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Absence of Research & Development Ecosystem in India – A perspective

- By Raghavendra Gudipati CEO Learnovate, 24 November 2020 | 9 MIN READ


R&D challenges in India are deeper: As per all India survey on higher education, 2017-18 by MHRD, only 3.6% colleges run Ph.D. programme and 36.7% colleges run Post Graduate Level programmes. About 79.2% of the students are enrolled in Undergraduate level programme. 1,61,412 students are enrolled in Ph.D. that is less than 0.5% of the total student enrolment. This is leading to a very less no. of researchers are produced from India. The potential gap of (a) low contribution from industry, (b) only 0.7% of GDP spent on R&D, and (c) absence of efficient R&D ecosystem needs to be addressed and is a priority now.

Some of the key Challenges & Opportunities:

-          As per economic survey of India 2017-18, India’ s spending on R&D is just 0.6% of GDP versus that of Israel 4.3%, South Korea 4.2%, US 2.8% and China 2.1%, China’s absolute R&D spending is 20 times more than India

-          Universities play an important role in R&D but not even one Indian university is in top 300 universities in the world (Source: Times Higher Education Survey). Three Indian institutes are in top ten universities list in middle – income economies (Source: QA World University Ranking 2018-19).

-          Private sector plays a vital role in innovation but there are only 8 Indian companies in the list of the top 1000 global R&D spenders. This means the infrastructure for innovation is lacking in India at the grass – root level. (Source:www.ideatovalue.com)

-          Top 15 countries have in common – strong spending by the business sector (Industries) is an underlying factor for R&D success

-          More than 150 international companies are doing R&D in India. However, while MNC’s are turning to India for setting up their R&D Centres, the Indian corporates have failed to keep pace and step up their R&D activities

Scenario of Manufacturing Sector in India:

-          India’s manufacturing needs higher investment in education and R&D to become self-reliant and technologically competent

-          Currently India is importing electronic hardware and machine tools and many other manufacturing components from Chine, this may affect the manufacturing sector due to current geopolitical scenario

-          Share of Indian manufacturing stagnated at 16% of GDP since 1991

-          Country’s manufacturing force will be strengthened by improving design capability and institutionalising the R&D system in the industries

-          We need to focus on our strengths like; market potential, relative safety of IPRs, availability of skilled workforce and cost affordability

-          In India, Vocational Education and Training (VET) is very much government-driven and supply-driven, this needs to be changed and the system should be ‘demand-driven, employer-led and industry financed’

Resuscitating the Legacy:

While many notable scientists have done research within India and their contribution has been a great impact, many young researchers are opting foreign institutions for their research work and there is a significant brain drain from India which requires creation of appropriate opportunities at certain critical stages in the progression of a scientific career for them.

As per National Institute of Advanced Studies, approximately 24,000 doctorial graduates are produced from India annually and only 156 researchers per million inhabitants as per UNESCO institute of Statistics, which is a far lesser number of researchers compared to the US (4205), Korea Republic (6836), Japan (5328), Finland (7009), Australia (4532), Singapore (6632), China (1089), UK (4227) and many other countries have been producing more no. of researchers.

Industry – Shift in Thinking

Industries should take a leap in their mindset from ‘profit making centres’ to ‘entrepreneurial promotors’. As data says, majority (56%) of spending on R&D is from government and that too for the institutions run by government itself. Only 37% of overall GDP spent is from the corporates and industries which is far lesser than compared to corporates in other countries who spend on R&D efforts. As per the 2018 global innovation 1000 study (www.strategyand.pwc.com) only 11 Indian companies are listed in top 1000 corporate R&D spenders. Companies R&D spend is either in creating their own research infrastructure or funding big institutes like IITs, IISs and few large international universities

R&D spend by the Industries in India:

Major sectors contributed to R&D from India are Automobile (0.88 Bn USD) and Pharma (1.2 Bn USD). India ranks 14 in no. of companies spending on R&D and 20th rank in R&D spent among top 20 countries (www.strategyand.pwc.com)

Lost opportunity

India presently ranks a dismal 81 (at the bottom of the BRICS countries) in the 2015 Global Innovation Index

There are 500 odd industrial clusters across India, 30-35% do not have any research institute or university in their vicinity.

The partnerships in last 2 years has been primarily in AI and 5G that too exclusively with IITs or IIMs

A perspective beyond limitations:

A productive interface between industry and academia in the present times of knowledge economy is a crucial requirement.

Industry academia partnership helps meeting the industry’s needs and the academic aspirations. Collaboration between universities, research institutes and private industry are widely discussed and still is an important issue to discuss on various challenges on theses collaborations.

Industry academia partnership not only benefits the educational institutions but also benefits the industries in terms of R&D innovations for their product developments.

It is important for industries to increasingly move beyond the conventional role of merely absorbing talent but to strengthen their relationship with the universities, to support in providing industrial inputs which help in grooming students according to their needs.

By collaborating with educational institutions, companies save lot of time and resources in finding future leaders. For example, Wipro Technologies announced a strategic partnership with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to conduct advanced applied research in autonomous systems, robotics and 5G. They have jointly set up the Wipro IISc Research and Innovation Network (WIRIN), a hybrid industry academia collaboration unit, which will drive idea discovery, research and innovation in technology and product design.

However, such initiatives are few in cases and the industries must come forward in collaborating with Universities and it is equally important for Educational institutions to strengthen their research abilities and infrastructure to attract industries for collaboration in research and development efforts.





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