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Anusandhan National Research Foundation: Way forward to assume Global Leadership in Research

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By DR JITENDRA SINGH

The world today is suddenly taken aback by India’s amazing scientific potential and prowess, which was dormant and unnoticed, but waiting to happen whenever provided with an enabling milieu and a supportive leadership. It was precisely at that destined moment of history that Narendra Modi arrived as the Prime Minister of India and the rest is history. From gifting the first-ever DNA COVID vaccine to the world to bringing home the Chandrayaan evidence of the presence of water on the surface of Moon…it is the evidence based imprint of Modi’s India which has universally established it as a nation to reckon with. India in the last 9 years has come up with a record number of national policies related to Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Some of the key policies include: Indian Space Policy (2023), National Geospatial Policy (2022); National Education Policy (NEP) (2020); National Policy on Electronics (NPE) (2019); National Policy on Information and Communication Technology in School Education (2019); National Innovation and Start Up Policy for Students and Faculty (2019); National Health Policy (2017); Intellectual Property Rights Policy (2016), etc. Similarly, Government also launched the National Quantum Mission (2023), One Health Mission (2023), National Deep Ocean Mission (2021), etc. As per SERB data, averaged over last 10 years, nearly 65% of total research funds are being given to National institutions of importance like IISc, IITs, IISERs, etc., and only 11% funds are provided to state universities, where the number of researchers is much larger than IITs. This is because the present system of research funding is competitive grant driven. Similarly, the research infrastructure in most state universities is much poorer compared to national academic and R&D labs. The Academia-Industry partnership and international collaboration in our universities have been rather inadequate. It was the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to establish a truly transformational Anusandhan National Research Foundation, which will not only address some of the big challenges of present R&D ecosystem but provide a long term R&D vision to the country and position India as a global R&D leader in next 5 years. The Anusandhan NRF (ANRF) will provide high level strategic direction for research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of natural sciences including mathematical sciences, engineering and technology, environmental and earth sciences, health and agriculture. It will also encourage scientific and technological interfaces of humanities and social sciences to promote, monitor and provide support as required for such research and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. ANRF will seed, grow and promote R&D and foster a culture of research and innovation throughout India’s universities, colleges, research institutions, and R&D laboratories. The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, will be the administrative Department of ANRF which will be governed by a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines with Prime Minister as the exofficio President of the Board and the Union Minister of Science & Technology & Union Minister of Education as the exofficio Vice-Presidents. NRF’s functioning will be governed by an Executive Council chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. ANRF will forge collaborations among the industry, academia, and government departments and research institutions, and create an interface mechanism for participation and contribution of industries and state governments in addition to the scientific and line ministries. It will focus on creating a policy framework and putting in place regulatory processes that can encourage collaboration and increased spending by the industry on R&D. ANRF will be established at a total estimated cost of Rs 50,000 crores during five years (2023-28). Rs 50,000 Cr of ANRF funding will have three components – SERB Fund of Rs 4000 Cr; ANRF Fund of Rs 10,000 cr out of which 10% fund (Rs 1000 Cr) will be earmarked for innovation fund. Innovation fund will be utilised for R&D in partnership with private sector and Rs 36,000 Cr fund which will be contributed by industry, philanthropist organisations, international institutions, etc. The Central Government currently provides Rs 800 Cr fund per year to SERB with little or no contributions from private sector. In the proposed ANRF, the government contribution is proposed to be increased from Rs 800 Cr to Rs 2800 Cr per year (~ 3.5 times). The private sector contributions in the proposed ANRF are being introduced to the tune of Rs 36,000 Cr for 5 years (~Rs 7200 Cr per year). The ANRF will prove to be one of India’s most transformational steps towards achieving India’s global R&D leadership and making India Atmanirbhar in Technology in the years to come.

[The author is Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry Science & Technology, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office; Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Space]