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Modern India has had a strong focus on science and technology, realising that it is a key element of economic growth. India is among the topmost countries in the world in the field of scientific research, positioned as one of the top five nations in the field of space exploration. The country has regularly undertaken space missions, including missions to the moon and the famed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). On 16 October 2014, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s PSLV-C26 successfully launched IRNSS-1C, the third satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This is PSLV’s 27th consecutive successful mission.

Currently@, 27 satellites including 11 that facilitate the communication network to the country are operational, establishing India’s progress in the space technology domain. India is likely to take a leading role in launching satellites for the SAARC nations, generating revenue by offering its space facilities for use to other countries.

There has been considerable emphasis on encouraging scientific temperament among India’s youth through numerous technical universities and institutes, both in the private and government sectors. At present, the country has a total of 17 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 31 National Institutes of Technology (NITs), 677# universities awarding about 29,000 doctorate degrees, and about 40 research laboratories run by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Market size

India is among the world’s top 10 nations in the number of scientific publications. Position-wise, it is ranked 17th in the number of citations received and 34th in the number of citations per paper across the field of science and technology (among nations publishing 50,000 or more papers). The country is ranked ninth globally in the number of scientific publications and 12th in the number of patents filed.

With support from the government, considerable investment and development has incurred in different sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, space research, and nuclear power through scientific research. For instance, India is gradually becoming self-reliant in nuclear technology. Recently, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Unit-1 (KKNPP 1) with 1,000 MW capacity was commissioned, while the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Unit-2 (KKNPP-2) with 1,000 MW capacity is under commissioning.

Recent developments

Some of the recent developments in the field of science and technology in India are as follows

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is taking steps towards developing its own reusable rocket using a Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), whose tech demo is expected to be conducted in February 2016.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched six satellites of Singapore aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C29) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, marking the completion 50 launches from Sriharikota since 1979.
  • The National Institution for Transforming India Aayog (NITI Aayog) plans to release a blueprint for various technological interventions which need to be incorporated by the Indian manufacturing economy.
  • The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore has become the first Indian institution to enter the Top 100 universities ranking in engineering and technology*.
  • The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan and the German Federal Minister for Education and Research Ms Johanna Wanka have signed an agreement for increased cooperation between India and Germany in the field of science and technology.
  • A team of scientists from India and Bangladesh will conduct for the first time, joint marine research within Bangladesh’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is expected to help in understanding climate change and monsoon patterns in India.

Investment Scenario

The Government aims to invest 2 per cent of the country’s GDP on research and development (R&D) in its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2013–17). Accordingly, the Government has undertaken various measures for promoting growth of scientific research, such as:

  • Sustained increase in plan allocations for scientific departments
  • Setting up of new institutions for science education and research
  • Launch of new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013
  • Creation of centres of excellence for research and facilities in emerging and frontline science and technology areas in academic and national institutes
  • Establishment of new and attractive fellowships
  • Strengthening infrastructure for R&D in universities
  • Encouraging public-private R&D partnerships
  • Recognition of R&D units
  • Fiscal incentives and support measures for enhancing industry participation in R&D
  • Several recent developments indicate the progress made in R&D.
  • A project to build India’s largest underground laboratory for advanced research on the smallest particle known to man has been cleared by the prime minister’s office. This is a move that could make India a major nuclear physics research hub.
  • Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO, has finalised contracts to launch 16 satellites of six countries in the coming years.
  • India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) aims to study the properties of atmospheric neutrinos, which are subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements. An initiative Marine Advanced Simulation Training (MAST) centre is among the world’s most advanced simulation centres, and would be a part of the ongoing efforts of MOL and its partner Synergy Group, a ship management firm with over 100 vessels under its management, to step up recruitment of seafarers from India.
  • Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, has launched a joint Indo-Canadian science programme focussing on clean water technologies. According to Dr Singh, the new programme would be pursued through a joint collaboration between the Department of Science & Technology under the ministry and the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada.
  • Saama Technologies Incorporation, the Big Data analytics solutions and services company, headquartered in the Silicon Valley, plans to invest US$ 2 million to create the largest pure play data science and analytics hub in India.

Government Initiatives

The central government plans to soon institute a nation-wide consultation process with a view to develop the first publicly accessible Science and Technology policy. The policy ‘Vision S&T 2020’ would articulate the country’s future towards self-reliance and technological independence in the 21st century.

The Department of Information and Technology plans to create a separate online portal for inviting ideas from technology innovators, with the objective to provide them with assistance including finance (bankrolling), and thus help to boost initiatives like Startup India and Digital India.

Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry, has launched the Technology Acquisition and Development Fund (TADF) under the National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) to facilitate acquisition of Clean, Green and Energy Efficient Technologies, by Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous organisation under the Union Ministry of Culture, is engaged in the establishment of Science Centres across the country. NCSM is developing a Science City at Guwahati, Assam, which would be handed over to the Government of Assam for future operations and maintenance. The organisation has received proposals from various state governments for setting up of such Science Cities. NCSM has undertaken the Science Centres/Cities projects in a phased manner depending on the availability of resources, project handling capacity of NCSM, and existing level of science centre activities in a particular state.

In the Union Budget 2015–16, the following initiatives have been taken in the field of science and technology:

  • The space budget includes funds for Aditya-1, India’s first satellite to study the Sun, and is intended to launch after 2017.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced funds for two more IIT centres and five more medical schools in the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) system.
  • Overall, the Ministry of Science and Technology, which is India's main agency for disbursing research grants, received Rs 95 billion (US$ 1.42 billion) in the Union Budget 2015–16.
  • Some other government initiatives undertaken recently are as follows:
  • The Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Resources collaborated through joint expert committee meetings, inter-ministerial consultations, and delegations to clarify R&D priorities to develop energy-efficient and environment-friendly technologies. Thus far, three multi-institutional networked virtual Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centres on solar energy, second-generation biofuels, and building energy efficiency have been set up. The research carried so far has resulted in 72 publications in peer reviewed journals and filing of one patent.
  • India's leading research centres are seeking more scientific partnerships for the country's remote areas, particularly the northeastern states while working with the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research (CEFIPRA). CEFIPRA is India's first and France's sole bilateral organisation, committed to promoting collaboration between the scientific communities of the two countries across the knowledge innovation chain. Established in 1987, the centre receives financial support from the Department of Science and Technology under the central government, and the foreign affairs ministry of France.
  • Mr Y S Chowdary, Union Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, said the ministry plans to establish an Indian Innovation Centre (IIC) and all states of the country will be its members. He also expressed the need to establish a science city in every state of the country. 
  • The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has developed and deployed technologies for the use of atomic energy in the areas of electricity generation, nuclear power, agriculture, food preservation, healthcare, isotope hydrology, R&D and deployment in areas pertaining to national security.

The Road Ahead

India is aggressively working towards establishing itself as a leader in industrialisation and technological development. Significant developments in the nuclear energy sector are likely as India looks to expand its nuclear capacity. Moreover, nanotechnology is expected to transform the Indian pharmaceutical industry. The agriculture sector is also likely to undergo a major revamp, with the government investing heavily for the technology-driven Green Revolution. The Government of India, through the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy-2013, among other things, aspires to position India among the world’s top five scientific powers.

Exchange rate used INR 1 = 0.015 as on December 17, 2015

References – Media reports, Press Releases, Press Information Bureau (PIB)

Disclaimer: ECI is not responsible for any errors in the information