Economic Survey Volume 1 Chapter 8 (Latest)

ECONOMIC SURVEY   

VOLUME I

CHAPTER – 8

TRANSFORMING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN INDIA

THEME

The chapter throws light on the status of science in India by drawing evidences from inputs and outputs. It also provides a list of ideas for India to recapture the spirit of innovation that can propel it to be a global science and technology leader. It emphasizes on the need to look ahead of its past laurels and move from being a net consumer of knowledge to becoming a net producer as it emerges as one of the world’s largest economies.

 

NEED TO FOCUS ON SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

  • Key drivers of economic performance and social well-being.
  • Develop scientific temper, with its spirit of enquiry which can provide a bulwark against the darker forces of dogma, religious obscurantism, and nativism that are threateningly resurfacing around the world.
  • Also essential for human security, for combating climate change as well as national security threats ranging from cyber ware to autonomous military systems such as drones.

 

Some recent accomplishments include: nuclear energy program, hybrid seeds program, space program, production of vaccines and generic drugs, participation in LIGO program.

 

INPUTS AND OUTPUTS: SOME EVIDENCE

INPUTS

Research and Development Expenditures

  • Investments in Indian science, measured in terms of Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD), have shown a consistently increasing trend over the years. It has tripled in nominal terms and doubled in real terms since 2004-05 to 2016-17.
  • However, as a fraction of GDP, public expenditure on research have been stagnant– between 0.6-0.7 percent of GDP- over the past two decades. Currently it underspends even relative to its income level. East Asian countries have seen dramatic increases in R&D as a % of GDP as they have become richer while India has seen only a slight increase.
Countries Public expenditure on research( % of GDP)
India0.6
US2.8
China2.1
Israel4.3
Korea4.2

 

  • Public expenditure is dominant while in most countries private sector carries out R&D. In India, the government is not just the primary source of R&D funding but also it’s the major user of these funds.
  • Government expenditure on R&D is undertaken almost entirely by the central government. There is a need for greater State Government spending, especially application oriented R&D aimed at problems specific to their economies and populations.
  • Small role of universities in the research activities – Universities in India largely play teaching role as research is concentrated in specialized research institutes under different government departments. However, in other countries, universities play a critical role in both creating talent pool for research as well generating high quality research output.

 

 

Ph.Ds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

A well trained workforce among which Ph.D students play an important role. Overall, India has fewer researchers than other countries.

 

Description Reasons
Less than half as many Ph.D. students in STEM from India in the US as from China

–       rising work visa challenges

–       attractive options after a masters’ degree

Increase in Ph.D. enrollments in India. In 2015-16, 126,451 students were enrolled in Ph.D. programs in India, of which 62 percent were in STEM fields.

–       Substantial increase in the number and quantum of fellowships

–       Such as Prime Minister Research Fellowships at the IITs

 

OUTPUTS

Publications (reflect a country’s prowess in science) and patents (reflect a country’s prowess in technology) can help assess the productivity and quality of Indian research.

 

  • Publications
  • In 2013, India ranked 6th in the world in scientific publications.
  • India’s share in global publications has increased from 3.1% in 2009 to 4.4% in 2014.
  • Downside to the increase in publications: many journals publish non peer-reviewed manuscripts for a substantial fee.
  • The overall quality has improved but it still lags behind China and US.

 

  • Patents
  • According to WIPO, India is the seventh largest patent filing office in the world. However, India produces fewer patents per capita.
Countries Patents registered in 2015
India45,658
China1,101,864
US589,410
Republic of Korea213,694
Japan318,721
Germany91,726

 

  • Patents have grown much faster with income in countries like China, Korea, and Japan. In India, along with rising income, greater focus on R&D is required.
  • Another major challenge in India is domestic patent system. Given the rapid rate of technological obsolescence, the inordinate delays in processing patents penalizes innovation and innovators within the country.

 

Facts Reasons Steps taken

–       Number of patents granted in India has fallen since 2008 and has remained low.

–       In 2015, Indian residents granted 5000 patents in foreign offices while in India, number was a little over 800.

–       Stricter examination process.

–       Severe backlog and high rate of pendency for applications.

–       In 2016-2017, only 132 examiners for all patent examinations in India.

–       Recent hiring of over 450 additional patent examiners

–       Creation of an expedited filing system for Indian residents in 2017.

 

 

EXPANDING R&D IN INDIA: WAY FORWARD

 

India needs to redouble its efforts to improve science and R&D in the country first and foremost by doubling national expenditures on R&D with most of the increase coming from the private sector and universities. But for a broader contribution to provide value for society, some ideas are discussed below-

 

  1. Improve math and cognitive skills at the school level.

Learning outcomes have been weak despite making considerable stride in improving access to primary and secondary education.

 

  1. Encourage Investigator-led Research

Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body of DST, needs expansion with more resources and creative governance structures.

 

  1. Increase funding for research from private sector as well as from state governments

The private sector should be incentivized to both undertake and support R&D through CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds. Along with the current favorable tax law for CSR investments in R&D, type of eligible activities can be expanded. Government can also partner with private sector to create new R&D funding opportunities such as 50:50 partnerships with Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) for industry relevant research under Ucchtar Avishkar Yojana (UAY). State governments also need to invest as it would strengthen state universities and provide much needed knowledge in areas such as crops, ecology and species specific to a state.

 

  1. Link national labs to universities and create new knowledge eco-systems

A closer relationship between universities and research institutes would fill the gaps of faculty support and young talents and ensure deep commitment to excellence. Together they can link up with commercial sector, which requires speed and nimbleness, and help develop industrial clusters and lay the foundations of innovation driven “smart cities”.

 

  1. Take a mission driven approach to R&D

A. National Mission on Dark Matter

This mission can build on the strong foundation of astronomy and astrophysics research institutes in the country. Furthermore, research in this area has some of the strongest international collaborative possibilities including those stemming from India’s ongoing participation in the LIGO, Neutrino, CMS/LHC projects.

 B. National Mission on Genomics

Various countries are involved in projects to study the determinants and life course of biological pathways and disease. India can make considerable contribution in this field through its already existing life research institutes.

C. National Mission on Energy Storage systems

India has lagged in manufacturing renewal energy generation systems. Substantial investments in energy storage systems will ensure that India can be a leader in manufacturing energy storage systems.

D. National Mission on Mathematics

By not being capital intensive and standards of excellence as universal, this mission will improve mathematics teaching at all levels of higher education.

 

E. National Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems

These are the building blocks of future industry that will throw up both new challenges and opportunities.

Cyber Physical System: refers to machine based communication, analysis, inference, decision, action, and control in the context of a natural world.

This is hugely multidisciplinary area including deep mathematics used in Artificial Intelligence,

Machine Learning, Big data Analytics, Block Chains, Expert Systems, Contextual Learning going to integration of all of these with intelligent materials and machines, control systems, sensors and actuators, robotics and smart manufacturing.

F.National Mission on Agriculture

It could help overcome the weaknesses in existing agricultural research institutions and provide a much needed thrust in agricultural science and technology given the plethora of looming challenges.

 

  1. Leverage scientific diaspora
  • With the strength of Indian economy, India has the opportunity to attract back more scientists with growing strength of India’s economy and anti-immigrant atmosphere in some countries. There has been an increase in scientists returning to India. However, the number has been modest.
  • Schemes like Ramanujan Fellowship Scheme, the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Faculty scheme and the Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship, Visiting Advanced Joint Research Faculty Scheme (VAJRA) can act as a catalyst in leveraging the scientific diaspora.
  • The inducements should be to allow them to do good research rather than financial, to ensure that home grown talent has level playing field.

 

  1. Improve the culture of research

Indian science and research institutes need to inculcate less hierarchical governance systems and encourage risk-taking and curiosity in the pursuit of excellence.

Great achievements in the sciences decline after middle age, and youth, conceptual achievement, and scientific revolutions are linked. Hence it is imperative that there be greater representation of younger scientists in decision making bodies in their areas of expertise.

 

  1. Greater public engagement of the science and research establishment

National laboratories and other publicly funded R&D institutions need to make much stronger efforts to engage with the public through the media or through regular tours and lectures and create broad public support for their work.