National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023
Context: Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023.
Key Provisions of National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill:
Need of the Bill:
Need for Research and Development:
|Probable Question: Q. Discuss the key provision of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill and its significance in promoting Research and Development in India. Highlight the challenges faced by the R&D sector in India and suggest measures to overcome them.|
- To establish the NRF as an apex body for providing high-level strategic direction to scientific research as envisaged under the National Education Policy (NEP).
- It proposes to absorb the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) in NRF.
|About Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB):
- To Correct the Skewed Funding: Presently, institutions like the IITs and IISc get a bulk of research funding but State universities get very little, about 10% of the research funds.
- Fragmented R&D ecosystem characterised by limited collaboration: India lacks synergy and coordination between the government, public institutions, and private organisations.
- This fragmentation results in duplicated efforts, inefficient use of resources, and missed opportunities for interdisciplinary research.
- Lack of Uniformity: There has also been a lack of uniformity in the funding of scientific research.
|Country||Gross Expenditure on R&D (% of GDP)|
|United States (US)||2.83%|
- Driving Productivity and Economic Growth: By investing in R&D, countries can develop new technologies and improve existing processes, leading to enhanced resource efficiency and overall economic growth.
- Promoting Low-Cost Indigenous Solutions: It allows for the creation of tailored solutions that are cost-effective and easily accessible to the Indian population. For Example: Development of affordable solutions like the Jaipur Foot.
- Enhancing Learning Outcomes: A strong research culture in higher education institutions contributes to an enhanced teaching and learning experience.
- Reducing Dependency on Imports: Investing in R&D helps reduce dependence on imported high-end technologies, thereby lowering the import bill and decreasing the fiscal deficit.
- By developing indigenous technologies, countries can achieve self-sufficiency and promote domestic industries
- Combating Climate Change: R&D plays a vital role in creating solutions such as low-cost solar panels, electric vehicles (EVs), and lithium batteries, which help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
- Low investment in R&D: The funding in R&D is less than 1% of the GDP. Further there are no extra provisions for R&D in the sunrise sectors.
- The corporate sector accounts for about two-thirds of gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) in leading economies, its share in India is just 37%.
- Insufficient Skilled Workforce: Inadequate number of researchers in India compared to China (253 researchers per million inhabitants in India vs. 1,225 in China)
- Ongoing Challenges in Education System: Only 2.7% Colleges run Ph.D. programmes and 35.04% Colleges run Post Graduate Level programmes.
- Excessive Bureaucracy in Public Institutions: In India, education is highly centralised, resulting in limited autonomy for most institutions. Excessive government interference hampers scientific progress and creates disincentives in an already struggling environment.
- Socio-Cultural Challenges in R&D: Sociocultural barriers, especially for women, restrict participation in R&D activities. E.g. The share of female researchers in India was only 18.7% in 2018.
- Capacity constraints in the Indian Patent Office: As of March 2022, the Indian Patent Office faced a significant shortage of patent examiners and controllers.
- With only 860 personnel in these roles, it pales in comparison to China’s 13,704 and the US’s 8,132 examiners and controllers.
|Initiatives Taken by Government to Promote R& D:
VAJRA Faculty Scheme:
- Boost R&D Funding: It is crucial for India to increase its R&D investments to a minimum of 2% of GDP by 2030 for promoting greater private sector participation and investment in research and development.
- Utilising NRF Commitment: Utilise the committed amount of Rs 50,000 crore to address the deficits in grants provided to autonomous universities and institutions by agencies like CSIR and DST.
- Improving Information Sharing: Create a centralised virtual platform to consolidate information on projects granted with public funding, facilitating better information sharing among stakeholders.
- Enhancing Research Capacity: Facilitate training opportunities for Indian students and scientists at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels by providing better remuneration and incentives.
- Ensuring IPR Compliance: Ensure proper adherence to the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy of 2016 to build investor confidence and attract more investment in R&D.
- Promoting Government-Industry-Academia Partnership: Encourage partnerships between the government, industry, and academia to support the R&D ecosystem in India.
About National Research Foundation: