(i) Biotech parks across the world have proved to be successful in creating an ecosystem where the different units are able to come together to create a synergy that pushes innovations and science to new frontiers. Recognising the positive economic impact, countries across the world have invested in setting up biotech parks. In the United States, the biggest biotech parks are found in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maryland, and Washington. In the Asia-Pacific belt, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Korea, Malaysia and Australia have biotech hubs. In India, Hyderabad and Bangalore have already established their own hubs.
  
(ii) The Life Sciences Park in Trivandrum would have the ability to attract the best brains and talent. Researchers, students and academicians from all over the world would be attracted to a knowledge centre which provides a platform to work and learn in an intense, scientifically rich environment. There would also be a convergence of entrepreneurial talent wanting to tap the resources and infrastructure being provided by the state. In time, the Life Sciences Park would be a home for resource driven companies that should push Kerala’s economic and scientific horizons.
  
(iii) The biotech sector is seen as India’s sunrise industry. The country’s huge scientific pool, lower costs and well established R&D centres give it a competitive edge. The statistics are impressive. In 2012, the biotech industry in India grew at an impressive 18.5 percent and was worth $4.3 billion. Given the strong initiatives taken by the government, the figure is expected to reach $11.6 billion in 2017. With its decision to set up a Life Sciences Park, Kerala is well poised to take a large chunk of the biotech pie. Earlier, the state had taken the visionary decision to set up dedicated IT Parks – a move that has paid it substantial dividends. The decision to set up a biotech hub should similarly reap rich rewards.
  
Why is Kerala suited to set up the Life Sciences Park? The success of a biotech hub would depend on the availability of capital, resources and talent. With KSIDC providing common infrastructure facilities as well as incubation and technological centres, there should be sufficient capital and resources to attract talent to set up base here. Yet another critical factor is the presence of research-oriented universities and medical institutions, government research facilities, agricultural research facilities and IT support. The Trivandrum Life Sciences Park will have access to a rich academic and research-intensive environment due to the presence of institutions like the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science & Technology (formerly Regional Research Laboratory), Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, CDAC, CSIR, VSSC and the University of Kerala. The Western Ghats is a rich source of raw materials with thousands of herbs that can be used for research in life sciences. The highly successful Technopark can also help support the IT requirements of the Life Sciences Park.