Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Cabinet approves Bill for National Research Foundation (NRF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Research Foundation (NRF)

Mains level: NA


Central Idea

  • The Union Cabinet’s approval of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 marks a significant milestone in the field of scientific research in India.
  • With an estimated budget of ₹50,000 crore from 2023-28, the NRF will reshape the research landscape in the country.

What is NRF?

  • Apex Body: The NRF will be established as the highest governing body for scientific research, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP).
  • Department of Science and Technology’s Role: The DST will serve as the administrative department of the NRF, with a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals from various disciplines.
  • Leadership Structure: PM will be the ex-officio President of the Board, while the Union Minister of Science & Technology and the Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
  • Functioning: The Principal Scientific Adviser will chair the Executive Council responsible for NRF’s functioning.

Consolidation and Funding

  • Integration of Science and Engineering Research Board: The proposed Bill repeals the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) established in 2008 and subsumes it into the NRF.
  • Equitable Funding: The NRF aims to ensure equitable distribution of research funding, addressing the current disparity between eminent institutions like IITs and IISc and state universities. It seeks to allocate research funds more fairly, with an expected private sector investment of ₹36,000 crore.
  • Government Contribution: The government will contribute ₹10,000 crore over five years, while the DST will continue to receive its annual budget for funding autonomous research bodies, scholarships, and capacity-building programs.

Collaboration and Policy Framework

  • Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration: The NRF will foster collaborations among industries, academia, government departments, and research institutions. It will establish an interface mechanism to facilitate participation and contributions from industries, state governments, scientific ministries, and line ministries.
  • Policy Framework and Regulatory Processes: NRF’s focus will include creating a policy framework and regulatory processes that encourage collaboration and increased industry spending on research and development (R&D).
  • Research in Social Sciences and Humanities: The NRF aims to promote research not only in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences, and arts. It recognizes the importance of integrating these disciplines in decision-making processes.

Addressing National Priorities

  • Priority Areas: The NRF intends to identify priority areas aligned with national objectives, such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, improved transportation, and accessible healthcare.
  • Multidisciplinary Projects and Centers of Excellence: To address national priorities, the NRF will support large-scale, long-term, multidisciplinary, and multi-institutional projects. It also plans to establish Centers of Excellence focusing on crucial research areas for the country.
  • International Collaborations: The NRF will coordinate and support research in mega international projects, including LIGO and ITER, in which India is actively involved.

Funding and Impact

  • Increased Funding: The NRF aims to significantly increase the funding available for scientific research in India from both government and private sources. Currently, India’s spending on research and development remains below 0.7% of its GDP.
  • Potential Impact: The NRF’s establishment has the potential to address the pressing issues in Indian science and enhance the country’s research output. Experts view it as a major landmark for science in India, with the allocated ₹50,000 crore as a starting point for future growth and impact.

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