The Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has started the process of establishing a National Research Foundation (NRF), according to some senior officials from the ministry. The NRF will boost higher education research in India by acting as a nodal body offering grants.
The government has already prepared a detailed report which will soon be submitted to the Union Cabinet for approval. The creation of a National Research Foundation was suggested in the draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019, which was headed by former ISRO chief K.Kasturirangan.
The Research and Investment (R&I) level in India has decreased in the past few years, falling from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.69% in 2014, where it remains today. R&I remains one of the most critical factors when it comes to affecting a country’s GDP. The reports revealed by the European Union show how R&I makes two-third of Europe’s economic growth from 1995 to 2017.
An investment in higher education research has the capability of offering five-fold returns. In the case of the EU, during 2000-2013, a 0.2% investment of R&I in the GDP showed a growth of 1.1% in the overall GDP. The NEP committee cited examples of countries like US, China, and Israel which spend a much higher portion of their GDP on national research. Now, the government plans to implement it through an Act of the Parliament.
A part of the ministry’s Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP), the NRF, once implemented, should follow a “hub-and-spoke model”. A hub-and-spoke model, generally followed by airlines, is the one where multiple ‘spokes’ are connected to a single ‘hub’.
In this case, the NRF will act as a common node (hub) linking multiple Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in different institutions and states, acting as the spokes.
The NRF will focus on energising research across all disciplines, especially at the college level. The National Research Foundation will be having 4 major divisions:
Arts and Humanities
The ministry is also providing room for the addition of other divisions such as Agriculture and Environment.
The foundation will be offering grants to boost research in India. It will assimilate all the current grants offered by different ministries and save on duplicate effort and expenditure. The NRF will establish support research centres in the existing universities and establish research labs in the areas of:
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The Kasturirangan Committee suggested an allocation of INR 20,000 crore for the NRF’s annual grant. The foundation aims to focus on both National and State missions, especially the state universities where 95% of Indian students study.
Research plays an important role in solving all problems from the root. The main challenges India is facing right now include:
Access to clean drinking water and sanitation
Quality of Education
Transportation and Air Quality
Energy and Infrastructure
All these require deep investigation and research to find better solutions. The proposal of NRF will work towards this.
The NRF will act as a liaison between ministries, researchers and industries. It will:
bring in synergies between the stakeholders and the research groups.
create a mechanism for monitoring and mid-course correction
strengthen the linkage between universities
The NRF will also see that the global concerns are addressed and Indian Universities are brought at par with the global universities. The establishment of a National Research Foundation might happen soon and this will also help in strengthening the Indian economy.