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National Science and Tech Policy Draft (2 January 2021)

National Science and Tech Policy Draft (2 January 2021)

Context:

Draft National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) has been uploaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on its website. DST has also invited suggestions, inputs and comments for making changes by 25th January.

Background:

Scientific Policy Resolution, 1958: The first policy on science in India was adopted in 1958.

Technology Policy Statement, 1983: The second policy adopted in 1983.

Science and Technology Policy 2003: The third policy on science was adopted in 2003.

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2013: The fourth policy on science was adopted in 2013.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 5th Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) was initiated during the mid-2020.

Summary of the Debate

Need of a new policy:

  • Globally, the expectations of societies and governments they expected earlier from science and scientists have changed.
  • The whole knowledge enterprise has dramatically changed over last five to ten years globally.
  • There were other issues for example related to diversity inclusion, a seamless end-to-end science and technology ecosystem which is inclusive, which is empowered, which is fully geared to meet our challenges of today and tomorrow including the Aatmnirbhar Bharat.
  • Industry has to compete globally and if local science is not able to provide them the basic science which is globally competitive Indian industry will fall behind.
  • One nation one subscription is part of a larger vision and vision basically is how to democratize information, data, knowledge related to science which means we must have access. All the citizens, organizations, institutions that have anything to do with science, they must have total access to it.
  • Often time in the past government has only focused on things that create knowledge but our major weakness is not there and this has been shown by covid-19 time that our major weakness is not in creation of knowledge but some of the weaknesses are in terms of the direction and relevance of that knowledge and its consumption which means is connect with industry, with the startups and with the government.
  • The rise of intelligent machines, artificial intelligence, machine learning industry, industry 4.0 or society 5.0 and whole lot of challenges which is based on science and technology, climate change, environment, resources, electric mobility, clean energy and so on.
  • The whole concept of innovation and startups and their role in building Indian economy through science and technology also was not very compelling.
  • The times of covid-19 with in which the entire policy has taken shape that itself has taught many compelling lessons which have all been integrated.

Key takeaways of the policy:

  • There is lot of innovation that is taking place but the deep tech innovation is missing in the country and what this policy basicalDSTIndia on Twitter: "As part of initiatives of O/o PSA & DST towards STIP  2020 formulation, under Track II process, 1st meeting of Thematic group on  '#Data & #Regulatory #framework ' wasly is trying to do is have a more cohesive kind of an approach.
  • How to make research eventually led to innovation and that is the transformation that is being attempted and for that to happen the unified approach is what is required which is also what the SDI policy is advocating.
  • Policy also talks about the involvement of ministries which is very important because ministries have lots of problems, they are the ones who deal with the multiple issues concerning their ministries and many of them don’t really support institutions for research and innovation because they don’t even have a cohesive framework for supporting institutions today.
  • Policy says that all ministries need to allocate some amount of their money or some amount of their funds for innovation kind of applications and then they will engage with academia, they will engage with other stakeholders in the whole ecosystem so that people tend to work on the right kind of problems and then deliver solution.

Objectives:

  • To create an accountable research ecosystem, promoting translational as well as foundational research in the country in alignment with global standards.
  • To achieve technological self-reliance and position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the next decade.
  • To double the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years.
  • To build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aspiration to achieve the highest level of global recognitions and awards in the coming decade.
  • To improve STI education, making it inclusive at all levels and more connected with the economy and that the society will be developed through processes of skill building, training and infrastructure development.

Way Forward:

  • All the data and information that is generated which is funded by the government but the access to this data and information is not there with the ease of access. So, all of this must empower our development, we must reach out to everybody from gram panchayat level to every citizen who would make use of this information and data. So, it’s about the ease of doing business, it’s about access to data and information.
  • India has to move graduate to occupy the kind of space like India and basic sciences sit on the global high table today.
  • India need to move into areas where it has opportunity to become global leader like area of materials, the biological revolution that is right now happening globally.
  • We need to bring in more stakeholders very strongly supporting and using science and technology and these stakeholders are:
    • State governments: Typically, states have been tended to ignore the value of science technology and innovation for them but they are all now waking up. So, they want to partner in a strong way and they want to solve their local problems using global science and technology.
    • Industry: While they do R & D on their own but connection to whole lot of infrastructure that we have, connection to the knowledge resources we have, our connection to human resources that we have that has been little bit weak. So, how do we bring them on board in terms of investing in science and technology but at the same time connecting it with everything else that we have.

Important points made by the Guests

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India

  • Even ten years ago disruptive challenges of technology of the future which is coming at us faster and faster were not clear. So, ten years ago people would not have paid attention to things like sustainable development and the role of science and technology in it.
  • It is not so much about working in silos but it’s about making connections whether it is connection between industry, academia, R & D, government, startups, NGOs.
  • Industries do not have very ease of access to resources like scientific infrastructure, human resources, they do not have co-ownership of these resources.
  • The new policy will be a win win situation for academia, R&D labs and industry.

Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi 

  • In country today there is lot of science happening but all of that ends up as research publications, there is a lot of technology also getting generated but that does not feed into innovation. Innovation is something where you apply this technology and produce something that is tangible for the society.
  • Right now, there is technology happening, there is innovation happening but there is no proper flow between all of these different verticals and that is the biggest challenge.
  • In academia that is something which is lacking right now, everything is left to the researchers to decide, the problems they decide, the approach they decide, what they want to do with the research they decide.

Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, Advisor, CSIR, New Delhi

  • An incumbent on the scientific community people who administered science to recognize that change and this policy recognizes that change.
  • Time has come when the taxpayer funding should also go to private R & D.
  • It has to be a combination of bottom-up and top-down kind of approach which is the need of the hour.
  • Any agency in the country wherever a common mission is set, wherever common goals are set, India has done very well whether it is DRDO, ISRO, DAE have done very well because it is a bottom-up plus a top-down kind of an approach.

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