R&D in India

Why in news?

According to Economic Survey 2017-18 India’s spending on R&D in terms of % of GDP has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7% in the last two decades

What is R&D?

The UNESCO defines R&D as – R&D is any creative systematic activity undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this knowledge to devise new applications

Need for R&D- Why to Focus on Science and technology?

  1. Key drivers of economic performance and social well-being
  2. It is important to inculcate scientific temper among masses in order to fight superstitions, distorted truth and religious fanaticism that has been crippling India
  3. Innovation and technological improvement has become essential to combat and adapt to climate change and promote sustainable development,
Sustainable Development Goals and R&D

SDG-9 calls on governments to promote sustainable industrialization and innovation by increasing spending on R&D and increasing the number of researchers.

  1. It is imperative for combating national security threats ranging from cyber ware to autonomous military systems such as drones.
  2. Investing in research and providing adequate incentives leads to creation of jobs, especially for the pool of engineers and researchers in the society.Under the ‘Make in India’ program, the government has targeted to create 100 million jobs from the manufacturing sector by 2022.

Present Status of R&D in India (Statistics):

  1. Expenditure in R&D:
  • Investment in Indian science is measured in terms of Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD). It has more than tripled from Rs 24,117 crore to Rs 85,326 crore from 2004-2005 to 2014-2015. Per capita R&D expenditure increased to Rs 659 in 2014-2015 from Rs 217 in 2004-2005. However, public expenditures on research have been stagnant – between 0.6-0.7% of GDP in last 20 years
  1. Public vs. Private expenditure:

The government of India has the largest share in national GERD. The central government accounted for 45.1%, state governments for 7.4%, public sector industries for 5.5% and institutions of higher education for 3.9%. Private industry accounted for the remaining 38.1%.

  1. Composition:

Public sector R&D mainly in defence-related and the fuel industries, while private-sector R&D was dominated by drug/pharmaceuticals and transportation

  1. Women’s Participation:

Women’s participation in extramural R&D projects has increased significantly – from 13% in 2000-2001 to 29% in 2014-2015. In terms of personnel directly engaged in R&D activities, women accounted for 13.9% of the total (as of 2015)

  1. PhDs in STEM:
  • In comparison to China, there are less than half Indian STEM Ph.D students in the US. Fewer students have been enrolling for such degrees either due to lucrative career options after master’s degree or rising work visa challenges.
  • However, there has been an increase in the no. of Ph.D enrolments in India. In 2014, 56.4% of total PhDs awarded were from science and technology disciplines.
  1. Publications:
  • According to SCOPOUS and Scientific Citation Index (SCI) data base growth rates of publications in India stand at 13.9% and 7.1% for the period 2009-2013 against the global average of 4.4% and 4.1%, respectively.
  • SCOPOUS has ranked India sixth in the world in the number of scientific publications, ahead of France, Spain and Italy during 2013.
  1. Patents:
  • According to WIPO, India is the seventh largest patent filing office in the world. However, India produces fewer patents per capita

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Though the expenditure in R&D has increased over the years, the ratio has remained stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7% of the GDP. Itis well below that in major nations such as the US (2.8%), China (2.1%), Israel (4.3%) and Korea (4.2%)
    • According to the Economic Survey, East Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea have seen dramatic increases in R&D as a percentage of GDP as they have become richer.
  2. Private investments in R&D have severely lagged public investments in India.
  • According to one analysis (Forbes, 2017) there are 26 Indian companies in the list of the top 2,500 global R&D spenders compared to 301 Chinese companies. 19 (of these 26) firms are in just three sectors: pharmaceuticals, automobiles and software.
  1. Government is not just the primary source of R&D funding but also a primary user of these funds.
  2. Universities in India play an insignificant role in research activities. Research has been concentrated in specialized research institutes under different government departments. Role of universities has mainly been restricted to teaching.
  • Government’s participation in R&D in the other countries ranged from seven percent in U.K. to 38 % in Mexico, as against India’s 55 %.
  • In contrast, the share of institutions of higher education in R&D in the other countries varied from seven per cent in China to 40 % in Canada, as compared to India’s a mere four per cent.
  1. Indian research is mostly skewed towards basic research and lacks in application-oriented R&D.
  2. Intellectual property right
  • India’s patent applications and grants have grown rapidly abroad;however, it has not increased substantially in India itself.
  • Though India has improved its IPR regime, the protection of intellectual property remains weak in some areas owing to inadequate laws and ineffective enforcement.
  • There is a severe backlog and high rate of pendency for domestic patent applications. According to reports there is a backlog of almost 2 lakh patents pending examination due to manpower shortages.

Government Initiatives:

  1. Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI), 2013:
  • Raising Gross Expenditure in Research and Development (GERD) to 2%
  • Increasing the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of R&D personnel in India by at least 66% of the present strength in 5 years
  • Increasing accessibility, availability and affordability of innovations, especially for women, differently-abled and disadvantaged sections of society
  1. PRISM (Promoting Innovations in Individuals, Start-ups and MSMEs):

It is a scheme launched by DSIR (Department of Science & Industrial Research) to support individual innovators with financial grants. The focus areas for the funding are

  • Green Technology.
  • Clean Energy.
  • Industrially Utilizable Smart Materials.
  • Waste to Wealth.
  • Affordable Healthcare.
  • Water & Sewage Management.
  • Any other technology or knowledge intensive area
  1. UcchatarAvishkarYojna:
  • It aims to promote industry-specific need-based research so as to keep up the competitiveness of the Indian industry in the global market.
  1. Atal Innovation Mission:
  • It was launched by the NITI Ayog as an innovation promotion platform involving academics, entrepreneurs, and researchers utilizing national and international experience to promote the culture of innovation, R&D in India particularly in technology-oriented areas
  • Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs
  1. India Innovation Growth programme (IIGP) 2.0:
  • IIGP is an initiative by Department of Science and Technology (DST), GoI, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts. The programme is administered by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum and implemented by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • The programme provides funding, capacity building, mentoring, incubation and business development support to the innovators

Steps to be taken

  1. The Economic Survey recommends doubling national expenditures on R&D with most of the increase coming from the private sector and universities.
  2. Improve math and cognitive skills at school level
  3. There is a need to encourage investor-led research. In this direction, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has already been established. It is a promising start that needs to expand with more resources and creative governance structures.
  4. R & D should focus ontechnology and extension services that is directly related to common people
  5. Engage private sector, state government and Indian Diaspora:
  • The private sector should be incentivised to undertake and support R&D through CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds.
  • State governments should also invest in application-oriented research aimed at problems specific to their economies and populations.
  • Growing strength of India’s economy and increasing anti-immigrant atmosphere in some Western countries has the potential to attract back scientific Indian Diaspora. Schemes like Ramanujan Fellowship Scheme, the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Faculty scheme and the Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship, Visiting Advanced Joint Research Faculty Scheme (VAJRA) should be enhanced to leverage the scientific Diaspora
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