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The third Industrial Revolution will be propelled by the power of connectivity, the power of mind and energy farming and  mass entrepreneurship, says Prof. P.B. Sharma, vice-chancellor, Delhi Technological University. In his view, this revolution offers the hope of eliminating poverty, hunger and unemployment. This presentation was made at the Mega Trends 2020: Shaping India's Future conference organised by the FICCI Young Leaders last year.

Linking internet technologies with renewable energies is a vision presented by Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution. Image courtesy: centri-tires.org

We are at the crossroads of our industrial civilization. The sun is setting on fossils fuels and the energy infrastructure on fossil fuel is aging. Climate change is destabilizing the ecosystem. In this despair a great new hope has emerged.

The communication revolution has empowered one and all with the power of connectivity & access to knowledgeware. A new energy revolution is in the making with renewables. The convergence of energy and communication revolution is on the anvil. The Third Industrial Revolution is in the offing.

Great Economic Transformations

History suggests that the great economic transformations occur when new communication technology converges with new energy systems. New forms of communication become the medium for organizing and managing more complex civilizations made possible by the new sources of energy.

The infrastructure that emerges shrinks time and space, connecting people and markets in more diverse economic relations. When those systems are put in place, economic activity advances, moving along a classic bell shaped curve that ascends, peaks, plateaus and descends in tandem with the strength of the multiplier effect established by the communications & energy dynamics.

The power of innovation today is such that it pushes the product cycle upward, in turn creating an even higher peak of acceptability by successive innovations.

Why the Third Revolution?

The first Industrial Revolution was powered by the wheels of power run by steam. The second Industrial Revolution thrived on great advances on automation & mobility. The third Industrial Revolution will be propelled by the power of connectivity, power of mind and energy farming, mass entrepreneurship.  There will be no poor, no hunger and no unemployment in the third industrial revolution.

Impact of ICT

The ability of man to innovate and create new designs, new materials, new manufacturing systems and to collaborate at all levels from design to manufacturing, sales and service and to create a dynamic eco-system that supports growth of new and innovative products and services is the result of the communication and IT Revolution.

Barriers of time, space and geographical locations have been broken. There is no consideration in this new knowledge age of one’s age and experience. A start-up can challenge a well-established enterprise; similarly a new entrant to the profession can challenge a well-established professional. This is bound to unleash unprecedented growth and advancement of productive enterprises providing work opportunities to millions of people around the world.

Energy Revolution on the Anvil

The challenge of energy efficiency and low engine emissions is being addressed by the improved fuel quality, efficient combustion systems & catalytic convertors for vehicles powered by IC Engines. The power sector is also witnessing  the growth of clean coal technologies such as super-critical and Integrated Gas Coal Technologies. The increased use of hydro and nuclear power would still be an inadequate solution to meet today’s needs.

For a long time, renewables were considered cost ineffective and least efficient sources of energy for power generation. This situation is however changing with renewables growing to 16% in the share of Global Final Energy Consumption. A new energy revolution is on the anvil with renewables making more business sense and with energy entrepreneurship becoming popular both, in households as well as in the rural sector.

Once solar hydrogen becomes a viable business proposition, there will be a phenomenal increase in harnessing solar energy. Even without it, the increased focus on grid as well off-grid solar photovoltaic power in US, European Union and also in China, India and countries in South-East Asia a major energy revolution is in the making.  We foresee the rise of energy entrepreneurship which will involve millions of people in the business of harnessing the available bio-energy and the businesses generated through it for production and distribution. Generating energy in a form which can be utilized both locally as well as plugged in the energy grid would become a major phenomenon in countries around the world.

The third Industrial Revolution will create small and medium enterprises penetrating deep into the rural areas thereby increasing the power of rural India and engaging rural people productively within the agro-industrial economy.

This will also result in increased investment in agriculture and push agricultural productivity to higher levels to justify the return of investment. The twin gains shall be food security through increased agricultural productivity and the rural population enjoying a higher quality of life by being part of  agro-industrial activities.

Major Footprints of the Third Revolution

  • Low Carbon Economy promoting Zero Waste Engineering.
  • Agriculture: From Green to Evergreen Revolution.
  • A new paradigm for Education creating employment and entrepreneurship for masses.
  • Panchamrit of academia, R&D organizations, Industry, government  & society.
  • Knowledge to prosperity through strong and effective industry-academia partnerships.

Agenda for Action

What we now require is renewed emphasis to human intelligence, creativity and innovative genius in education at all levels. Engage scientists and technologists in technology breakthroughs such as solar cells to produce electricity from light as well heat of solar radiation, transmission of electricity without wire, molecular manufacturing paving the way for back to nature, creating matter from energy, etc. Like ICT for all, make energy farming for all a phenomenon. Mount a major drive for energy conservation and use of energy efficient devices at all levels. Think big in respect of renewable farming 50% or more of total primary energy in India

(The author gratefully acknowledges the inspiration provided by Mr. Jeremy Rifkin, the originator of the concept of the 3rd  Industrial Revolution and the opportunity provided by Ms. Shobha Mishra Ghosh of FICCI, New Delhi for the development of this White Paper. Useful discussions that he had with the thought leaders of FICCI, specially with Mr. Vivek Mohan of Abbott India are also gratefully acknowledged. The support received from Ms. Meha Joshi and Mr. Yoginder Kumar of Delhi Technological University in the preparation of the White Paper is also highly appreciated and acknowledged.)

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