EXPENSIVE FACILITIES are critical for research and development activities in the country
INNOVATION spurs a country’s economic growth. To push this we need to foster the roots of research in institutions of higher education and research.More in numberPlenty of initiatives by the government remain ineffective owing to their limited number of beneficiaries. There is a need to have more initiatives like TEQIP by HRD Ministry and DST-sponsored schemes including ‘Fund for Infrastructure Strengthening of Science and Technology (FIST)’, ‘Consolidation of University Research, Innovation and Excellence (CURIE)’ and ‘Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence (PURSE)’ to impact a larger number of research infrastructures. As of now just ‘3% of domestic R&D is taken up by universities’ as per the Deloitte report on R&D expenditure, 2011. This must go up by at least 15% to match the OECD nations.
Increasing research positions and funds for research projects are critical for the revival of research as a viable career option, and in making our universities truly ‘world-class’. The scientific capacity can be further augmented by setting up new Centres of Excellence to give the research ecosystem in India a new dimension. Science students will then look at research as a viable career option after PhD. “Having Research Centres of Excellence draws world-class scientists, then younger researchers benefit from their teaching and mentorship,” says Jenny Hogan from National University of Singapore who works at The Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), part of Research Centres of Excellence (RCE).
Research doesn’t come alone with talented people on board; the government plays a key role. This needs quick access to advanced instrumentation and computing facilities, reputed research publications and journals, research resources like reagents, expensive instrumentsbooks, travel grants etc.
A staggering amount of $427 million is being spent by UGC in Hong Kong to support ten projects in five universities to make a mark in higher education research. India, a populous nation with diverse demographics need grants to meet innovation challenges of future in technology. With the world’s fourth largest GDP, and capabilities, India has not made significant investment in R&D owing to ‘social and political priorities’ says Batelle-R&D Magazine, 2014, Global R&D Funding Forecast.
Many challenging research ideas gather dust due to a lack of financial and infrastructural inputs. India needs to substantially raise the percentage of its GDP spent on Research&Development, which is currently less than 1%. Government agencies have to invest more liberally in research in different domains of science, technology and interdisciplinary fields. Such schemes should target scientists from all age groups and genders. Prof. A. K. Grover remarks, “Some minimal financial support can be given to Master’s students. Sometimes students quit after Master’s programme as their parents will not be able to support them during PhD. We have to attract good graduates to join our integrated Master’s programme. We want resource to support them so that they contribute to research.”
Prof. A. K. Grover,
Shared utilization of national resources and removal of administrative barriers for people to work together is essential so that there is maximum utilization of instruments as well as infrastructure
Research ambience must be provided to undergraduates when they are just beginning to formulate innovative ideas into a practical application to enhance the research output. The policy for R&D may spare funds to support students in the final year of undergraduation to get their first stint with the life of a researcher in the form of travel grants and basic level infrastructure. The IISER model of education focuses heavily on undergraduate research by “nurturing the fertile minds and guiding them towards quality research,” says Prof. N.Sathyamurthy, IISER Mohali.
Monitoring research progress
“There should be a strict recruiting policy with respect to reviewers (avoiding conflicts of interests) and internationally renowned reviewers coupled with capability to sustain the made efforts over time. There should be transparent evaluation, procedure and criteria along with appropriate monitoring,” says Sabine Behrenbeck, Head of Department Higher Education and Progamme Director Excellence Initiative German Council for Science and Humanities. At institutional level, policy for the enforcement mechanism of protecting the interests of researchers is called for.
Encouraging Private-Public Partnership
Report of the Steering Committee on S&T for the formulation of 12 Five Year Plan says, “Share of industry sector stood at 24% in the year 2011 which is aimed to rise to at least 50% by 2016” to equal the investment made by the public sector. Policy measures to encourage the amalgamation of academically sound public sector and resourceful private segment drastically cause a surge in the research profile of a country.
Incentivizing socially viable research projects for the private sector by means of corporate social responsibility and tax benefits may enable a competing interaction between them. Public sector seeks to gain from the business skill set of private companies to promote low-cost and sustainable technology developed by faculty and students. It may strive to establish a platform on the lines of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) where research scholars at institutions can engage directly with the takers for their technology and innovations in the commercial space.
Intellectual Property Rights and Entrepreneurship
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) leverage authorship to research outputs by means of patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc. Structured IPR Cells with well-defined directives will forge ethical practices among researchers at universities and research institutions. This is important in collaborative research between nations and institutions. To encourage multi-disciplinary research, students holding temporary positions should be attributed for their research inputs in the publication.
We possibly need more deliberation on the Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill (PUPFIP) to encourage fundamental research at the public funded research institutions while securing protection for the innovation.
“With English as its business language, and a well-protected environment for IP, India offers a conducive environment for foreign firms to operate in the country,” concludes ‘India as the Global Research &Development Hub for Manufacturing’, a report by India Brand Equity Foundation.
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