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Every year, a choking smog descends on northwest India as the region's farmers burn their fields following the rice harvest. Pixabay

India and Sweden on Monday announced the launch of a pilot project to convert paddy stubble into green coal in Mohali, Punjab, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf inaugurated a bilateral high-level policy dialogue on innovation policy here.

The dialogue created a platform for key stakeholders from the government, private sector and academia to provide strategic direction for joint innovation policy formulation.


The dialogue jointly formulated and implemented short and long-term projects in strategic areas such as, but not limited to, circular economy, digital health, artificial intelligence, sustainable energy and future mobility, a statement said.

The dialogue brought together government officials, prominent industrialists as well as renowned academicians from both Sweden and India. Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan, and Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Health and Family Welfare, were also present for the dialogue.

The two leaders launched the Agri-Waste to High Energy Biocoal pilot project, which has been established under the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) Waste to Wealth Mission.


Farmers prefer to burn stubble and pay penalty rather than weed out the stubbles. Pixabay

The office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, in partnership with Bioendev, Sweden, has set up a torrefaction pilot plant for the conversion of agri-waste into biocoal at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) in Mohali, Punjab. The biocoal made from unutilised crop waste produces 20 times lower emissions than conventional coal.

The expected outcomes of this pilot study are: Improved air quality with reduction of crop burning; reduced emissions from use of biocoal as a clean energy source; livelihood generation opportunities for farmers as biocoal production creates new market linkages for agri-waste; soil quality improvement in fields from avoided crop burning, according to a statement.

Other major announcements made during the dialogue included:

The India-Sweden Collaborative Industrial Research & Development Programme in the area of ‘smart cities and clean technologies’ and ‘Digitisation and Internet of Things’, co-funded by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), India, and Vinnova, the Swedish innovation agency.

The project aims to develop technologies that can be commercialised after two years through joint cooperation between India and Sweden. Vinnova will provide funding to Swedish side participants up to 2,500,000 SEK as grant. On the Indian side, conditional grant of up to 50 per cent with a limit of Rs 1.5 crore per project to Indian project partners will be provided.

The Department of Science & Technology, India, and the Swedish Research Council will fund 20 bilateral projects in the area of computer science and material science under the Indo-Swedish Joint Network Grant Awards.

The Swedish Research Council will fund 14 million SEK for 2 years for this programme. The Department of Science and Technology will provide activity matching funding to the Indian counterparts.


On smaller farms with minimal mechanization, harvesting is the most labor-intensive activity of the growing season. Pixabay

Through the Strategic Indo-Swedish Cooperative Innovation Programme, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India, and Vinnova will announce a joint programme in the area of ‘digital health’. The programme aims to provide scalable and implementable innovative, sustainable and flexible health solutions in both countries, using artificial intelligence-based technologies as a tool.

The India-Swedish Collaborative Industrial Research & Development Programme in the area of ‘smart grids’ co-funded by the Department of Science & Technology, India, and the Swedish Energy Agency was also announced. The Swedish Energy Agency has allocated 25 million SEK over the next four years for this industry-led call.

Also announced was the establishment of the new ‘Joint Centre of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ between KTH Royal Institute of Technology and IIT Madras. The centre in Chennai is the first of four planned centres. The joint centre aims to build an entrepreneurial spirit and cross-border teams creating innovations that could target the markets in both Sweden and India, as well as globally.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences, India, and the Ministry of Education and Research, Sweden, signed a MoU on cooperation in polar science. The two ministries are committed to cooperate in the study of polar research by coordinating and sharing resources and data.

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia arrived in India on a five-day state visit on Monday.

The Swedish royal couple will also visit Mumbai and Uttarakhand.

ALSO READ: Fourfold Increase in Himachal Farmers’ Income with Crop Diversification Project

This is the second state visit to India by the Swedish royal couple. The first was in 1993.

It is the fourth high-level exchange between Sweden and India since 2015 when former President Pranab Mukherjee was on a historic first state visit to Sweden. In 2016, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan LAfven visited India and in 2018 Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sweden. (IANS)


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