Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 23:21:26

Decoding Modi government’s push for R&D : Influencing Growth

By Pankaj Jagannath Jayswal
Updated: January 31, 2023 12:38 pm

Globally, innovation has steered human progress. It is not just technological progress; in fact, the most noticeable feature of an innovation-driven society is its people’s dynamic attitude. Countries with strong innovation capabilities have made significant investments in human capital development at all levels. The goal has been to develop skills other than technical knowledge, such as imaginative thinking, devising methods to deal with complex issues, and keeping up with the times. As a result, human capital is the source of new ideas, knowledge, and practises.

Modern India has placed a strong emphasis on science and technology, realising that it is a critical component of economic growth. India is the world’s third most appealing investment destination for technology transactions. With an increasing number of multinational corporations establishing R&D centres in India, the sector has seen an increase in investment in recent years.

The government has implemented a number of policies aimed at projecting India as a science and technology powerhouse and encouraging both public and private sector participation in R&D. As a result, India’s gross R&D expenditure (GERD) has steadily increased over the years. The government has also established a number of fellowship programmes to develop human capacity for advanced research in the country.

With a growing knowledge-based economy, the reliance on physical inputs and natural resources decreases, necessitating a greater emphasis on a skilled workforce for advancing technical and scientific innovation. India has a population of 1.4 billion people and a fifth of the world’s youth population. We can use our demographic dividend to encourage innovation and propel the country toward becoming a knowledge economy.

Counting the achievements in research and development over the last eight years, Dr. Singh stated that gross R&D expenditure in India has increased more than threefold in the last few years. According to the most recent data, India has over 5 lakh R&D personnel, a figure that has increased by 40-50% in the last eight years.

He also stated that women’s participation in extramural R&D has more than doubled, and India now ranks third in terms of the number of PhDs awarded in Science and Engineering (S&E) after the United States and China.

Dr Singh stated that India, in its 75th year of independence, is now home to as many as 75,000 start-ups, referring to PM Modi’s launch of StartUp India from the Red Fort in 2015. He went on to say that start-ups in India are no longer concentrated in metros, with 49% of start-ups emerging from tier-2 and tier-3 cities in fields such as IT, agriculture, aviation, education, energy, health, and space.

From 2014 to 2021, India saw a 572% increase in patent approvals.

In November 2022, India announced an additional US$ 5 million contribution to the ASEAN-India science and technology fund in order to expand cooperation in public health, renewable energy, and smart agriculture.

The government announced a Rs. 14,217 crore (US$ 1.86 billion) allocation to the Ministry of Science and Technology in the Union Budget 2022-23. The Ministry of Atomic Energy received Rs. 22,723.58 crore (US$ 2.97 billion), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) received Rs. 6,000 crore (US$ 785.64 million), and the Ministry of Earth Sciences received Rs. 2,653.51 crore (US$ 347.45 million).

India is the world’s third most innovative lower-middle-income economy. Rising per capita income in India will result in a surge in R&D investment, with multiple foreign players shifting R&D bases to the country. R&D investment and a variety of government policies have assisted Indian companies in overcoming international competition with low-cost products.

India intends to advance its science and technology sector by collaborating with other countries. More than 45 countries have active bilateral science and technology (S&T) cooperation programmes with India, including dedicated programmes for Africa, ASEAN, BRICS, the EU, and neighbouring countries. During 2021, India also collaborated with Denmark and agreed on a five-year plan to implement green strategic partnership in various areas, including science and technology.

India is working hard to establish itself as a global leader in industrialization and technological development. As India looks to expand its nuclear capacity, significant developments in the nuclear energy sector are likely. Furthermore, nanotechnology is expected to revolutionise India’s pharmaceutical industry. The agriculture sector is also expected to undergo significant transformation, with the government investing heavily in a technology-driven green revolution. The Government of India aspires, among other things, through the Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Policy to place India among the world’s top five scientific powers.

According to the UNESCO science report for 2021, India now spends more on research than the United Kingdom, France, and Italy in purchasing power parity terms. India has the highest number of digital payments in the world, far outpacing China and other advanced countries. The country is currently investigating the highly ambitious “open network for digital commerce” (ONDC) and digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood.

Oppurtunities and Challenges ahead

“Efforts of science can turn into great achievements only when they come out of the lab and reach the land, and their impact reaches from global to grassroots, when its ambit is from journal to jameen (land, everyday life), and when change is visible from research to real life,” the PM Modi said of scientists’ challenge of turning knowledge into actionable and helpful products. He stated that when scientific achievements bridge the gap between experiments and people’s experiences, it sends an important message and inspires the next generation of scientists. To assist such youth, the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of an institutional framework. He urged the group to work on creating such an enabling institutional framework.

In highlighting issues that will pave the way for the development of science in the country, the Prime Minister stated that meeting India’s needs should be the source of all inspiration for the entire scientific community. “Science in India should make the country Atmanirbhar (Self Reliant India)” the Prime Minister said, noting that 17-18% of the world’s population lives in India, and that such scientific advancements should benefit the entire population. He emphasised the importance of working on issues that are important to all of humanity. To address the country’s growing energy needs, the Prime Minister announced that India is working on a National Hydrogen Mission and emphasised the importance of manufacturing critical equipment such as electrolysers in India to ensure its success.

The Prime Minister also emphasised the scientific community’s role in developing ways to deal with emerging diseases, as well as the importance of encouraging research into new vaccines. He discussed integrated disease surveillance for disease detection in real time. He emphasised the importance of all ministries working together on this. Similarly, scientists may be of great assistance to the LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) movement.

As municipal solid waste, electronic waste, bio-medical waste, and agricultural waste continue to grow, and the government promotes a circular economy, the Prime Minister emphasised the role of science in waste management.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the role of low-cost satellite launch vehicles in India’s thriving space sector and stated that the world will seek our services. The Prime Minister emphasised the benefits of collaborating with R&D labs and academic institutions for private companies and startups. He also mentioned quantum computing and how India is establishing itself as a quantum frontier in the world. “India is moving quickly in the direction of quantum computers, chemistry, communication, sensors, cryptography, and new materials,” the Prime Minister said, urging young researchers and scientists to gain quantum expertise and become leaders.

PM Modi emphasised the importance of focusing on futuristic ideas and areas where no work is being done. He requested that AI, AR, and VR be prioritised. He urged the scientific community to develop innovations in semiconductor chips and to consider keeping the semiconductor push future ready from now on. “If the country takes the lead in these areas, we will be able to lead Industry 4.0,” he said. Based on the experiences of developed economies, R&D can help the current US$ 3-trillion Indian economy grow.

Increased R&D investments, quality education, participation of the private sector and universities, incentives for startup companies, and reasonable taxes for startups are some of the factors that could catalyse the growth of the Indian R&D ecosystem.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development launched an integrated New Education Policy in 2020 in an attempt to meet the evolving dynamics in quality education, innovation, and research, as well as to eliminate the shortage of human resources in the respective fields. A more rapid and high-quality implementation of NEP 2020 will boost the R&D sector. The Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship (PMRF) scheme was launched in 2019 with a US$ 250 million investment, with the goal of attracting the country’s talent pool to pursue doctoral programmes at top academic institutions. Meanwhile, the Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) programme was established in 2015 with a US$ 155 million budget to address the most pressing challenges in engineering, technology, and self-reliance for translating research knowledge into viable technology products and processes.

The patents filed in China, France, Japan, the United States, and India, classified by resident/non-resident status. It indicates that nearly 75% of Indian patents are filed by non-residents. This can be explained by the fact that Indian universities are experiencing significant brain drain, with many researchers leaving the country to pursue careers in other countries. Indeed, a 2016 survey of five Indian universities found that 65 percent of graduates want to move abroad for a variety of reasons. This demonstrates that India must increase its R&D spending in both the public and private sectors if it is to retain the country’s talent pool. Many effective steps taken by the Modi government are reducing brain drain; however, much more needs to be done, and as responsible citizens, parents and teachers should think about and work to develop the national character of each young person.

The continuity of current government is critical to making it happen with speed, precision, and for the greater good.

By Pankaj Jagannath Jayswal

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