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India’s R&D Landscape: Funding, Challenges, and Initiatives

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology

  

Source: TH

 Context: India’s R&D funding landscape is undergoing significant transformation with the announcement of a ₹1 lakh crore corpus in the interim Budget for 2024-25, aimed at bolstering research and innovation.

 

What is Research and Development?

It refers to the systematic investigation and experimentation undertaken to discover new knowledge or create new products, processes, or services. R&D activities are essential for driving innovation, improving existing products, and staying competitive in various industries.

 

Status of India in the R&D landscape:

  1. Low R&D funding: China allocates 2.4% of its GDP to R&D, the US allocates 3.5%, while India’s allocation stands at only 0.64%.
  2. Growth in GERD: India’s Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) has shown significant growth, reaching over USD 17 billion in 2020-21, but it still lags behind major economies in terms of the percentage of GDP spent on R&D.
  3. Academic Talent Production: Despite lower R&D expenditure compared to other countries, India ranks third globally in producing PhDs and publications, reflecting a commitment to fostering intellectual capital and contributing to global research endeavours.
  4. Patent Grants: India ranks sixth globally in patent grants, showcasing an evolving innovation landscape and potential for further growth in intellectual property creation.
  5. Investment in Autonomous R&D: A significant portion of R&D funding is allocated to autonomous laboratories operated by the government, driving research and technology development with strategic implications.
  6. Government Sector Dominance: With 54% of total R&D investment allocated to the government sector, key scientific agencies like DRDO, Department of Space, ICAR, and Department of Atomic Energy benefit, enhancing strategic research and development initiatives.
  7. Provisions in Interim Budget 2024-25: The interim budget allocated a corpus of Rs. 1 lakh crore for long-term financing or refinancing in R&D, along with launching a new scheme to strengthen deep-tech technologies for defence purposes, promoting self-reliance (atmanirbharta).

 

Issues with India’s R&D landscape:

  1. Low R&D Investment as a Percentage of GDP: India’s GERD has grown significantly, but its R&D investment as a percentage of GDP remains low at 0.64%.
  2. Less Contribution by Private Sector: In India, the private sector contributed only about 36% in 2020-21 Vs economies like China, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., where private industries typically contribute over 65% of R&D funding.
  3. Under-Utilisation of Allocated Funds: DBT used only 72% and DST used only 61% in 2022-23.
  4. Bureaucratic red tape and delays in procuring laboratory equipment impede research.
  5. State Governments Not Allocating Adequate Funds: The annual spending on research in most states is only 0.09% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) on average, indicating a lack of emphasis on research at the state level.
  6. A weak patent system leads to concerns about inadequate protection of intellectual property.
  7. Insufficient capacity in the Indian Patent Office to handle patent examination demands.
  8. Lack of talent due to underdeveloped higher education institutions hampers private sector engagement.
  9. Limited collaboration between academia and industry inhibits innovation and commercialization.

 

Government Initiatives:

  1. Atal Innovation Mission (AIM): Launched in 2016, this scheme aims to foster innovation by creating new programs and policies to support start-up development.
  2. Innovation of Science Pursuit for Inspire Research (INSPIRE): This scheme aims to attract talent to science and research at an early stage.
  3. One Week – One Lab Campaign: This aims to create awareness about CSIR-NPL’s technologies, provide solutions to societal problems, and develop scientific temperament among students.
  4. National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI): End-to-end plan for start-ups to double the number of incubators and start-ups within five years.
  5. National Start-up Awards: Recognizes outstanding start-ups and ecosystem enablers contributing to economic dynamism by stimulating innovation and competition.
  6. National Research Foundation:

 

Steps to Enhance R&D Funding:

Steps Description
Encouraging Private Sector Collaboration Provide incentives for private investment, including relaxation of foreign direct investments (FDIs), tax rebates, and clear regulatory roadmaps.
Increasing R&D Expenditure Aim to spend at least 1-3% of GDP annually on R&D to have a meaningful impact on development
Ensuring Increased Role for HEIs in India Recognize the importance of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in R&D and Strengthen academia’s research infrastructure
Investing in Deep Tech Implement initiatives like the National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) and the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Act to incentivize private sector engagement and safeguard intellectual property.
Mandating Proper Utilization of Allocated Funds – Prioritize political commitment to R&D spending and build bureaucratic capacity for effective project evaluation and utilization.
Prioritizing Expenditure Through State Governments Allocate expenditure to facilitate the transition of research from the lab bench to the factory floor, promoting innovation and high-quality advancements.
Creating an Enabling Regulatory Environment Ensure a level playing field for all players in the R&D sector through clear regulatory frameworks.
Skill Development and Education Invest in skill development and education initiatives to cultivate a skilled workforce that can support private sector growth.

Conclusion:

This commitment to R&D underscores the nation’s emphasis on research and development, as reflected in the rebranded slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan’.

 

Insta Links:

 

Mains Links: 

Scientific research in Indian universities is declining, because a career in science is not as attractive as our business operations, engineering or administration, and the universities are becoming consumer-oriented. Critically comment. (UPSC 2014)

 

Prelims Links:

Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding the National Innovation Foundation-India (NIF)? (UPSC 2015)

  1. NIF is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology under the Central Government.
  2. NIF is an initiative to strengthen the highly advanced scientific research in India’s premier scientific institutions in collaboration with highly advanced foreign scientific institutions.

 

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Ans: A

 

For outstanding contribution to which one of the following fields is the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize given? (UPSC 2009)

(a) Literature
(b) Performing Arts
(c) Science
(d) Social Service

 

Ans: C

Atal Innovation Mission is set up under the (UPSC 2019)

(a) Department of Science and Technology
(b) Ministry of Labour and Employment
(c) NITI Aayog
(d) Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

 

Ans: C