Amid pandemic, it’s a ‘brain gain’ for Indian R&D sector

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on February 09, 2021

Akhilesh Gupta, Adviser and Head, Science, Technology, Innovation (STI) Policy Secretariat, Department of Science and Technology

Many NRIs willing to participate in domestic research and development, says Akhilesh Gupta for DST

The pandemic may be paying dividends for all its ills the country’s research and development (R&D) sector with many People of Indian Origin and NRIs expressing interest to participate actively andwilling even to return home. This may be a big 'brain gain' for Indian R&D, says Akhilesh Gupta, Adviser and Head, Science, Technology, Innovation (STI) Policy Secretariat at the Department of Science and Technology.

“Many others would like to contribute to Indian science, technology and innovation while remaining overseas. We must be able to facilitate them,” he says. Sounding sanguine about how the year 2020 has been marred by the pandemic, Gupta noted that Covid-19 impacted almost every sector. R&D is no exception.

Success stories during pandemic

Still, India has been able to make some outstanding progress. Success stories have unfolded due to a notable trend emerging in the sharing of purpose, synergy, collaboration and cooperation amongst R&D institutions, academia and industry facilitated by the government. There have also been several compelling lessons learnt on how the pandemic had impacted R&D. Some of these learnings would get translated as new norms, practice and culture in the future.

So, unlike earlier time, there will be more short-duration quick-gain projects to address immediate challenges and deliver results in the shortest possible time. The boundaries among private, public, national laboratories, academic institutions might fade away in large mission mode programmes. There may be greater alignment with national priorities and plans for R&D to focus on ‘quality’ and ‘relevance.’

High risk, high gain research

Future R&D in India will focus more on ‘profound’ research rather than the ‘incremental’ to achieve a multi-fold jump in quality R&D. This also means the emergence of ‘high risk, high gain” research in the country, Gupta observes.

The upcoming national Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) would outline the vision and aspiration for a new STI-led India in the coming decade. “We must aspire to be amongst the top three global STI superpowers. With the shifting global powers and technology becoming the cornerstone of international engagements and rulemaking, 2021-30 is expected to bring transformational changes for Indian STI,” he adds.

For India to become Atmanirbhar, it must create a long-term strategy to reduce the burden of technology import and promote indigenous technology, traditional knowledge systems and grassroots innovations for bringing sustainability and inclusive growth benefiting the society at large. The STI in the next decade must also focus on building an STI-led skill base in the country.

Published on February 09, 2021

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