After independence in 1947, India endeavored towards development and established:

i. A strong foundation of basic industries such as steel, coal, oil, defense, atomic energy, and space;
ii. A university system with a few excellent institutions, such as IITs, IISc (1909), TIFR (1945), IIMs (IISc: Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; TIFR: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; IIM: Indian Institute of Management) (25+ universities, 5 IITs, 17 RECs – the Regional Engineering Colleges (now NITs), and about 575 affiliated colleges);
iii. A network of National and Regional Laboratories under Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); and,
iv. Atomic Energy, Space, and Defense establishments, to generate a large pool of scientific and technological person power, taking the Nation towards stated objectives, as defined in the two important resolutions.

Science Policy Resolution (1958): “To secure for the people of the country all the benefits that can accrue from the acquisition and application of scientific method.”
Technology Policy Resolution (1983): “Indian science & technology must unlock the creative potential of our people and help build the India of our dreams.”

The main objective of technical education in India is succinctly and elegantly stated by late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the First Prime Minister of Independent India:
“To provide scientists and technologists of the highest caliber, who would engage in research, design, and development to help build the nation towards self-reliance in its technological needs.”

Economy, R&D
Indian economy in 2014 is the 3rd largest in purchasing power terms. India is the second fastest growing economy in the world. India’s GDP has touched US $1.88 trillion. However, this rapid growth has not been accompanied by a just and equitable distribution of wealth among all sections of the population. Only in recent times the government is pushing inclusive growth. However, there is much to be desired in the process of implementation and effectiveness. Distribution challenges need to be tackled through better deployment of public resources for public good.

Table 1 provides some details regarding India’s R&D expenditure. For comparison, data for a few other countries is also provided. It is worth noting the data for Israel. India’s R&D expenditure is only 0.8% of GDP, most of the funding is from the Government, and the number of researchers per million population is alarmingly low as per the statistics of National Science Foundation, World Bank , OECD & Wikipedia (1,2).

Table: R&D scene India

Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India said in the 99th Indian Science Congress (Jan 3, 2012) that “Over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China…..As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of GDP spent on research and development in India has been too low and stagnant. We must aim to increase the total R&D spending as a percentage of GDP to 2% by the end of the 12th Plan Period (2012-2017) from the current level of about 0.9%” (3).

India has to substantially increase R&D funding and the number of scientific researchers for true global competitiveness and leadership (2). The Government is moving in the right direction and has increased allocation of R&D during 12th Plan period (2012-2017) to 75,304 Crore ($15billion) as compared to 25,300 Crore ($5billion) during the 11th Plan period (4). The question is how to ramp up the R&D researchers, especially the PhDs. The effect of low R&D expenditure by industry and government, especially the former, on national research related output from Indian scientists and engineers, is a small number of publications in reputed international journals, innovations, patents, start-ups, etc. in a billion-strong nation. It is felt by many that the quality of science research and innovation is also decreasing.

There is however, a silver lining and glimpse of hope in that in recent years, India’s several new grassroots innovators focusing on rural problems are making India a growing ‘incremental-innovative’ nation (5). Substantially more interaction between rural India and academia is needed to catalyze and expedite this innovation process. What is also crucial for India is breakthrough innovation, if it hopes to be a leading global economic power. I will address the issue of PhDs in engineering in my next blog.

List of referenced links:
1. “Science & Engineering Indicators, 2010”: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/c4/c4s5.htm; http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.SCIE.RD.P6; http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/29/31/45188215.pdf;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ countries_by_research_and_development_spending.
2. “Battelle”: http://www.battelle.org/docs/tpp/2014_global_rd_funding_forecast.pdf.
3. Manmohan Singh, “PM’s speech at the 99th Annual Session of the Indian Science Congress on 3rd January 2012 at Bhubaneshwar”: http://pmindia.nic.in/speech-details.php?nodeid=1119.

4. “The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) 2013 ”, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=91316
5. Anil Gupta, “SRISTI”: http://www.sristi.org.