An encouraging factor in the present budget is the increased allocation made to departments engaged in scientific research. With a hike of 17% on last year’s allocation, the Department of Science and Technology has got the highest raise followed by the Department of Biotechnology which has received a 12% increase. In an environment where innovation has become the deciding factor in a nation’s growth, this emphasis on increasing the scientific temper of the people has come at an apt moment. It is to be noted that it furthers the idea of turning India into a world-class center for genomics research and commercialization albeit in a small way.
With Make in India seen as the pet project of the present government, the expectations were sky high in terms of the scheme getting more focus. Here again, the major changes proposed were an increase in basic custom duty rates in the range of 2.5% to 10% for imported outputs and decrease from about 10% to a lower rate/Nil rate especially for inputs across various sectors.
Any development is impossible without reforming the education sector of the country. The present budget announced setting up a Higher Education Funding Agency with an initial allocation of Rs 1,000 crore and facilitating 10 public and 10 private sector institutions to emerge as world-class teaching institutions. But while it is heartening to see the intent of the government to make select Indian higher educational institutions world class, and allocation of money for the same, it caters to only one part of the overall mess in which Indian higher education system is in. Some of the other major aspects that need hard-nosed action include revision of admission and examination mechanism and curricula. Finally, there is the immense requirement for recruiting good quality faculty and making their career progression linked with the knowledge creation and innovation, instead of period-in-service based seniority.
To make India a research and innovation superpower, it is important that interaction between educational institution and industry is increased. Globally, the industry maintains a strong interaction with academic research besides funding them. But in India, we have so far maintained a compartmentalized approach resulting in lack of money and ideas in academia and preventing academic research from reaching the final commercial conclusion which industry can do.
On its part, the government has initiated programs which will enable researchers to benefit from their research which is a great development. We hope the government will take more such steps to encourage discover-in-India and innovate-in-India which will make make-in-India an even bigger success.