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LANDSCAPING THE INDIAN R&D SCENARIO AND THE WAY FORWARD

LT CDR SM KARTHIK

Introduction
Science is not something alien to Indian culture. Beginning from the Vedic
period and spanning several decades thereafter, our forefathers have
contributed immensely to scientific thoughts, principles and practices. Pathbreaking discoveries in the field of Astronomy, Mathematics, Medicine,
Architecture and Physics stand testimony to this fact. Despite all the
infrastructural, bureaucratic and mindset challenges, there are many oases
of excellence brilliant scientists, devoted entrepreneurs and high-caliber
research and academic institutions contributing to significant milestones in
the Innovation and R&D scenario of India. But this is not enough.
The major R&D institutions in the country are CSIR(Council of Scientific and
Industrial Research), ICMR(Indian Council of Medical Research), ICAR(Indian
Council of Agricultural Research), DAE(Department of Atomic energy),
ISRO(Indian Space Research Organization) and DRDO (Defense Research and
Development Organization). Though we have made an impact on several
sectors of food production by way of green revolution, nuclear energy and
space technology, the rate of progress has not been commensurate with the
rest of the world.

The Present state of R&D in India.


The overall government and industrial spending on scientific and
technological R&D has remained below 1% of our GDP for more than a
decade. India's R&D expenditure is merely 2.1% of the total global
expenditure in R&D in comparison to US where R&D spending accounts for
about a third of the global R&D spends (33.6%) and, Japan and China
account for 12.6% each. CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 Public investment still accounts for
more than three-fourth of the total R&D spend. The challenge lies in boosting
private sector investment in R&D. India needs research and innovation in
virtually all areas including energy, consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals,
food processing, bio-technology and automotive. India is gradually
progressing in its R&D efforts and there are some notable examples of
innovative
products
such
as
the
Tata
Nano,
GE's
portable
electrocardiography (ECG) device, Pureit water filters and Micromax phones.
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 Lieutenant Commander SM Karthik is a Engineer from the
Submarine cadre of the Indian Navy. The officer is presently undergoing his Masters in
Technology Management at DIAT, Pune. (Global R&D summit 2013, 2013)

The drivers for these innovations are local needs, user preferences and most
often the paying capacity of the customer.
Patenting, which is an important measure of innovative R&D activity, is also
on the rise in India. Patent registrations in the US from India grew from 94 in
the year 2000 to 465 in 2010, and registrations in Europe increased from 7 in
the year 2000 to 200 in 2010. High tech hubs such as Bengaluru, Chennai,
Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune have seen the maximum patenting
activity. The share of patents filed by Indians at the Indian Patent Office has
been rising marginally.

Hurdles to the growth of R&D in India.


Numerous committees have been constituted to weed out the causes and to
understand the slow and challenging growth of R&D in the country. They are
attributed to
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
g)
h)
i)
j)

Poor or inadequate R&D infrastructure


Lack of specific skill sets in human talent pool
Complexity in institutional processes
Favoritism towards imports rather than in-house R&D
Lack of credible partners and facilities
Problems in commercialization
Poor ecosystem to facilitate internal R&D
Inability to retain talented manpower
Lack of technological inputs available in the country
Negligible collaboration between Industry and good academic
institutions.
k) No understanding between research and government or defense
requirements.
l) Procedural delays in sanctions of projects
m) Slow rate of procurements

Government Initiatives
India is fast emerging as a strong player in the global R&D arena. We have a
fairly large talent pool in various areas of science, technology and
management, along with a strong academic and research background. The
R&D expenditure in India is mainly funded by the Government. The R&D for
various sectors is spread over various laboratories dealing with various
facets of science and technology across the country.
The National Innovation Foundation (NIF), setup in the year 2000, started
functioning as India's national initiative to gather and strengthen the
innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge, which is abundant in our
country. With major help from the 'Honey Bee Network', the foundation has

been has built a database of more than 1,70,000 ideas CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 ,
traditional knowledge practices and innovations from over 545 districts of
the country. The Honey Bee Network is a group of like-minded individuals,
scholars, innovators, farmers, policy makers, entrepreneurs and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), with a growing presence in more than
75 countries. NIF has filed more than 550 patents of which 35 patents have
been granted in India and four in USA CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 .
Government is set to increase the investment in R&D in public and private
sector to 2% of GDP by way of setting up the Micro Venture Innovation Fund
(MVIF). This venture, MVIF, a part of National Innovation Foundation, aims to
extend support innovators with a single signature on a simple agreement of
understanding without the requirement of a guarantor. It has, so far provided
funding for 178 projects CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 , which are at different stages of
growth. The government has also setup BIRAC (Biotechnology Industry
Research Council), to serve as the sole window for the emerging medical
innovations as well as biotechnology companies in India.
Intellectual Propert Rights in India a growing necessity
The official website on IPR states that the importance of intellectual property
in India is well established at all levels -statutory, administrative and judicial
and there are administrative mechanisms for enforcement of Intellectual
Property Rights. CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 Though significant examples have been set
especially in the pharmaceutical sector, there is tremendous scope for
improvement. The government needs to model a IPR policy that will be in
sync with global standards and at the same time defend special Indian
strengths. We should adopt a balanced approach and fashion a policy that
strives to protect the rights of innovators on the one hand and public interest
on the other.
Role of MNCs in R&D.
In August 1985, the American semiconductor giant, Texas Instruments (TI)
launched its R&D facility in Bangalore and thereby became the first
technology company to establish its presence in India. Ever since, India has
been the main supplier of intellectual property for MNCs. Foreign investment
in India has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. India is home to
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (Global R&D summit 2013, 2013)
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (Lal, 2015)
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (Bagchi, 2015)
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (http://www.ipindia.nic.in/, 2015)

about 870 MNC centres utilizing the workforce here. The R&D expenditures
by Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies has shown a robust increase
from INR 286 crores in 2002-03 to INR 2,883 crores in 2009-10 CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 .
The profit of MNCs in overall R&D has increased to around 20
percent CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 . The 'knowledge acquiring or exploiting' strategies of
MNCs have led to establishing their R&D centres in physical proximity to
their manufacturing units in India. These strategies are being driven by the
pull factor of MNCs as they see promising potential for growth and seek
substantial increase in their market share here.
Almost all of the MNCs in India are patenting their R&D innovations in India
and abroad, utilizing the talent pool of our population. Only a fragment of
huge R&D projects abroad get outsourced to India to maintain their secrecy.
This is very true in the case of the Pharma sector. Novartis had outsourced
most of its R&D in parts to various pharma labs located in Hyderabad.
The Way Ahead.
R&D collaborations between industry and national laboratories and academia
were relatively very less. This prevented a healthy R&D ecosystem from
developing. Space and nuclear laboratories in India have been very
successful in their efforts by focusing on a consistent information exchange
with academia, the armed forces and private industry and successfully
focused on applied R&D. The same model needs to be applied by all research
labs in the country by linking academia and industry with applied projects
right from graduate level. The funding should be undertaken by the labs to
nurture innovative ideas and cultivate the spirit of research among the
youth.
All National labs in the country lack business acumen to launch and initiate a
project. MNCs have capitalized on this and were not averse to fund full costs
for R&D. Hence the national laboratories which by now were under pressure
to generate part of their funds on their own saw this as a lucrative
opportunity. Some very large successful multi-year programmes were set up
by MNCs with some of the premier national laboratories. This needs to be
discontinued and a separate committee needs to be setup to change the
state of affairs.
R&D has had a limited role to play in growth planning and strategy. Indian
organizations always looked for the easier way of obtaining ready and proven
technology from companies abroad. Private industry has been hindered by
duties, high pricing structures and strict license requirements imposed by the
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (https://data.gov.in/keywords/rd-expenditure, 2015)
CITATION DrN15 \l 1033 (Lal, 2015)

government. This has driven them to different practices termed as jugaad


and frugal engineering. The government must undertake measure to
encourage private ventures by way of restrictions and willingness to fund
high risk ideas to promote innovation.
The word commercial indicates profit but it is not bad for industry.
Commercial interest creates an interest in developing appropriate and cost
effective solutions. Successful commercialization leads to creation of wealth
through new markets and new jobs. This is the root cause of many
government funded R&D programmes. Though quite successful in achieving
technical goals, they have fallen short in terms of commercialization. The
government should fund industry fully, including manpower and overhead
costs, for their involvement. Industry should in turn subcontract projects to
partner academic or research institutes.
The government should involve MNCs in generating solutions to the
countrys critical needs. It should curb the brain drain practice adopted by
the MNCs and allow them to bid on India centric projects supported by
government funding. The government should initiate appropriate IP
protection arrangements so that profits generated from such projects remain
in India.
Incentives for R&D startups are important. Complete tax deductions needs to
be provided for such initiatives. Labs and institutes need to solve industry
specific problems for overall development of an R&D ecosystem. Indian
companies need to learn and adopt best methods and practices for R&D
management.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) play a key role in the economic
development in India as they are the main engines for rural and urban
growth in the country. CITATION Suj15 \l 1033 The government needs promote such
ventures and invest in their growth. The government should promote such
enterprises focusing on R&D and help in their setup in the different parts of
the country. Then it should ensure their sustainment through collaborative
efforts for innovation.
Conclusion.
India is the fourth largest economy in the world and is a favored destination
for global R&D firms. We should invest more resource allocation in R&D from
the GDP than it has been doing in the past few decades. Strong bonds have
to be forged between industry, institutions and academia for developing
products that are the need of the hour. R&D investment form the private
industry should match up to government standards for scaling new heights.
CITATION Suj15 \l 1033 (Bagchi, 2015)

Specific sectors need to be identified which require immediate attention and


patience for them to deliver results.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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Global R&D summit 2013. (2013). Battelle India, (p. 144). New Delhi.
http://www.ipindia.nic.in/. (2015, august 28). Retrieved august 28, 2015, from
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