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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Democratizing Research : Opportunity under STI policy 2013 ( part 3)

How much we spend on promoting Science, Technology and Innovation? NSTMIS of DST collects some data every year on R&D. The objectives of STI can be broadly grouped under 3 heads: RESEARCH, TECHNOLOGY, INNOVATION and let us look at major opportunities in each group.

As anywhere in the world, majority of the funding for research in India comes through the government.  Both DBT as well as DST, have various extramural funding schemes. Other agencies that fund extramural grants include Department of scientific and Industrial research- DSIR, Department of Atomic Energy- DAE, Department of Ocean Development and Earth Sciences and Department of space – to name a few. 
Many of the funding bodies including DST and DBT, have autonomous research institutes/universities under their umbrella. These institutions receive their core funding through one of the agencies. Each also routes core/intramural funding towards autonomous institutions that fall under the umbrella of a particular agency. For example the IISERs are all MHRD institutions while the NISERs are DAE funded. Similarly ICAR, ICMR and CSIR fund over 20 institutions each all around India. Apart from funding research, the agencies also award small grants for Symposia and workshops. They also award travel grants for attending conferences.

Opportunity area 1: Give autonomy for centrally funded institutes

Institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs); Central Universities; institutions under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Council for Agricultural Research and Indian Council for Medical Research; and those supported by the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology and the Ministry of Earth Sciences are all designed to be autonomous. The governing bodies of a number of them are chaired by eminent scientists or scholars. 
These institutes get direct funding from administrative ministry as well as indirect funding from scientific departments under various programs. They often complain of bureaucratic processes of scientific departments managing the promotional programs. Combining direct and indirect funding and transferring the total as budgetary support would bring more transparency and improve the accountability of the funded institutes.  

Opportunity area 2: providing a lifeline for non-government research and academic institutes

How much money is available for non-government institutes? A cursory look at the data of NSTMIS for extra mural research in Engineering and Technology for the year 2009-10 shows the total budgetary support to all private institutes in the nation is less than Rs 10 crores. Not surprising considering the system of expert evaluation where the same expert looks both at proposals of IIT/ IISc/CSIR and an upcoming private educational institute. Excluding the centrally funded institutes as highlighted in opportunity area 1 would provide for fair competition to thousands of researchers not drawing salary from treasury.
Opportunity area 3: Use money collected as R&D Cess for technology development
The government collects R&D cess @5% on imported technology and supposed to spend it on technology development. Statistics available on TDB site for the period 1967-2003 shows that out of Rs 625 crores collected only Rs 333 crores were transferred to TDB. The current figures are not available. There has been a jump on technology payments since liberalisation and  relative decline in TDB funding, it may be assumed that total funds released to technology development programs like TDB, TDDB, NMITLI, SIBRI etc is much less than collected from industry. 
Instead of planning commission allocating budget for various technology promotion programs seperately, the R&D cess collected from Industry may be transferred fully to TDB to fund only technology development programs of Industry.
Opportunity Area 4: give tax concession for crowd funding of start-ups
There are few programs directly supporting innovators like TePP, Incbation support etc with meager allocations. The Indian public can invest several times more in new technology ventures if only investment in start-ups prior to IPO entitles individual investor to tax concession like Rajiv Gandhi Equity Scheme. Is Rs 100 crore tax concession too much to ask for a nation with trillion dollar budget?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Democratizing Research : Opportunity under STI policy 2013 ( part 2)

Difference between Science policy and technology policy
 This can be best understood by looking at the Clinton-Gore Technology Policy  In 1992 Clinton & Gore team announced USA’s technology policy. As a policy document it was an important statement for its clarity and lucidity. First they say why a technology policy is necessary, is not a science policy adequate?
 Clinton-Gore Technology Policy
 After world war II, Vannevar Bush defined the framework for US Science policy. It made the United states a world leader in science; made America’s university education and research system the best in the world. In introducing a technology policy they enlisted the various challenges faced by their nation and reasoned Science policy alone does not address those issues. To quote:

` in essence, science policy is a supply –push policy in which the government supports science education, basic research and some applied R&D that relates to specific nations missions. During the cold war, this policy worked well because US industry dominated world markets and massive US defense spending for high tech weapons systems provided a big demand for leading edge technology. Today, however, US industry faces intense international competition and the global civilian market not the department of Defense is the testing ground for most of the new technologies. Technology policy picks up where science policy leaves off. It is not limited to just research and development. It also focuses on the rapid application of new ideas. The absence of a coherent technology policy is one of the key reasons why America is trailing some of its major competitors in translating its strength in basic research into commercial success and why America is losing its lead in technology. Even in the technologies where we still lead, we face the challenge of translating the world’s best research into the worlds best jobs for American workers’.

The Clinton-Gore technology policy consisted of 6 broad initiatives that together would restore America’s technological leadership. They were: Building a 21st century technology infrastructure, Establishing education and training programs for a high skill   workforce,             Investing in technology programs that empower America’s small businesses,              Refocusing federal R&D program on critical technologies that enhance industrial performance,                Leveraging the national R&D investment, Creating a world class business environment for private sector investment and innovation.

Science policy is concerned with building infrastructure to take care of supply of qualified scientists and researchers. Technology policy deals with networking and managerial infrastructure. The role of state in S&T does not end with providing S&T infrastructure, like universities or research institutes. The state has to play a critical and leading role in providing S&T policy and management infrastructure. The economic development from technology comes along with increasing human skills and most critically that it is cooperation and not competition that ultimately encourages science and technology based economic growth. 

Technology policy ,1983
 In 1983 the Government of India, enunciated the Technology policy emphasizing technological self-reliance. The basic objective of the technology Policy was the development of indigenous technology and efficient absorption and adaptation of imported technology appropriate to national priorities and resources. Its aims are:

a)        Attain technological competence and self-reliance, to reduce vulnerability, particularly in strategic and critical areas, making the maximum use of indigenous resources;
b)        Provide the maximum gainful and satisfying employment to all strata of society, with emphasis on the employment of women and weaker sections of society;
c)         Use traditional skills and capabilities, making them commercially competitive;
d)         Ensure the correct mix between mass production technologies and production by the masses;
e)         Ensure maximum development with minimum capital outlay;
f)          Identify obsolescence of technology in use and arrange for modernisation of both equipment and technology;
g)         Develop technologies which are internationally competitive, particularly those with export potential;
h)         Improve production speedily through greater efficiency and fuller utilisation of existing capabilities and enhance the quality and reliability of performance and output;
i)          Reduce demands on energy, particularly energy from non-renewable sources;
j)          Ensure harmony with the environment, preserve the ecological balance and improve the quality of the habitat; and
k)         Recycle waste material and make full utilisation of by-products.

S&T policy 2003
 Recognizing the changing context of the scientific enterprise and to meet present national needs in the new era of globalisation, Government enunciated the following objectives of its Science and Technology Policy:

a)         advance scientific temper and integrate S&T with all spheres of national activity.
b)         Ensure food security  .
c)         Use S&T capabilities for poverty alleviation, generation of employment etc.
d)         Foster scientific research in universities.
e)         Encourage innovation in areas of relevance for society like soil and water management, human and animal nutrition, fisheries, renewable energy, communication, transportation.
f)          Strengthen enabling mechanisms that relate to technology development from concept to commercialisation.
g)         Establish an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime and encourage domestic commercialisation of such patented inventions in the public interest.
 (to be continued)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Democratizing Research : Opportunity under STI policy 2013 ( part 1)

India announced Science , Technology and Innovation Policy (2013) during the Science congress. A look at past policies before commenting on opportunities for democratizing research under the new policy.

India is the first among developing countries to come up with a science policy. The scientific policy recognized the utility of science for development and articulated the aims clearly. The scientific policy resolution of 1958 stated that:

` the dominating feature of the contemporary world is the intense cultivation of science on a large scale, and its application to meet a country’s requirements. It is this, which, for the first time in man’s history, has given to the common man in countries advanced in science, a standard of living and social and cultural amenities, which were once confined to a very small privileged minority of the population. Science has led to the growth and diffusion of culture to an extent never possible before. It has not only radically altered man’s material environment, but, what is of still deeper significance, it has provided now tools of thought and extended man’s mental horizon. It has thus influenced even the basic value of life and given to civilization a new vitality and a new dynamism’.

Accordingly the government decided the aims of scientific policy as under.

i)          To foster, promote and sustain, by all appropriate means, the cultivation of science, and scientific research in all aspects- pure, applied and educational;
ii)         To ensure an adequate supply, within the country , of research scientists of highest quality, and to recognize their work as an important component of the strength of the nation;
iii)        To encourage and initiate , with all possible speed, programmes for the training of scientific and technical personnel, on a scale adequate to fulfil the country’s needs in science and education, agriculture and industry and defence;
iv)        To ensure that the creative talent of men and women is encouraged and finds full scope in scientific activity;
v)         To encourage individual initiative for the acquisition and disssemination of knowledge and for the discovery of new knowledge, in an atmosphere of academic freedom;
vi)        and, in general, to secure for the people of the country all the benefits that can accrue from the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge.

Excellent centers of learning were established like Indian Institute of Technology at Bombay, Chennai, Kharagpur, Kanpur, Delhi and over hundred Research laboratories and agriculture extension centers were set up.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Innovation in Electronic System Design & Manufacturing (iESDM): Training program in Bangalore ,

A key training program is being launched by Techie Planet Education Services Pvt Ltd, Bangalore. This program is focussed on Innovation in Electronic System Design & Manufacturing (iESDM) in collaboration with Ministry of MSME. The 2-day Innovation Readiness Series course is delivered by University of Texas at Austin, the 2-day Embedded course by Texas Instruments and a free 2-day Skills Development course (Value clarification & Goal setting, Interpersonal skills, Positive Mental Attitude, Breaking the Public Speaking Barrier & Challenges faced and how to handle them) by Guinness World Record Holder Kathiravan M Pethi.

The first set of 6-days course will be delivered during the weeks of 21st January, 28th January and 11th February. The course is ideal for industry professionals, students and academia. There is a very special fee for students, subsidized by the consortia delivering the training.

Any interested participants may please contact Mr Naveen Kumar, Marketing Head, Techie Planet, on his mobile +91)+91 9986968777.
Venue: Techie Planet, #360, Sri Sai Padma Arcade, Above SBI Bank, Ramagondanahalli, Varthur Main Road, Whitefield Post, Bangalore-560066 Tel: 080- 49131313/312/314

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Innovators meet, Hyderabad, 19th January: where `Creative genius' meets `Domain expert'

In my paper `Raising Creative Class in India' I argued that Creativity is complimentary to conventional high quality engineering, which must be present at an adequate level to permit a high quality solution. Explained it using the Cusp at left.

The model is graphical in form and can be regarded as a curved surface with a pleat forming a cusp where the two fold lines meet. Top surface denotes success and lower surface failure. The vertical axis is the potential, the best possible solution to the design problem, represented by quality of design from low to high. The two horizontal axes are the control factors. Control factor 1 is invention representing creativity and control factor 2 is convention representing conventional reasoning or logical rigour. All the points on the top surface are stable and all points on the underside of the sheet are unstable or inaccessible. Points on the two fold are semi-stable.
Path a-b represents the approach to the problem in a conventional pattern without attempting to introduce new and untested ideas. The first approach is an conventional engineering solution based on established practice and it can provide satisfactory answer to the problem . If it fails, the graph indicates a return down the slope to the failure surface. The other extreme is path a-g, which indicates a totally new solution unrestrained and unhindered by considerations of feasibility. These are esoteric thoughts but as solutions failures. Path a-c is a conventional engineering approach with a small creative content, path a-d has higher creative content approaching an optimal solution. Path a-f represents case of failure when the approach has high level of creativity but low level of logical rigour. It shows graphically that a slight deficiency of knowledge in a subject can have a disproportionate effect on the outcome. If this deficiency is overcome then this path will become path a-d.
This model shows quality of design depends on high creative inputs but creativity must be backed by high level of logical rigour. Discontinuity arises in path a-g. This is the line of `lateral thinking’. An example given by Bano is the problem of a factory effluent that pollutes the river on the bank of which it stands. The Proposal is to make the system self-regulatory by arranging factory to use for its process the water polluted by it. Path a-g says shift the factory upstream of itself so that its effluent is drawn into its intake. This is a logical impossibility. Line s-h says the same result can be obtained if the effluent discharge pipe is taken to the river upstream of the factory intake. The lIne h-d is the conventional engineering action needed to realise this solution. Line h-f indicates catastrophic failure. The logical path a-d may also fail to generate a solution and become distorted into the path a-e-f , returning to the failure level of the catastrophe surface.

Indian Innovators Association is organizing the Innovators meet on 19th to bring together Creative Genius and Domain Expert. Creative community will be represented by innovators and organisations such as  pallesrujana, IKP KP, Hyderabad Angels. Domain experts get represented by local institutes with their faculty, researchers and students.

Venue: Seminar Hall, B Block, Patrons Bhavan,  VNR VJIET
  • Bachupally, Nizampet(SO),
  • Hyderabad-500090, 
Timing : 01.30PM to 04.30PM

  • Contact person: SVSS Srinivasaraju, coordinator ED Cell, (M) 9885206066