Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

The ANRF plan has got off on the wrong foot  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About the 2019 National Research Foundation (NRF) Project Report

Mains level: Steps taken by Government for R&D

Why in the News? 

In 2023, the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament, heralding a significant new initiative aimed at promoting and advancing research in India, particularly within the country’s universities and colleges.

About 2019 National Research Foundation (NRF) Project Report

  • Objective: The 2019 NRF project report emphasized the goal of seeding, growing, and facilitating research in India, particularly within universities and colleges.
  • Aim: The project aimed to create an environment where research could thrive free from bureaucratic constraints, providing a funding boost and fostering collaboration with industry partners.
  • Scope and Structure: NRF will have five major divisions: Sciences, Technology, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts
  • Priority: A top priority mentioned in the report was “growing outstanding research cells already existing at State Universities.”

 

Lack of Industry Representation in India:

  • Governing Bodies Composition: The ANRF Governing Board and Executive Council lack representation from key organizations, such as Central and State universities or colleges.
  • Current Members: Members primarily include Secretaries from various government science departments, directors of top research institutions, and international figures, but not from Indian industry or local academia.
  • Industry and Academia Input: There is a critical need for representatives who understand the practical challenges and bottlenecks of the current university system and have ground-level experience.
  • Diversity Issues: There is minimal representation from the industry and a lack of diversity, with the sole industry representative being an Indian-American based in Silicon Valley and the only woman representative being the Secretary of the DSIR.

R&D underfunding:

  • Current Funding Levels: India significantly underfunds research and development, allocating less than 1% of GDP to R&D. There is a pressing need to increase this to at least 4% to make Indian innovation globally competitive.
  • Systemic Overhaul: The current funding system requires a significant overhaul to boost research. This includes implementing a robust grant management system, ensuring timely disbursal of funds, and minimizing bureaucratic hurdles at both the funding body and grantee institutions.
  • Grant and Fellowship Disbursal: Timely disbursal of research grants and student fellowships is crucial. The aim should be a quick turnaround time of less than six months between application and fund disbursal to maintain the momentum of research activities.
  • Flexibility in Spending: Researchers need flexibility in spending research funds. The current system’s stringent general financial rules (GFR) and the requirement to use the Government e-marketplace (GeM) portal can hinder efficient resource utilization.
  • Diverse and Competent Leadership: The ANRF should be staffed with diverse representatives from practising natural and social scientists, young entrepreneurs, and women.

Other steps taken by the Government: 

  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM): It is a flagship initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. It aims to create an ecosystem for innovation and provide support to startups through incubators, accelerators, and mentorship programs.
  • Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) Program: IMPRINT is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote translational research.
  • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY): UAY is a scheme to promote industry-specific need-based research in premier institutions.

 

Conclusion: The ANRF should actively involve representatives from both Indian industry and academia in its Governing Board and Executive Council. This inclusion will ensure that decision-making processes are informed by practical insights and ground-level experiences.

Mains PYQ: 

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

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