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PM says China overtaking Indian science, R&D spending to double

Bhubaneswar: Admitting that India’s position in the world of science was being overtaken by countries like China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday announced that spending on research and development (R&D) would more than double by the end of the Twelfth Plan.

Inaugurating the 99th Indian Science Congress (ISC) here, Manmohan Singh said: “Over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China.”

“Things are changing, but we cannot be satisfied with what has been achieved. We need to do much more to change the face of Indian science. We must strengthen the supply chain of the science sector. While it is true that science and engineering continue to attract the best students, many of them later opt for other careers because of poor prospects in science,” he said.

More than 15,000 delegates, including scientists and students, are participating in the Jan 3-7 event being held at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT University). The theme of the conference is “Science and Technology for Inclusive Innovation – Role of Women”.

The prime minister also emphasised the need for increasing spending in the science sector. “As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of GDP spent on research and development in India has been too low and stagnant. We must aim to increase the total R&D spending as a percentage of GDP to 2 percent by the end of the 12th Plan Period from the current level of about 0.9 percent,” he said.

He said this can only be achieved if industry, which contributes only 25 percent of the total R&D expenditure today, increases its contribution. “I believe public sector undertakings, especially in the energy sector, should play a major role in this expansion. We have to increase public-private partnerships and catalyse significantly increased interaction between publicly-owned S&T (science and technology) institutions and industry,” he said.

According to Manmohan Singh, it was in some ways ironic that foreign companies like GE and Motorola had created world class technology hubs in India, while our own industry has not done so, except perhaps in the pharma sector. “We need to look at ways of incentivising private R&D investment under Indian conditions.”

He also underlined the need for transparency in selection procedures at institutions and also the importance of gender audits. In line with this, the ISC is being led by Geetha Bali, vice chancellor Karnataka State Women’s University, Bijapur.

She is the fourth woman in the history of ISC to head the Congress. The last time was in 1999 when the meet was held in Chennai with distinguished biologist Manju Sharma presiding.

For the first time a Women’s Science Congress is being held parallel to ISC and it will be inaugurated by Indian ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao Thursday. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will also take part in the event.

The five-day event will see technical sessions, plenary sessions, vision talks, panel discussions, public lectures, a ‘Pride of India’ expo and other programmes. Like the previous editions of the event, there will also be a Children’s Science Congress, where school children from different parts of India would display models and charts prepared by them.

The children’s event will be inaugurated Wednesday by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The ISC inauguration Tuesday was also attended by Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Minister of State Ashwani Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

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