Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, which aspires to position India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020, by presenting its first copy to President Pranab Mukherjee at the Centenary Session of the Indian Science Congress in Kolkata on Thursday.
PM unveils new science policy in Kolkata
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the new Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy 2013, which aspires to position India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020, by presenting its first copy to President Pranab Mukherjee at the inauguration of the Centenary Session of the Indian Science Congress here today.
"It is an ambitious goal. It aims to produce and nurture talent in science, to stimulate research in our universities, to develop young leaders in the field of science, to reward performance, to create a policy environment for greater private sector participation in research and innovation and to forge international alliances and collaborations to meet the national agenda," Dr Singh said in his address at the session.
The Twelfth Five Year Plan, which was approved by the National Development Council (NDC) a few days ago, outlines a number of initiatives which will make this possible, he said.
The Prime Minister had last year been elected as General President of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) in its centenary year.
Dr Singh said the theme of the congress, "Science for Shaping the Future of India", reflects the dream of every generation of Indian scientists.
"Faster growth over the next few decades, more sustainable development based on food and energy security, and socio-economic inclusion made possible by rapid growth of basic social services, such as education and health, are all crucial for defining India’s future. Science, technology and innovation all have an important role to play in achieving these objectives," he said.
Dr Singh said that, as India seeks a sustained growth of its national income, it must endeavour to harness the tools of science to cater to the needs of the underprivileged and to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
"Nearly 65 percent of our people live in rural areas. The increase in their living standards depends greatly on the growth of agricultural production and productivity. The Twelfth Five Year Plan assumes that a sustained growth of our agriculture at the rate of 4 percent per annum is essential for the achievement of food security for our country. This growth is constrained by shortages of water and also of land. We need new breakthroughs in water-saving technologies of cultivation, enhancement of land productivity and development of climate-resilient varieties. This transformation of agriculture must be the top priority concern of our public policies, including science and technology policies," he said.
Towards this end, he said, the country must, as a society, enhance the spread of the scientific temper. "Our younger generations must adopt a science-based value-system in order to benefit from what science can offer and to make up for lost time. Complex issues, be they genetically modified food or nuclear energy or exploration of outer space, cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment. A scientific approach and understanding of these issues are therefore as vital as our core scientific capabilities," he said.
He said that, for this, the country must invest in popularizing science, not only in schools and colleges but also in homes, workplaces and communities through all available communication methods, like the high-speed optical fibre National Knowledge Network.
"Eventually, science must help in establishing an inclusive society that seeks to solve major social problems through the application of science," he said.
The Prime Minister said that, secondly, scholarship and research must be informed by a keen awareness of the country's basic social and economic realities. "Given the limited resources that we, as a nation, are able to devote to scientific research, it is imperative that we give priority to meeting those challenges which are fundamental to the transformation of our economy," he stressed.
He said that, apart from the need to transform India's agriculture, there were other concerns which required priority attention such as energy security, sanitation, safe drinking water, labour intensive manufactures and universal healthcare at affordable cost.
"Our effort should be to carve out a niche for India’s leadership in some of these areas. Indian industry must play an active part in this process through in-house research centres and, more importantly, through enhanced academia-industry interaction," he said.
"Third, a holistic organizational approach is essential. There was a time when science took a lonely road, driven by individual enterprise rather than collective effort. This is sub-optimal in the innovation and knowledge-intensive world that is empowering the growth process today. We need cross-fertilization of disciplines and synergy among stakeholders. Government-sponsored research must be supplemented by research in private labs. Academic and research systems must foster innovation and entrepreneurship and therefore link up with those interested in commercial development," he said.
Dr Singh said that, in the last few years, the Government had taken some policy measures in this direction.
"We have encouraged sharing of and access to Government-owned data for research. We have also created new mechanisms like Innovation Complexes, Technology Business Incubator and Innovation Universities in an effort to bring about convergence of interests among the various players in science," he said.
Fourth, he said, international collaboration was vital for increasingly resource-intensive modern science to progress.
"Economic liberalization and economic growth over the last several years have made it possible for our scientists to collaborate meaningfully and confidently in the international arena. Let me cite only two outstanding examples. There was significant Indian collaboration with the European Centre for Nuclear Research on the Large Hadron Collider, which led to the discovery of what is believed to be the elusive Higgs boson. The other example is our work with a select group of countries on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.
"We must partner not only with established leaders in science and technology, but also with emerging innovation powerhouses, many of them in our region. We must also offer our expertise to our neighbours for collective prosperity and progress," he said.
"Finally, the quality of our scientific institutions will depend upon the quality of the students we can attract into science, the freedom we give them in pursuing scientific research and the human resource policies we follow in selecting leaders. We must select only the best and we must expand our search to the many Indian scientists abroad who may wish to return to India at least for some years," he said.
Dr Singh said that the solution of even the simplest of problems related to humanity’s pressing needs often required first-rate fundamental research.
"During the last eight years, we have tried to fill this gap by expanding the infrastructure of our scientific research and innovation. We have established five new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, sixteen new Central Universities, ten new National Institutes of Technology, six new R&D institutions in the field of biotechnology and five institutions in other branches. It is my hope that all this will significantly raise the quality of scientific research in our country," he said.
He said that the National Innovation Council had also brought the domain of innovation to the foreground, helping translation of knowledge into usable solutions.
Dr Singh said that an important step in this direction in the Eleventh Plan was the establishment of the National Science and Engineering Research Board as an autonomous funding body. As pointed out in the Twelfth Plan, this institution proposes to invest in researches of proven track record and establish about 200 to 250 centres based on a grant model with performance reward linkages, he said.
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