• The National Research Foundation (NRF) stands as a cornerstone of research excellence, spearheading groundbreaking initiatives that contribute to the advancement of knowledge and technology. Established with a clear vision, the NRF plays a crucial role in supporting and funding innovative projects across various disciplines.
  • By cultivating a dynamic research ecosystem that encourages collaboration among academia, industry, and government entities, the NRF ensures that the outcomes of research extend beyond theoretical realms, directly impacting industries and society. Through strategic investments and a commitment to fostering emerging talent, the NRF continues to be a driving force in propelling the nation towards scientific and technological leadership.
  • The Anusandhan National Research Foundation Act, 2023 is an Act of the Parliament of India. It seeks to regulate all research and development in the fields of natural sciences establishments in India. It repeals the Science and Engineering Research Board Act, 2008 and dissolves the SERB.
    • The Act would define India’s status in 2047 and open the door for India to join the exclusive club of developed nations, according to the Union Minister for Science and Technology.
    • The Act seeks to establish a culture of research and innovation throughout India’s educational institutions, research institutes, and R&D laboratories by playing a significant role in supporting, developing, and promoting R&D activities throughout the nation.
  • This Act will establish NRF, an apex body to provide high-level strategic direction of scientific research in the country as per recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), at a total estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crores during five years (2023-28) of which 28% will be the government’s share, and the remaining 72% will come from the private sector.

National Research Foundation (NRF)

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be the administrative Department of NRF.
    • It will be governed by a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines.
    • Since the scope of the NRF is wide-ranging – impacting all ministries – the Prime Minister will be the ex-officio President of the Board and the Union Minister of Science & Technology & Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
    • NRF’s functioning will be governed by an Executive Council chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
    • The NRF will have an 18-member board with eminent Indian and international scientists, senior government functionaries and industry leaders.
    • The NRF will be registered as a society and have an independent secretariat.
  • It is modelled on the lines of the hugely successful National Science Foundation of the United States.

 Significance of NRF

  • Focus on universities – The main objectives of the NRF is to get colleges and universities involved in scientific research.
  • Research in social sciences – It promote research not just in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences and art.
  • National priorities – It also aims to identify priority areas such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, etc. in which S&T interventions can help larger national objectives.
  • Democratisation – The focus area for NRF is peripheral, rural and semi urban areas which are often neglected.
  • Uniformity – It also aims to  bring uniformity in funding and reduce the bureaucratic hurdle associated in raising money.
  • Internationalization – It will promote international competition and find solution to complexities of Indian society.
  • Promote interdisciplinary research that will address India’s most pressing development challenges.
  • Minimize duplication of research efforts.
  • Promote the translation of research into policy and practice.
  • Expectations from NRF:
    • Increasing India’s investment in R&D from 0.7% of GDP to 2% of GDP by 2030
    • Enhancing India’s share of global scientific publications from about 5% to 7% by 2030
    • Creating a pool of talented researchers across disciplines and sectors
    • Developing innovative solutions for India’s development challenges
    • Translating scientific knowledge into social and economic benefits

Research Ecosystem in India

  • Declining Research Investment:
    • India’s research and development (R&D) expenditure-GDP ratio of 0.7% is very low when compared to major economies and is much below the world average of 1.8%, while it was much higher in countries like the US (2.8%), China (2.1%), Israel (4.3%) and South Africa (4.2%).
  • Low Research Output and Impact:
    • India trails behind in the number of patents and publications generated.
      • According to World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), China filed 1.538 million patent applications (with only 10% from non-resident Chinese), the US filed 605,571 applications, while India filed only 45,057, of which over 70% were from non-resident Indians.
  • Limited Research Opportunities:
    • Research funding is often restricted to elite institutions and researchers, leaving out those in marginalised areas.
      • For instance, DST officials said that about 65 % of funds from SERB went to the IITs, and only 11% to state universities.
  • Fragmentation of Research:
    • Research in India is largely conducted in silos by different institutions, leading to wastage and duplication of resources.
  • Lower Private Sector Involvement:
    • About 56% of R&D spending comes from the government and 35% from the private sector.
      • In contrast, in technologically advanced countries, the private sector leads R&D, contributing as much as 88% in Israel.
  • Lack of Focus on Social Sciences and Humanities:
    • Most of the research funding is skewed towards natural sciences and engineering, while social sciences and humanities are often neglected.
National Research Foundation (NRF)

Challenges Faced by NRF

  • Insignificant formal or informal mentorship and career development support at the institutions.
  • Research misconduct in labs if reported is addressed through internal mechanisms only.
  • Inadequate support for academic leadership, lab management, data management, research misconduct, and technology transfer.
  • Though all institutions in India provide some support for the financial management of extramural projects, only a few have a research development office.
  • The quality of periodic assessments is variable, often without a performance-driven system of reward or criticism, which breeds complacency.
  • In India while 50 percent or more science undergraduates, postgraduates, and Ph.D. students are women, only about 15 percent occupy faculty positions in science departments.
  • Formal institutional mechanisms are needed to support research management and academic leadership. Expecting a researcher to be entirely self-managing is often detrimental.

Other Government Initiatives for R&D

  • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY), which promotes industry-sponsored, outcome-oriented research with an outlay of Rs.475.00 crore. 25% of the funds under UAY are contributed by the Industry.
  • Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) focuses on socially relevant research in higher educational institutions with a budget provision of Rs.487 crore. Establishment of 9 research parks at a total cost of Rs.775 crore, 8 of them being in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and one in the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). These research parks will propel innovation through incubation and joint research between academia and industry.
  • Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme launched with an outlay of Rs.1650 crore incentivizes the most meritorious students to pursue research in the frontier areas of science & technology by offering attractive rates of fellowship from Rs.70,000/- to Rs.80,000/– per month in addition to research grant of Rs.2.00 lakh per year for five years.
  • FIST (Fund for Improvement of S&T Infrastructure in Universities and Higher Educational Institutions) scheme is operated in a competitive mode of support at four levels. The financial support circumscribes six basic purposes i.e. Equipment, Infrastructural Facilities, Networking & Computational Facilities, Industrial R&D Support, SSR Activities, and Maintenance.
  • PURSE (Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence): The main objective of the scheme is to strengthen the research capacity of performing Indian Universities and provide support for nurturing the research ecosystem and strengthening the R&D base of the Universities in the country.
  • SAIF (Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facilities) scheme is being implemented regionally to provide facilities for sophisticated analytical instruments to research workers in general and especially from the institutions which do not have such instruments to enable them to pursue R&D activities.
  • SATHI (Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes) scheme initiates the setting up of shared, professionally managed Science &Technology Infrastructure facilities readily accessible to academia, start-ups, manufacturing units, industries, and R&D Labs.
  • STUTI (Synergistic Training Program Utilizing the Scientific and Technological Infrastructure) program has been designed to cater to human resources and its capacity building through open access to S&T Infrastructure across the country by organizing short-term courses/ workshops on the awareness, use, and application of various instruments and analytical techniques

Way Forward

  • Increasing R&D Spending:
    • As India’s R&D spending is low, the NRF should aim to increase the public and private investments in research and innovation and leverage the existing resources and infrastructure efficiently.
  • Ensuring International Competitiveness:
    • The NRF should aim to enhance the quality and impact of India’s research output and improve its ranking and visibility in the global scientific community.
    • It should also facilitate the mobility and exchange of researchers, both within India and abroad, and attract talent from across the world.

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