PM seeks to raise private sector funding in R&D to 50%

Abantika Ghosh NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to increase private sector funding in R&D to 50% from the current 20%. The PM suggested this during a review meeting – his first in the UPA-II – of eight ministries related…
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to increase private sector funding in R&D to 50% from the current 20%. The PM suggested this during a review meeting – his first in the UPA-II – of eight ministries related to scientific research. The meeting was held on September 2.

Representatives from science and technology, space, atomic energy, earth sciences, biotechnology, defence production ministries took part in the meeting. Sources in the PMO said the departments were told to make the most of the prevailing interest in India as an investment destination and come up with ways to attract FDI in scientific endeavours.

Sources say, African countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have expressed interest in partnering scientific ventures in India, and also to purchase technology.

Among the targets that the PM reportedly set for the scientific community are a push towards making India one of the major players in publication of scientific literature. “The prime minister said that India’s share in scientific literature published in international journals should be increased to 10% in the next plan,” said an official. Assurances were given to address scientists’ concerns – be it inclusion of more than 1,000 scientists in the new pension scheme that was turned down by the finance ministry recently or norms for the selection of heads of scientific PSUs.

The PMO directed the department of science and technology to send a “well-reasoned note” on the pension scheme to the finance ministry, and asked the department of scientific and industrial research (DSIR) to evolve a suitable selection process for scientific PSUs so that the recurrent bureaucrat-scientist tussles do not hamper their working.

Recognizing that both the existing launch pads of ISRO are affected during the cyclone season, the PM has asked for a feasibility study to be done for a new site. The department of space was asked to address the lack of adequate launch vehicles – foreign vehicles are being used often – and shortage of transponders for DTH and communication requirements.

The PMO also asked for expediting the setting up of the biotechnology industry research assistance council (BIRAC).

The move comes at a time when business-funded R&D is increasingly becoming the lifeblood of scientific research in developed countries. For instance, the European Union’s R&D programme in 2008 relied 55% on private sector’s funds, a third came from the respective governments and around 9% from abroad. In 2007, of the entire amount spent in Japan, 77.7% was bankrolled by the private sector, and in the US, 67.3% was funded by the business houses.