The New India Foundation’s annual lecture in its thirteenth year was delivered by Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation. At this public lecture, Dr. Swaminathan spoke on the topic ‘The road to Universal Healthcare (UHC): R&D, Innovation & Access’.
The NIF Annual Lecture has been renamed starting this year to the ‘Girish Karnad Memorial Lecture’ in honour of the late multi-lingual scholar and playwright. Girish's work has touched many areas of intellectual and cultural life; he bridged North and South, the folk and classical, the demotic and the scholarly.
During the talk, Dr. Swaminathan touched upon the history of R&D in India, the change in the patent laws, the start-up culture and government and private investment in research. She also focused on the health sphere and therefore its link to Universal Health Care, "We need to think about how does all the innovation that is happening in India will start having an impact across the globe as well", she said. She also spoke on how to strengthen the pathway to scale-up of innovations and what is needed to be fixed in the ecosystem for innovation to flourish, pointing out that "Initial investments are risky hence taken up by the public sector but once the product gives the proof of concept even the private sector becomes more than willing to invest".
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan was most recently WHO's Deputy Director-General for Programmes. Currently, she is the Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation. A paediatrician from India and globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, she brings with her 30 years of experience in clinical care and research and has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programmes.
Nandan Nilekani introduced NIF as well as the vision behind renaming the lecture to Girish Karnad Memorial Lecture. Srinath Raghavan introduced the speaker, Ram Guha moderated the discourse post lecture and Manish Sabharwal delivered the vote of thanks.