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  • Writer's picturePallaash Shankhdhar

The Anusandhan National Research Foundation Act, 2023: India’s entry into the R&D big leagues


INTRODUCTION


On August 07, 2023, the Lower House of the Indian Government, the Lok Sabha, passed the Anusandhan National Research Foundation Bill, 2023 (hereinafter “the Bill”), soon after which the Bill got introduced in the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha, and received affirmation, paving way for the Anusandhan National Research Foundation Act, 2023 (hereinafter, “the Act”). In the words of the Union Minister for Science & Technology, the Act will pave the way for India to join the select league of developed nations and will define the stature of India in 2047. The Act aims to play a key role in facilitating, cultivating, and promoting research and development (R&D) activities in the country, fostering a culture of research and innovation across India's educational institutions, research centers, and R&D laboratories. The Act primarily strives to bring together academia, industry and government departments, in order to bring about a much-needed boost to the R&D sector of India.



BACKGROUND AND STRUCTURE OF THE ACT


The Act finds its roots in the recommendations provided in the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. As per the NEP, the following are the primary activities that the National Research Foundation (NRF) shall be responsible for:


(a) fund competitive, peer-reviewed grant proposals of all types and across all disciplines;

(b) seed, grow, and facilitate research at academic institutions, particularly at universities and colleges where research is currently in a nascent stage, through mentoring of such institutions;

(c) act as a liaison between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry, so that research scholars are constantly made aware of the most urgent national research issues, and so that policymakers are constantly made aware of the latest research breakthroughs; so as to allow breakthroughs to be optimally brought into policy and/or implementation; and

(d) recognise outstanding research and progress


From the bedrock of the NEP recommendations, emerged the Act now aims to achieve all the above, in addition to creating a culture of equitable funding for scientific research, thereby moving past the previously concentrated funding to just a select few elite institutions in India.


The Act is divided into 4 chapters with detailed description of the objectives, funding and structure of the Anusandhan NRF. A brief discussion of each chapter has been presented below:


· Chapter I (Preliminary)


Under this head, the Act establishes the name of Act along with several important definitions for terms used in the Act.


· Chapter II (Anusandhan National Research Foundation)


Under the second chapter, the Act establishes the NRF, laying down in detail all its objectives and goals. Structure-wise, the Act says that the NRF will have a governing board consisting of 15 to 25 eminent researchers and professionals, headed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.


The Union Education Minister and the Science and Technology Minister will serve as vice presidents of the NRF. The foundation will also consist of an Executive Council under the Principal Scientific Advisor, who shall be the ex-officio Chairperson of the Council.


· Chapter III (Finance, Accounts and Audits)


As the title suggests, the third chapter goes into the details regarding the finances of the foundation. The Foundation's financing will come from various sources, including:


(i) grants and loans from the central government,

(ii) contributions to the fund from donors,

(iii) revenue generated from investments of the funds received by the Foundation, and

(iv) all amounts held within the Fund for Science and Engineering Research as established under the 2008 Act.


The Foundation will establish several Funds for the purpose of allocation, which are:


(i) the Anusandhan National Research Foundation Fund, designated for covering salaries, allowances, and administrative expenses,

(ii) the Innovation Fund, aimed at supporting exceptional creativity in fields aligned with the Foundation's objectives,

(iii) the Science and Engineering Research Fund, dedicated to the continuation of projects initiated under the 2008 Act, and

(iv) one or more specialized funds for specific projects or research endeavors.


Rules governing the utilization of these Funds will be specified by the central government, and the accounts of the Foundation will be subject to annual audits by the CAG.


· Chapter IV (Miscellaneous)

The last chapter discusses other miscellaneous topics concerning the foundation and the manner in which the finances are to be attained. The Chapter further, under Section 27, repeals the Science and Engineering Research Board Act, 2008, along with the Science and Engineering Research Board constituted under section 3 of the said Act.


GENERAL R&D STATISTICS AND TRENDS IN INDIA


· Private Sector as the major contributor to the R&D sector:


Private Sector has faired to be one of the major contributors to the Indian R&D Sector. As per Directory of R&D Institutions, 2021, there were 7888 R&D institutions in the country, out of which 66% were in private sector. This figure has only increased in the past 5 years wherein the contribution of the private sector in fostering R&D Institutions was nearly 63% in 2018.





· Top spending industries into India’s R&D sector


Below is a representation of the Industrial R&D trend in India in the recent years. In industrial R&D, “Drugs and Pharmaceuticals” occupied the first place with a share of 33.6% followed by “Textiles” (13.8%), “Information Technology” (9.9%), “Transportation” (7.7%), “Defence Industries” (7.3%) and “Bio-technology” (4%), respectively during 2020–21.






The above trends are indicative of a promising R&D Culture already fostering in India, especially with the private sector turning up to be a major player. The Act is expected to further facilitate this wave and allow for further collaboration between the industry, academia and the public sector.


CONCLUSION AND THE WAY FORWARD


Currently, the Act is in its nascent stages, but the picture looks promising. A five-year plan for investment of approximately USD 6 bn. (INR 50,000 crores) is already in the pipeline, out of which 80% of the funding is planned to come from non-government sources, from industry & philanthropists, from domestic as well as outside sources. This indicates the huge role that the major industry players will play in both the funding and facilitation of the future R&D route of India.


Overall, the Act is a landmark step towards India becoming an R&D superpower in the future which incentivizes all industry players for contributing to this venture and prosper along with India’s development.



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