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Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill

Context: In 2023, both Houses of Parliament passed the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill.

Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill

  • Origin: Presented in the Lok Sabha on August 4, 2023.
    • Repealed the Science and Engineering Research Board Act, 2008.
    • Dissolved the existing Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB).
    • Established the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (NRF) as the new entity.
  • Aim: To increase private sector contributions to research in India.
    • To ensure that a larger portion of government funds go to state universities and colleges.
  • Administered by: Department of Science and Technology (DST)
  • Functions of NRF:
    • Develops short-term, medium-term, and long-term research roadmaps.
    • Supports R&D growth and infrastructure in educational and research institutions.
    • Allocates grants for research proposals.
    • Facilitates the commercialization of research.
    • Promotes international research collaborations.
    • Attracts investments from both private and public sectors.
    • Conducts annual surveys on research outcomes and expenditures.
  • Funding Mechanisms: Funded through:
    • Government grants and loans.
    • Investment income.
    • Funds from the Science and Engineering Research Fund established under the 2008 Act.
  • Specific Funds established:
    • NRF Fund for administrative costs.
    • Innovation Fund for creative projects.
    • Science and Engineering Research Fund for ongoing projects.
    • Special purpose funds for specific projects or research.
  • Governance Structure:
    • Governed by a Board chaired by the Prime Minister of India.
    • Vice Presidents include the Union Ministers of Science and Technology, and Education.
    • Principal Scientific Advisor acts as the Member Secretary.
    • Board members include Secretaries of various scientific departments.
    • Board composition can be expanded to include up to five industry representatives, one social sciences and humanities expert, and up to six specialists in natural sciences, engineering, and technology.
  • Executive Leadership: A Chief Executive Officer, with at least the rank of an Additional Secretary, may be appointed by the President of the Board.
  • Executive Council Functions:
    • Led by the Principal Scientific Advisor.
    • Comprises secretaries from key government departments.
    • Responsibilities include:
      • Reviewing financial assistance applications.
      • Setting regulations for financial aid applications and extensions.
      • Managing the Foundation’s budget and accounts.
      • Authorising inspections to verify grant application details.
The Executive Council can be expanded by the President to include additional government secretaries and up to three experts.
  • Accountability: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) conducts annual audits of the Foundation’s accounts.

Expectations and Community Reception

The scientific community had a positive reception, expecting the ANRF to provide:

  • Autonomy from bureaucratic constraints.
  • Increased funding.
  • Collaboration opportunities with industry.

Challenges Faced by the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF)

  • Lack of Adequate Representation: The Governing Board and Executive Council lack members from the very universities and colleges they aim to support, despite over 95% of Indian students attending these institutions.
    • The current makeup includes primarily high-ranking officials from various government science departments and a few academic elites, without representation from central or state universities.
  • Inadequate Industry Representation: Out of significant planned funding from non-government sources (over 70%), the board includes only one industry representative, Romesh T. Wadhwani, highlighting a major gap in industry-academia collaboration.
  • Underfunding: R&D funding in India is below needed levels.
  • Bureaucratic and Structural Inefficiencies: The ANRF’s operational framework suffers from bureaucratic delays and lacks the flexibility needed for efficient management of funds and resources.
    • The existence of multiple committees could lead to confusion and inefficiencies in decision-making.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • The ANRF should ensure:
    • Diverse representation includes more women, young entrepreneurs, and active scientists from the university system.
    • The future CEO should have a background in both industry and academia, capable of understanding and integrating global innovation ecosystems.
  • Structural changes are suggested to avoid the inefficiencies typical of other government science departments, promoting a more integrated approach between research and teaching.
  • Current funding mechanisms are seen as inadequate, requiring:
    • An increase in the R & D budget to 4% of GDP.
    • A more efficient grant management system.
    • Less bureaucratic red tape in fund disbursal and spending.

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