Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

A new national foundation and the ease of doing research


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NRF

Mains level: Establishment of the NRF and its significance for India's research landscape

What’s the news?

  • The Union Cabinet recently cleared a bill enabling the setting up of the National Research Foundation (NRF), with a corpus of Rs 50,000 crore, to be placed in Parliament in the Monsoon Session.

“There is no single factor more important to the intellectual, social, and economic progress of a nation and to the enhanced well-being of its citizens than the continuous creation and acquisition of new knowledge.”

Central Idea

  • The NRF has sparked enthusiasm among researchers and academics, who are eagerly awaiting a boost in research and development (R&D) expenditures by the government. The NRF’s vision, as outlined in the Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 and the detailed project report (DPR) 2019, is founded on the principle that progress and well-being depend on generating new scientific and social knowledge.

What is the NRF?

  • The NRF is a proposed autonomous institution in India, aimed at promoting and funding research and development activities across various disciplines.
  • The NRF is founded on the belief that the advancement of human well-being and progress relies on the creation of new scientific and social knowledge.
  • It is inspired by the successful model of the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States, which has been a major driver of research and innovation in the US.

Functioning and Governance

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

Mission and Objectives

  • Capacity Building: The NRF will focus on enhancing research capabilities at universities and colleges. It will establish doctoral and postdoctoral programs, set up “Centres of Excellence” at universities, and provide funding for shared infrastructure. Mentorship programs will be initiated to empower faculty members and students in higher education institutions.
  • Nurturing Excellence in Cutting-Edge Research: The NRF will support curiosity-driven research across disciplines, creating a repository of knowledge for potential future applications and independent work within the country. It will encourage international collaborations and participation in mega-science projects to strengthen research capacity.
  • Research for Societal Impact: The NRF will fund competitive peer-reviewed grant proposals across all disciplines, including interdisciplinary research, and across various institutions. It will play a vital role in supporting research with tangible societal impact, recognizing outstanding research through awards and national seminars.

Financial Autonomy and Flexibility of the NRF

  • Autonomy in Decision-Making: As an autonomous institution, the NRF will have the authority to make independent decisions related to financial matters, including budget allocation, funding priorities, and research project support. This autonomy enables the NRF to align its financial strategies with its research objectives effectively.
  • Block Grant Funding: The NRF will receive financial support from the government in the form of a block grant. The NRF’s governing board will have the discretion to allocate these funds based on the organization’s needs and priorities.
  • Flexibility in Allocation: To sustain and enhance the NRF’s activities in the long run, the DPR had proposed an annual grant that would eventually aim to reach at least 0.1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), approximately Rs 20,000 crore in current terms
  • Remuneration Structure: The NRF will have the flexibility to determine the remuneration structure for fellowships, projects, and other financial support mechanisms. This ensures that researchers are adequately incentivized and compensated, attracting top talent and promoting quality research.
  • Transparent Financial Management: While enjoying financial autonomy and flexibility, the NRF will be accountable for its financial decisions. The NRF’s governing board will establish transparent financial rules and guidelines to ensure proper budget management, reporting, and accountability.
  • Corpus Creation: In the initial years, any unspent funds will be held to create a corpus. This corpus will be professionally managed to generate steady returns, which can be utilized to support future research funding and initiatives.


  • The establishment of the NRF marks a pivotal moment in India’s research landscape. With its ambitious missions, commitment to excellence, and focus on societal impact, the NRF is poised to transform India into a research and innovation powerhouse. By fostering a culture of inquiry, providing support to cutting-edge research, and promoting collaborations, the NRF has the potential to propel India to a position of global leadership.

Also read:

Where India lags in science, research fields, and can National Research Foundation help fix it?

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