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China has overtaken India in science: PM
Pitches for doubling R&D spending to 2% of GDP
Suresh Dharur/TNS

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Bhubaneswar, January 3
In a candid talk on the status of science and technology in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the country was being overtaken by competitors like China and called for substantial increase in the investment in research and development, creation of new innovation eco-system and greater public-private partnerships.

“Over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China. We need to do much more to change the face of Indian science,” he said while the inaugurating the 99th Indian Science Congress here.

Missile models on display at the 99th Indian Science Congress at KIIT University in Bhubaneswar.
Missile models on display at the 99th Indian Science Congress at KIIT University in Bhubaneswar. — PTI

Pointing out that India’s R&D spending as a percentage of GDP had been ‘low and stagnant’, the PM made a strong pitch for increasing it to at least 2 per cent of the GDP from the current level of less than 1 per cent. “This can only be achieved if the industry, which contributes about one-third of the total R&D expenditure today, increases its contribution significantly,” he told a gathering of nearly 15,000 delegates from across the globe, including scientists and policy makers.

The Prime Minister made a frank assessment of the country’s progress in science and technology area, highlighted the lacunae in the policies and implementation and called for greater alignment of the S&T sector with the inclusive development needs of the country.

Stressing the need for increased public-private partnerships, he said: “It is ironic that General Electric and Motorola have created world-class technology hubs in India while our own industry has not done so, except perhaps in the pharmaceutical sector. We need therefore, to look at ways of incentivising private investment in research and development under Indian conditions.”

Though science and engineering continued to attract some of the best students, many of them were switching over to other careers because of relatively poorer prospects in science, the Prime Minister said.

“We must also make scientific output more relevant to our stage of development. It is said that science is often pre-occupied with problems of the rich, ignoring the enormous and in many ways more challenging problems of the poor and the under-privileged,” he said.

The expansion of basic science infrastructure, encouraging greater research collaboration among universities and national laboratories and enlarging the reach of international collaboration were among the other suggestions made by the Prime Minister.

“At present, publicly funded Research & Development is skewed in favour of fundamental rather than applied research. It is easier to attract industrial funds into applied research areas and a set of principles should be formulated to push such funding and to drive public-private partnerships in research and development,” he said.

Stating that the UPA government had declared 2010-20 as the ‘Decade of Innovations’, he appealed to scientists and policy makers to use the research-based knowledge productively for social benefit. “For a country grappling with the challenges of poverty and development, the over-riding objective of a comprehensive and well-considered policy for science, technology and innovation should be to support the national objective of faster, sustainable and inclusive development,” the Prime Minister said.

Coinciding with the five-day mega event, he announced that the Centre was considering a proposal to build national capacity and capability in supercomputing to be implemented by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, at an estimated cost of Rs 5,000 crore. Another proposal to establish a Neutrino Observatory in Tamil Nadu with an investment of Rs 1,350 crore was also under consideration.

Union Minister for Science and Technology Vilasrao Deshmukh, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and General President of the 99th Science Congress Prof Geetha Bali were among those present on the occasion.

The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) are jointly hosting the congress, the largest gathering of the scientific community. The central theme of the five-day scientific extravaganza is “Science and technology for inclusive innovation — Role of women”.





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