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About The National Research Foundation (NRF)


The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill in Parliament, placing once again the debate on science and technology funding in the spotlight.


GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Salient Features of the NRF Bill 2023
  2. National Research Foundation
  3. What is the Objective Behind Creating NRF?
  4. Significance of NRF

Salient Features of the NRF Bill 2023

The NRF Bill 2023, which aims to establish the National Research Foundation (NRF) in India, has several salient features, including:

  • Establishment of NRF: The bill provides for the establishment of the National Research Foundation, which will serve as a platform to support and promote research and development activities across universities, colleges, research institutions, and R&D laboratories in India.
  • Culture of Research and Innovation: The NRF aims to foster a culture of research and innovation by providing funding, resources, and support for R&D initiatives. It intends to create an environment that encourages and nurtures scientific research and innovation.
  • Repeal of SERB: The proposed bill repeals the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), which was established by Parliament in 2008. The SERB, which operates under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will be subsumed into the NRF. This consolidation is aimed at streamlining and strengthening the research funding process.
  • Funding and Support: The NRF will play a crucial role in providing funding and support for scientific and technological research projects, including funding for S&T start-ups, establishment of incubators, and financing science-related initiatives in central and state universities.

National Research Foundation

The NRF, or National Research Foundation, is a proposed organization that will be established in India to promote and support research and development activities across universities, colleges, research institutions, and R&D laboratories.

Here are some key points about the NRF:

Establishment and Cost:

  • The NRF will be set up as per the recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP). It is estimated to have a total cost of ₹50,000 crore from 2023-28.
  • The government will contribute ₹10,000 crore over five years, and around ₹36,000 crore is expected to come from the private sector as investments into research.

Role of DST:

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be an “administrative” department of the NRF.
  • This means that the DST will work under the NRF’s umbrella, and its functions and responsibilities will be aligned with the goals and objectives of the NRF.

Governing Board:

  • The NRF will have a Governing Board that will oversee its operations and decision-making.
  • The Prime Minister of India will serve as the ex-officio President of the Board, while the Union Minister of Science & Technology and Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
  • The Board will also include eminent researchers and professionals from various disciplines.

Executive Council:

  • The NRF’s functioning will be governed by an Executive Council, which will be chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
  • The Executive Council will play a key role in formulating policies, making strategic decisions, and ensuring the effective implementation of NRF’s initiatives.

Funding for the NRF:

  • The NRF will have a budget of ₹50,000 crore for five years.
  • The government’s share will be 28% (₹14,000 crore), while the remaining 72% (₹36,000 crore) will come from the private sector.
  • The government’s share is expected to increase to ₹20,000 crore per year in the future.
  • Out of the government’s share, ₹4,000 crore will be sourced from the existing Science and Engineering Research Board’s budget, which will be included in the NRF.
  • Additionally, the government has allocated an extra ₹10,000 crore over the next five years for the NRF.
Comparison with Other Economies:
  • The increase in India’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) through the NRF is considered modest, constituting less than 2% of GERD.
  • When comparing GDP and research spending with other major economies like the U.S. and China, India’s investment in research and development is significantly lower.
  • In 2017-18, India’s GERD was ₹1,13,825 crore, which was nearly 24 times less than the U.S. and China during the same period, despite India’s GDP being much smaller.
  • Over the past five years, the gap between India’s research spending and that of other countries has further widened.

What is the Objective Behind Creating NRF?

The creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF) in India is driven by several objectives aimed at promoting equitable and increased research funding, fostering collaboration, and encouraging participation from the private sector.

Here are the key objectives behind the establishment of the NRF:

Equitable Research Funding:

  • The NRF aims to ensure that scientific research is conducted and funded in a fair and equitable manner.
  • Currently, prestigious institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) receive a significant portion of research funding, while state universities receive comparatively less (around 10%).
  • The NRF intends to address this disparity and provide greater research funding opportunities to a wider range of institutions.

Prioritization of Research Funding:

  • The NRF, through its Executive Council, will prioritize research funding and determine the areas that require support and investment.
  • This strategic approach will enable the NRF to allocate resources to areas of national importance, emerging disciplines, and societal needs.

Collaboration and Partnerships:

  • The NRF aims to foster collaboration among industry, academia, government departments, and research institutions.
  • It seeks to establish effective interfaces for engagement and contribution from industries, state governments, and scientific and line ministries.
  • By forging strong collaborations, the NRF intends to leverage the strengths and resources of different stakeholders to drive research and innovation.

Policy Framework and Regulatory Processes:

  • The NRF will play a crucial role in creating a policy framework and regulatory processes that encourage collaboration and increased spending by industries on research and development (R&D).
  • This includes establishing mechanisms to streamline participation, facilitate knowledge exchange, and incentivize private sector investment in R&D activities.

Significance of NRF:

  • Addressing Regional Imbalances: One of the key significance of NRF is its focus on funding projects in peripheral, rural, and semi-urban areas that often remain neglected in terms of science funding. By prioritizing research in these areas, the NRF aims to bridge the regional imbalances and promote scientific development across the country.
  • Multidisciplinary Research: The NRF goes beyond traditional boundaries by promoting research not only in the natural sciences and engineering but also in social sciences, arts, and humanities. This multidisciplinary approach recognizes the interconnectedness of different fields and encourages holistic research that can address complex societal challenges and foster innovation.
  • Implementation of Missions: The NRF will play a crucial role in the implementation of various missions, such as the supercomputer mission or the quantum mission. These missions are aimed at advancing specific areas of scientific research and technological development. The NRF’s involvement will provide the necessary funding, support, and coordination to drive these missions effectively and achieve their objectives.
  • Research and Innovation Ecosystem: By bringing together academia, industry, government departments, and research institutions, the NRF strengthens the research and innovation ecosystem in the country. It creates a platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and partnerships, fostering an environment where research ideas can thrive, innovations can be commercialized, and societal impact can be realized.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024