India has to invest more in Science and Technology


India has to invest more in Science and Technology. We are still not passionate about it and the vast potential this field provides.
Augustine’s impressive career has spanned both corporate leadership and national service roles. The former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin is also the former undersecretary of the Army, has served as chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association, chairman of the Defense Science Board, and chairman of the Review of United States Human Plans Committee. He sat for 16 years on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is the former president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and is a former member of the Board of Trustees at Princeton, MIT and Johns Hopkins and is currently a Regent of the 12-institution University System of Maryland.
In a presentation, Augustine repeatedly emphasised the importance of research as an economic engine, noting that up to 85 percent of the growth in America’s gross domestic product over the past half-century is attributable to advancements in science and technology. (…/corporate-leader-urges-investing-in…/ )
We hope that we are able to understand the significance of these statements and what it means. The role and link of science and technology as a direct contributor to GDP growth in any country is beyond question but is almost ignored in a country like us. While we have been talking about making the country a 5 trillion dollar country , we never talked about the role of science and technology in this journey. That is where lies the problem. Countries who progressed over recent decades and years have also invested heavily in science and technology and vice versa.
Few years back the economic survey had this to say regarding science and technology in the country. It said, “As India emerges as one of the world’s largest economies, it needs to gradually move from being a net consumer of knowledge to becoming a net producer. Its historical contributions to science have been many, in fields like mathematics, astronomy, medical etc. However India has failed to keep the momentum. Today the country’s spending on R&D (about 0.6 percent of GDP) is well below that in major nations such as the US (2.8), China (2.1), Israel (4.3) and Korea (4.2). It is also unique in how dominant government is in carrying out R&D.
Private investments in research have severely lagged public investments in India. According to one analysis (Forbes, 2017) there are 26 Indian companies in the list of the top 2,500 global R&D spenders compared to 301 Chinese companies. 19 (of these 26) firms are in just three sectors: pharmaceuticals, automobiles and software. India has no firms in five of the top ten R&D sectors as opposed to China that has a presence in each of them. 8.9 India is also distinctive in another dimension: its universities play a relatively small role in the research activities of the country. Universities in many countries play a critical role in both creating the talent pool for research as well generating high quality research output. However, publicly funded research in India concentrates in specialized research institutes under different government departments. This leaves universities to largely play a teaching role – a decision that goes back to the 1950s.”.
South Korea is a particularly interesting case for comparison. Its GDP, as well as the government’s investment in R&D, are about the same as in India. But the private sector in Korea invests twice as much in R&D as the Government does, whereas in India it is less than a third. (… )
Looking at publications and patents in India can help assess the productivity and quality of Indian research. In 2013, India ranked 6th in the world in scientific publications. Its ranking has been increasing as well. Between 2009-2014, annual publication growth was almost 14 percent. This increased India’s share in global publications from 3.1 percent in 2009 to 4.4 percent in 2014 as per the Scopus Database.
If journal publications reflect a country’s prowess in science, patents reflect its standing in technology. According to the WIPO, India is the 7th largest Patent Filing Office in the World. In 2015, India registered 45,658 patents in comparison to China (1,101,864), USA (589,410), Japan (318,721), Republic of Korea (213,694), and Germany (91,726).
While the data discussed above presents a mixed view, many observers point to a more troubling picture. For example, a report submitted by a group of scientists has been quoted as saying: “The stature of Indian science is a shadow of what it used to be … because of decades of misguided interventions. We have lost self-confidence and ambition and the ability to recognize excellence amongst our own. In a false sense of egalitarianism, we often chose the mediocre at every level” (Koshy 2017).
Unfortunately people who are heading the education system in critical places like AICTE , UGC are not willing to hear. There is no one to ask questions to them and it’s working totally on personal whims. The AICTE chairman remains as arrogant as one can be before the common man and as sycophant as one can be before people who matter to him is another unfortunate incident. IITs are busy in PR work rather than contributing to patents and research. The country is in deep doldrums when it comes to the state of affairs in the area of science and technology.
Recently PM Modi has been giving attention to this field. The fund allocation to the Ministry of Science and Technology has increased but still well below in terms of percentage of GDP. We need at least 2- 3 % of GDP to be invested in science and technology. In line with the observation of the economic survey to take a Mission centric approach many missions in critical science and tech domain have been identified and have been initiated. Many of them have big budgets and funding. However the critical issue is how these funds are spent and projects implemented.
There are today more than 100,000 people with PhDs, who were born in India but are now living and working outside India (more than 91,000 in the U.S. alone). This shows the state of affairs and the facilities and treatment meted out to people in this area. WE have personally seen good world class technologists in India to suffer .
It will not be sufficient for PM Modi to inaugurate conferences and attend webinars in this field. There is a need to turn the tables top down with a 360 degree change approach. Until we have arrogant and vision less people heading important institutes like AICTE, UGC and IITs etc there is not the remotest possibility to get ahead in this sector.
We have to seriously think about it and consider it as a top priority area.

Asheesh Shah
Author: Asheesh Shah

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