Among the various lessons the pandemic taught us, being ‘Atma Nirbhar‘ as a nation, tops the list. This has led to our – reviewing the existing Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) was released supporting various initiatives taken up by the central and state governments like; Make in India, Skill India, Start-up India, Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
The first Scientific Policy Resolution (SPR) was formulated in 1958 taking into account the cultivation of scientific research in all aspects. After 25 years, the new Technology Policy Statement (TPS) was brought about. Again, after 20 years, when India became self-sufficient in the areas of R&D activities, the policy was revamped in 2003, for attracting best research talent in basic sciences. In aiming to become self-sustainable, forward integration was taken up in the field of S&T and the new policy was re-named as Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 (STIP-2013).
The Government of India has recently released a New Education Policy 2020 covering all aspects relating to all rungs of the education ladder from pre-school to university. The draft Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP-2020) proposed to be released this year is already available on the website for feedback.
Apparently, the new STIP shoulders the core principles of being decentralized, evidence informed, experts driven and inclusive. All this makes us confident about the roaring success of this Policy. Personally, I feel that now, when the country is striving for multi-fold growth in various spheres and battling the pandemic, it becomes imperative to adopt a policy which encompasses inputs from policy-makers, policy-implementers and beneficiaries of the policy.
Being cognizant of the fact that approximately 62% of India’s population falls within the working age bracket ,15 to 59 years and 52% of the population is below 25 years of age, formulating a policy which uses the well-groomed minds of the youths will increase productivity thereby improving our ranking in the Global Nation Index from 52nd to 40th or better. It will be a step forward towards becoming Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
We are also aware that Chinese products are being boycotted and this is our cue to leap forward and innovate new processes, technologies and manufacture quality products which will benefit our economy and reduce our dependency on products especially in the field of electronics and health sector. This will also create job opportunities for the youth. Very recently, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India has proposed the rallying cry “Vocal for Local” and this is possible only when we have a well-established, field driven and globally competitive STIP.
Indian traditional knowledge especially in medicine, bio-resource management, traditional food items/ beverages and traditional agricultural practices integration has earned worldwide fame. For using our traditional knowledge in a planned manner, we need a well-established and formulated STIP. I support the new policy with the hope of better channelizing our existing higher education system. It is noteworthy that Indians living here are not winning as many laurels as compared to those going abroad. Our policy has to address such issues.
India today ranks 79th out of 190 economies in the World Bank ranking in “Ease of Doing Business.” A proper STIP, will function appropriately to attract investment especially when MNCs are moving away from China. It is a challenging task to come out with a policy which encompasses solutions for all problems but with apt efforts we can come out with optimal solutions.
The top most issue which needs attention in our scientific development policies is trying to fulfill the basic requirements of the country. A properly framed STIP will work in the interest of all stakeholders. The priorities of innovation need to be defined in terms of short-term effect, mid-term outcome and long-term outcome from STIP. We have to achieve the short-term within a span of next two years, mid-term within 4-5 years and long-term within 7-9 years as we will be with the youngest population in the globe till 2030 and thus its the right time to take advantage of this.
Government help in proper implementation of STIP across all educational institutions irrespective of self financed or government aided, engaged in R&D is much needed. Institutes of national importance or reputation need to be funded to the outcome of the research rather than limited to only publication of the research in international journals. Proper implementation is imperative for any policy to function effectively.
An informative portal with details of researchers and type of research required to resolve issues is also needed. This will allow higher education institutes, students and R&D organizations to seek solutions. R&D activities need to be encouraged and thus, funding them should be a part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
By unfolding the policy with the right vision and mission, monitoring and executing the outcomes properly and simultaneously looping in our 50 million youth population, we will soon become an ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’. Before this however, the new policy will need to prove its viability, beginning at the ground level. Furthermore, financing R&D activities should be a joint effort of government and private sectors and the gross expenses on the same should be increased to minimum 2% of GDP.
Capacity development for R&D and Innovation and discouraging delay in utilization of grant in aid for R&D and Innovation are other parameters, which need attention. Youth need to be encouraged and incentivized for R&D and Innovation activities.
Since, we are aiming to promote ‘local’, indigenization of technology is imminent. Efforts and support are needed for effective strategy for commercialization of technology to reap results. Again, engaging with Indians settled abroad to work on R&D and Innovation is also a prospect.
The policy must include a chapter, on the tie up between state and central governments for aiding R&D projects. The policy also needs to address issues like Open Data Policy, One Nation-One subscription and promote adoption of equity and inclusion. Harnessing traditional knowledge and ideas born out of social, religious and economic diversities will escalate R&D.
Every organization likes incentives linked investment, employment etc. There is also a need to incentivize for R&D, Innovation, patent filing etc. A proper framework has to be in place for regulatory bodies. When we are able to address challenges/queries appropriately we will be able to deliver results.
(Dr Ashwini Kumar Sharma is Vice Chancellor, Symbiosis Skills and Professional University, Pune)