The National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) is a research, development and consulting organization with a number of research divisions focusing on chemistry and chemical engineering. It is financed by the Central Government of India and is part of the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR). The prime minister of India is president of the NCL, and the minister of Science and Technology is its vice-president, indicating the status of this scientific institute.
Students come to NCL from several foreign countries (such as France and Germany) and spent a few months at the there. In the future, NCL wishes to participate in more bilateral Ph.D. student exchanges.
Bhalchandra Vaidya, a Ph.D. candidate completing his studies, showed us around the campus. We were very impressed by the well-maintained and extensive library, as well as the many high-tech laboratories and facilities for students and researchers. There was no lack of computers or other technology resources.
We met with Dr. Sanjay Nene (photo to the right), a researcher at the Chemical Engineering Division, who is currently studying the problem of non-polluting energy and the recycling of water in industrial plants. He told us of his interest in projects with concrete social relevance, perhaps in collaboration with NGOs, and mentioned an idea he had to extract juice from the Neera palm (which is now mainly used for making alcoholic beverages). The fruit juice is highly nutritious and, if there were a way to preserve it, could be a way for rural people in Maharashtra to generate income and perhaps hamper urbanization. The Neera palm, because of its deep root system, can grow in places even where water is scarce. Another project of social significance would be the development of a system for recycling water and thereby providing drinking water to the rural population. Concern with solving the problem of lack of water is something we have heard of in almost all of the places we have visited in Maharastra.
Dr. Nene and his colleagues have been collaborating for several years with the Department of Biotechnology at Lund University, where professors Rajni Hatti-Kaul and Bo Mattiasson are involved with several research projects in India. In January 2008, NCL organisd an international conference entitled “Biotechnology for Sustainable Development” in which the two departments collaborated.