Tuesday, January 3, 2012

China has overtaken India in the field of science: PM

Noting that India's position in the field of science has been overtaken by China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought an increase in spending on scientific research to at least two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and enhanced contribution from industry.

"As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of the GDP spent on R&D in India has been too low and stagnant," he said inaugurating the 99th Indian Science Congress at the sprawling KIIT campus here.

"Over the past few decades, India's position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China. Things are changing but we cannot be satisfied with what has been achieved. We need to do much more to change the fate of Indian science," Singh said.

He said the aim should be to increase the total R&D spending as a percentage of the GDP to two per cent by the end of the 12th Plan period from the current level of about 0.9 per cent.

"This can only be achieved if industry, which contributes about one third of the total R&D expenditure today, increases its contribution. I believe Public Sector Undertakings, especially in the engineering sector, should play a major role in this expansion," he said.

In a bid to push research in niche areas, the Prime Minister said the government was examining a proposal to build national capacity and capability in supercomputing which will be implemented by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore at an estimated cost of Rs. 5,000 crore.

He said there is another proposal for setting up a Neutrino Observatory at Theni in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs. 1,350 crore to study the fundamental particles that form the universe.

Noting that publicly funded R&D was skewed in favour of fundamental research rather than applied research, Singh said "It is easier to attract industrial funds into applied research areas and a set of principles should be formulated to push such funding and to drive public-private-partnerships in R&D."

"While research generates new knowledge, we need innovation to use this knowledge productively for social benefit. We need to give practical meaning to innovation so that it does not end up being just a buzz word," he said.

Congratulating the Science Congress for highlighting the role of women in science, the Prime Minister lauded the women scientists for making a mark in traditionally male bastions and decisively breaking the glass ceiling.

He noted that the country's Agni Missile programme has a women scientist - Tessy Thomas at the helm and for the first time last year, three women scientists received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize as compared to total 11 women awardees for all the years since 1958 upto last year.

However, the Prime Minister noted that nearly 60 per cent of the 2000 Indian women PhDs in science were unemployed and the main reason cited by them was lack of job opportunities.

A very small section cited family reasons for unemployment, he said.

The Prime Minister also gave away awards to scientists for their achievements and tribals of Koraput region for the global recognition they received for conservation of bio-diversity and developing climate resilient farming systems.