Following its proposed creation in the draft of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Foundation is aimed at strengthening the overall research ecosystem in the country with a focus on “identified national priority thrust areas”.
“NRF is expected to bring about a change in the operational model by bringing in the different ministries as stakeholders and connect academic institutions with them. Once the ministries pool in their problems, NRF can provide the required funding to solve their problems via the research projects,” says IIT Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao.
India, he adds, invests only 0.6-0.7% of the GDP towards research and innovation while a country like South Korea spends up to 4% of GDP and even China, despite its large economy, spends around 2%. “In India, funding for science and technology has never been sufficient. For the first time, the government will allocate a percentage of GDP to NRF which is a major commitment.”
In the future, as the economy grows, more funding is likely to be available for research to become impactful. “If the IITs are to compete with the top ranked US or Chinese universities in the global rankings, what we receive as funding is just one fourth their amount. Quality of research will improve with more resources and high-end infrastructure from NRF which in effect would boost brain gain and encourage foreign collaborations,” Rao explains.
For NRF to elevate research capacity through an institutionalised mentoring mechanism, he suggests the introduction of funding schemes to enable top institutes to join hands with tier 2 or tier 3 institutes for research collaborations.
“Currently, our funding agencies and HEIs are fragmented which leads to duplication of researches. NRF, hopefully, will be a unifier, as it provides funds across domains for interdisciplinary research,” Rao says.
“The funding in the present scenario seems to be for only tech-based research, ignoring the social sciences and humanities. This has affected studies of our culture and people. NRF’s support of research across different fields is a welcome change,” says Pankaj Jalote, founding director of IIIT Delhi and author of Building Research Universities in India.
NRF, he adds, is expected to maintain parity in disbursal of funds to public and private institutions as per NEP 2020. “All universities in the US are considered at par for research funding. The top private research universities (such as MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon University etc) get the largest piece of the pie. With more funding and parity across institutions, the not so big players in research can prove their worth with time.”
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