Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earmarked ₹50,000 crore over five years for the creation of a National Research Foundation (NRF) — an umbrella body that is expected to fund research across a range of disciplines, from science and technology to humanities.
Ms. Sitharaman had first announced such a foundation in her 2019 Budget speech after it was proposed in a draft of India’s New Education Policy (NEP). “It [NRF] will ensure that the overall research ecosystem in the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national priority thrust areas.”
The NRF will also seed and build research capacity at universities and colleges through a formal mechanism of mentoring. It will also catalyse research at universities and colleges that have until now not been big players in research. The NRF will also help build the capacity to do research through an institutionalised mentoring mechanism, involving expert researchers from premier institutions of the country, the NEP document notes.
The NRF would be an autonomous body and represented by all major research and education bodies, said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology.
“This would be cross-disciplinary and also ensure that research — already being funded by Science Ministries, for instance — wouldn’t be duplicated,” he told The Hindu.
Cuts in allocation
The budget allocations for key science departments saw cuts, though most are expected to spend — until March — below what was apportioned last financial year.
For instance, the Ministry of Earth Sciences was budgeted ₹2,074 crore for 2020-21, but is expected to spend only ₹1,304 crore. This year it has been allotted ₹1,901 crore.
The Department of Science and Technology was budgeted ₹6,313 crore last year, but will likely spend ₹5,012 crore. It has been allotted ₹6,071 crore this year.
The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was given ₹5,385 crore but its expenses are likely to be ₹4,251 crore. It has been given ₹5,241 crore.
The Department of Biotechnology has seen a hike in allotment and been given ₹3,502 crore. Last year, it spent ₹2,300 crore and was budgeted ₹2,786 crore.