Context: As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, a higher standard of living is possible if India shifts its focus to science and technology.
- India spends a meagre 0.7% of its GDP on research and development (R&D)
- It needs to make some fundamental policy changes to facilitate the transition.
Such Transition should focus on
- These include increasing the R&D budget to 4% of the nation’s GDP, ensuring that individual institutions implement processes to accommodate the large budget, encouraging individual entrepreneurs and linking science with society.
- First, spending 4% of the national GDP on R&D is required to drive science and innovation.
- Israel and South Korea are prime examples that drive their respective economies by spending nearly 5% of their GDP on R&D.
- However, an increase in the science budget to innovate must precede appropriate macro-level policy changes on how and where the money needs to be spent.
- A part of this increase needs to be earmarked for building physical and intellectual infrastructure across the country, especially in the universities.
- A first-class infrastructure must be accompanied by well-trained, globally competitive institutional administrators and processes.
- Second, before any policy changes take effect, individual institutions must implement processes to accommodate the large budget.
- This requires standardising procedures across institutions and borrowing the best practices from some global counterparts.
- Inadequate staffing at funding agencies, lack of transparency in fund disbursal, lack of a rigorous international standard review and feedback process, excessive delay in fund disbursal, and an outdated appraisal system are holding our scientists back.
- Part of the solution is to bring and implement best practices from the industry and some of the best-run science grant administrations abroad.
- Third – Science for the masses
- It is time to bring the fruits of science and technology closer to the masses.
- There is no better way to do this than by promoting and facilitating individual entrepreneurs.
- This has received increased attention from the government with many positive policy changes.
- There are no better cradles for creative ideas than our university labs.
- Fourth, a robust system to link the labs with the entrepreneurs to funnel innovative ideas, products, and solutions to our society needs to be in place.
- To make this happen, the universities must encourage scientists to innovate and place standardised procedures to take ideas out of labs.
- Entrepreneurship will only succeed in India if it is backed by a funnel of ideas and a liberal process of taking those ideas out of our university labs.
Where does India can raise funds for such reforms?
- India cannot do that by taking money away from social infrastructure, rural development or important welfare schemes.
- This is only possible if India cuts the defence budget.
- No nation can claim to win wars in the 21st century with increased defence spending.
- Even the mighty U.S., with an excess of $750 billion dollars in the defence budget, could not defeat the Taliban.
- We must realise that the next generation of war is economic, not military, and only a science and technology-driven economy can prepare us for that.
Source: The Hindu