National Research Foundation

National Research Foundation

National Research Foundation

NRF Bill 2023:

  • NRF – The bill will establish the National Research Foundation as an apex body.
  • SERB – The bill will repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body that was established in 2008 to promote basic research in Science and Engineering and to provide financial assistance to persons engaged in R&D.
  • SERB will be subsumed into NRF which has an expanded mandate and covers activities over and above the activities of SERB.

What is NRF?

  • NRF is one of the key recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
  • It is modeled on the lines of the hugely successful National Science Foundation of the United States.
  • Aim – The NRF intends to act as a coordinating agency between researchers, various government bodies, and industry, thus bringing industry into the mainstream of research.
  • The NRF plans to seed, grow, and facilitate research in India’s universities, especially State universities, by funding research infrastructure and researchers.
  • Governance – NRF will be administrated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and governed by a Governing Board.
  • Funding – The NRF will operate with a budget of Rs 50,000 crore for five years, of which 28% will be the government’s share, and the remaining 72% will come from the private sector.

 Governing body:

  • Ex-Officio President – Prime Minister
  • Ex-Officio Vice Presidents
    • Minister of Science and Technology and
    • Minister of Education
  • Executive Council will govern the functioning of NRF

The Executive Council will be chaired by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India.

What is the significance of NRF?

  • Focus on universities – The main objective of the NRF is to get colleges and universities involved in scientific research.
  • Research in social sciences – It promotes research not just in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences, and art.
  • National priorities – It also aims to identify priority areas such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, etc. in which S&T interventions can help larger national objectives.
  • Democratization – The focus area for NRF is peripheral, rural, and semi-urban areas which are often neglected.
  • Uniformity – It also aims to bring uniformity in funding and reduce the bureaucratic hurdles associated with raising money.
  • Internationalization – It will promote international competition and find solutions to the complexities of Indian society.

What is the status of R&D in India?

  • R&D expenditure – India spends around 0.7% of its GDP on R&D which is less than many other countries.
  • Gross expenditure on R&D in India is declined from 0.84% in 2008 to 0.69% in 2018.
  • Research funding – Eminent institutions like the IITs and IISc get a bulk of research funding but State universities get very little about 10% of the research funds.
  • Patents – According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), although India registered a 16.5% growth in patent grants in 2021, the patent applications are very much less than China and the US.
  • Other challenges – Other challenges that constraints the scientific community includes:
    • Inconsistent funding stream
    • Complex application processes (multiple guidelines & rules)
    • Bias towards established researchers and institutions
    • Straight-jacketed themes which allow little intellectual freedom
    • University bureaucracy and procedures result in delays in decisions
National Research Foundation

Challenges associated with NRF?

  • Financial crunch– 50% of the funding mechanism is dependent on the private sector.
  • While the participation of the private industry in the NRF is an important and welcome step, it is unclear how the government will raise Rs 36,000 crore from the industry.
  • Autonomy – The top positions in the NRF board are reserved for members of the government, including the PM and the Ministers of Science, Technology, and Education.
  • Time period – Although the NRF draft mentions that the peer-review process will be completed within 6 months, releasing funds may take time, pending financial clearance.

Related Links

New Education Policy 2020ISRO