Context: Budget 2022-23 has allocated a total outlay of Rs 16,000 crores to the Ministry of Science & Technology and around 2,000 crores to the Department of Health Research, an increase of 15% and a decrease of 7%, respectively, from last year.
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- The budget has focused on the crucial areas of energy security, food and nutrition security, health security, environment security, etc.
- CSIR has an active presence in all of the above areas through:
- Green hydrogen R&D under the National Hydrogen Mission
- Research in energy technologies, especially renewables &green energy, and battery energy storage.
- Boost high-value horticulture and enable India to become a ‘Global Millets Hub’
- Sickle Cell Anaemia Mission to eliminate the disease by 2047.
- Application of artificial intelligence [AI] in various sectors and focus on futuristic medical devices and technologies.
- New programme to promote research and innovation in pharmaceuticals.
- Waste-to-Wealth Mission to address environmental issues.
- Preservation of mangroves and wetlands, promoting natural farming, biomass, bio-manure and biogas, and scientific management of dry and wet waste, through programmes such as PM-PRANAM, MISHTI and Amrit Darohar.
India’s Science Expenditure
- The Centre spends 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development.
- This is lower in comparison to China’s 2 per cent, Japan’s 3.4 per cent and the USA’s 2.7 per cent.
- The bulk of the hike of the Budget has gone to the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
- Very less has been allocated to the Department of Biotechnology, and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR).
- The Deep Ocean mission and the National Research Foundation have got substantially higher hikes than in previous years, a sign that they are the Centre’s immediate focus.
- There has been an increased fund infusion to the National Research Foundation (NRF).
National Research Foundation (NRF)
- NRF is being envisaged as an autonomous and umbrella structure that will improve linkages between R&D, academia and industry.
- The total proposed outlay of the National Research Foundation is Rs 50,000 crore over a period of five years.
- Key Features
- National Research Foundation (NRF) will fund, coordinate, and promote research in the country.
- NRF will assimilate the research grants being given by various ministries independent of each other.
- NRF will ensure that the overall research ecosystem in the country is strengthened with a focus on identified thrust areas relevant to our national priorities and towards basic science without duplication of effort and expenditure.
- The funds available with all ministries will be integrated into NRF. This would be adequately supplemented with additional funds.
Other Major Takeaways
- Biotechnology: The principle of “Green Growth” mandates the biotechnology sector to play a major role in finding sustainable and recyclable solutions in almost all domains, including health, agriculture, and clean energy.
- The Department of Biotechnology is bringing out a BioE3 (Biotechnology for Economy, Environment and Employment) Policy for green, clean and prosperous India that will be enabled through “high-performance biomanufacturing”.
- New safe and effective vaccines for existing and emerging diseases will be developed.
- The Department will continue the development of sustainable aviation fuels, zero-waste biorefinery, biobased alternatives to single-use plastics and synthetic biology tools for carbon capture and utilisation for a clean environment.
- In the animal sector, the renewed focus would be given to the ‘One Health’ consortium established by the DBT to make us ready for future pandemics.
- The Indian Tuberculosis Genomic Surveillance consortium would be operationalised for the prediction of drug resistance & strain lineage to support the Government of India’s goal of ‘TB Mukt Bharat’.
- For mainstreaming of millets, a programme on the genomic characterisation of minor millets is being developed. Agri-based gene editing platform would be established for the fast-tracking of leads available in Indian institutions.
- The department will create one Apex autonomous body, Biotechnology Research and Innovation Council (BRIC), towards achieving “minimum government, maximum governance”.
- Biological Research Regulatory Approval Portal (BioRRAP) was launched by the DBT to strengthen inter-departmental synergies in the functioning of agencies regulating various aspects of biological research.
Challenges faced by Research & Development in India
- Less attention to Basic Research: Though the budget has laid emphasis on investing in ‘Artificial intelligence’ research, improving the technology to produce laboratory-made diamonds and a center for research in sickle cell anaemia, the budgetary allocation does not signify a significant scale-up of basic research.
- Low Allocation for Research and Development: Developed and technologically advanced countries spend over 2% of their GDP on Research and Development.
- The United States and China spend 3.45 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively. Korea spends 4.8 per cent of GDP in science and technology.
- India continues to hover around 0.7% despite being among the world’s largest producers of scientific literature.
- Limited Absorption Capacity of Scientific Institutions: While funds are a big challenge to research and development in India, the lack of significant raises across departments shows that the absorptive capacity of scientific institutions in the country is limited.
- Unnecessary delay: Research scholars not getting promised funds on time and the wait for the quality equipment required by researchers continues to be delayed.
- Lack of Interest in Research and Development: Less than 0.5 per cent of Indian students pursue a PhD or equivalent level of education, according to the AISHE report.
- Currently, the number of researchers (per lakh population) in the country is way behind China, US, as well as much smaller nations including Israel.