India’s National Research Fund to provide necessary fillip to R&D

New Delhi, July 3: Paving the way for establishing National Research Fund (NRF), the Indian government has approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 in the Parliament.

The NRF will seed, grow and promote research and development (R&D) and foster a culture of research and innovation throughout India’s universities, colleges, research institutions and R&D laboratories.

The Bill, after approval in the Parliament, 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 crore during five years (2023-28).

India aspires to become global innovation hub in the next 25 years.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be the administrative department of NRF, which 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 and 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 Advisor to the Government of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier said: “We’ll have to simultaneously work on multiple fronts to make India a global centre of research and innovation during the ‘Amrit Kaal’ (in the next 25 years). This is the need of the hour. Every state must emphasise on innovation to bring out specific solutions for local problems.”

According to an article in the Times of India by Shiv Bhambri, Country Manager, RS India, “The private sector currently contributes less than 40 per cent to Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) in India. Though India’s GERD has increased three times by volume in the last ten years, the GERD as a proportion of GDP has dwindled and is among the lowest in the world. In innovation, India leapt from 81 in 2015-16 to 46 in 2021 in the Global Innovation Index (GII), but it still lags behind advanced nations. This is despite the government’s efforts and India’s commendable performance in scientific research.”

“India was granted 28,391 patents out of 58,502, filed in 2020-21, which is minuscule compared to what other competitive economies such as China (5.30 lakh) and the United States (3.52 lakh) won in the period.”

NRF 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.