Indian government seeks public consultation on its Draft 5th National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy

by Jan 7, 2021Science & Technology0 comments

As India and the world reorient in the present context of the COVID-19 crisis, a new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) was initiated at this crucial juncture during mid-2020. For India to march ahead on a sustainable development pathway to include economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability for achieving an Atmanirbhar Bharat”, a greater emphasis may be needed on promoting traditional knowledge systems, developing indigenous technologies and encouraging grassroots innovations. The emergence of disruptive and impactful technologies poses new challenges and simultaneously greater opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a compelling opportunity for R&D institutions, academia and industry to work in unison for sharing of purpose, synergy, collaboration and cooperation.

The new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy aims to bring about profound changes through short-term, medium-term, and long-term mission mode projects by building a nurtured ecosystem that promotes research and innovation on the part of both individuals and organizations. It aims to foster, develop, and nurture a robust system for evidence and stakeholder-driven STI planning, information, evaluation, and policy research in India. The objective of the policy is to identify and address strengths and weaknesses of the Indian STI ecosystem to catalyse socio-economic development of the country and also make the Indian STI ecosystem globally competitive.

The new policy, STIP, revolves around the core principles of being decentralized, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven, and inclusive. Also, it aims to bring in the concept of dynamic policy with a robust policy governance mechanism incorporating features such as implementation strategy, periodic review, policy evaluation, feedback, and adaptation, and most importantly, a timely exit strategy for various policy instruments.

Keeping above in view, a STIP policy document has been finalized and placed here after a detailed 4 track process of consultations during last 6 months beginning from May 2020. The process so far involved nearly 300 rounds of consultations with more than 40,000 stakeholders well distributed in terms of region, age, gender, education, economic status, etc. The STIP Secretariat was coordinated, supported, and guided by the Office of PSA, NITI Aayog, and DST. The formulation process, by design, envisioned as a very inclusive and participative model with intense interconnectedness among different tracks of activities.

Now the government invites suggestions, inputs and comments on the draft STIP that will be invaluable towards finalization of the policy document. The suggestions could be latest by Monday, the 25th January, 2021 on email: india-stip[at]gov[dot]in

The executive summary of the draft

A broad summary of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) is given as under-

1. STIP will lead to the establishment of a National STI Observatory that will act as a central repository for all kinds of data related to and generated from the STI ecosystem. It will encompass an open centralised database platform for all financial schemes, programmes, grants and incentives existing in the ecosystem. The Observatory will be centrally coordinated and organized in distributed, networked and interoperable manner among relevant stakeholders.

2. A future-looking, all-encompassing Open Science Framework will be built to provide access to scientific data, information, knowledge, and resources to everyone in the country and all who are engaging with the Indian STI ecosystem on an equal partnership basis. All data used in and generated from publicly-funded research will be available to everyone under FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) terms. A dedicated portal to provide access to the outputs of such publicly-funded research will be created through Indian Science and Technology Archive of Research (INDSTA). Additionally, full text of final accepted author versions of manuscripts (postprints and optionally preprints) supported through public funding will be deposited to an institutional or central repository. The policy will create pathways for Draft STIP Doc 1.4 Dec 2020 3 the Government to negotiate with journal publishers for a “one nation, one subscription” policy whereby, in return for one centrally-negotiated payment, all individuals in India will have access to journal articles.

3. Strategies to improve STI education making it inclusive at all levels and more connected with the economy and society will be developed through processes of skill building, training and infrastructure development. Engaged Universities will be created to promote interdisciplinary research to address community needs. Higher Education Research Centres (HERC) and Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) will be established to provide research inputs to policymakers and bring together stakeholders. Online learning platforms will be developed using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to address the issue of accessibility and to promote research and innovation at all levels. Teaching-learning centres (TLCs) will be established to upskill faculty members which in turn will improve the quality of education.

4. With an aim to expand the financial landscape of the STI ecosystem, each department/ ministry in the central, the state and the local governments, public sector enterprises, private sector companies and startups will set up an STI unit with a minimum earmarked budget to pursue STI activities. Extramural funding will be diversified and enhanced to double the share of extramural R&D support of the Central government agencies in the Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) in the next five years. Each State will earmark a percentage of the state allocation for STI-related activities under a separate budget head. Foreign Multi National Companies (MNCs) will collaborate with domestic private and public sector entities on projects aligned to national needs and priorities. STI investments will be increased through boosting fiscal incentives, enhancing support to industry, especially Medium Small Micro Enterprises (MSMEs), for pursuing research through innovation support schemes and other relevant means on a need basis. Hybrid funding models with enhanced participation from public and private sectors will be created through the Advanced Missions in Innovative Research Ecosystem (ADMIRE) initiative. To ensure systematic governance of the expanded STI financing landscape, an STI Development Bank will be set up to facilitate a corpus fund for investing in direct long term investments in select strategic areas on various long and medium-term projects, commercial ventures, start-ups, technology diffusion and licensing etc. General Financial Rules (GFR) will be suitably amended for large scale mission mode programmes and projects of national importance and to facilitate ease of doing research. Efficient disbursement, communication, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms (time-bound peer reviews along with technical and transactional audits) will be set up to support conducive investment.

5. The policy aims to create a fit for purpose, accountable research ecosystem promoting translational as well as foundational research in India in alignment with global standards. Research and Innovation Excellence Frameworks (RIEF) will be developed Draft STIP Doc 1.4 Dec 2020 4 to enhance the quality of research along with promotion of engagements with relevant stakeholders. Proper guidelines will be formulated to enhance the operating and safety protocols related to R&D. Research culture will be reoriented to recognize social impacts along with academic achievements.

6. The policy envisions strengthening of the overall innovative ecosystem, fostering Science & Technology (S&T)- enabled entrepreneurship, and improving participation of the grassroots levels in the research and innovation ecosystem. An institutional architecture to integrate Traditional Knowledge Systems (TKS) and grassroots innovation into the overall education, research and innovation system will be established. Collaborations between grassroots innovators and scientists will be facilitated through joint research projects, fellowships and scholarships. Grassroots innovators will also be supported for registration, claiming the Intellectual Property Right (IPR), filing of patent, or any type of legal claim with the help of Higher Education Institute (HEIs). Advanced tools based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be used for curation, preservation and maintenance of heritage knowledge.

7. The policy will promote technology self-reliance and indigenization to achieve the larger goal of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. A two-way approach of indigenous development of technology as well as technology indigenization will be adopted and focused upon in alignment with national priorities, like sustainability and social benefit, and resources. International engagements will be facilitated to gain essential know-how towards creation and development of indigenious technologies. A Technology Support Framework will be created to facilitate this development. A Strategic Technology Board (STB) will be constituted to act as a link connecting different strategic departments. A Strategic Technology Development Fund (STDF) will be created to incentivize the private sector and HEIs. Spin-off technologies resulting from the larger projects will be commercialized and used for civilian purposes. Knowledge and evidence driven approach will be used for identifying critical sectors for the development of disruptive technologies.

8. The policy provides renewed impetus to the mainstreaming of equity and inclusion within the STI ecosystem. An India-centric Equity & Inclusion (E&I) charter will be developed for tackling all forms of discrimination, exclusions and inequalities in STI leading to the development of an institutional mechanism. An inclusive culture will be facilitated through equal opportunity for women along with candidates from ruralremote areas, marginalised communities, differently-abled individuals including Divyangjans, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds, proportionate representation of women in selection/ evaluation committees, addressing of ageism related issues and consideration of experienced women scientists for leadership roles and regular gender and social audits in academic and professional organizations. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community will be included Draft STIP Doc 1.4 Dec 2020 5 in gender equity conversations with special provisions to safeguard their rights and promote their representation and retention in STI.

9. The policy will work towards mainstreaming science communication and public engagement through the development of capacity building avenues through creative and cross-disciplinary platforms, research initiatives, and outreach platforms. Locally relevant and culturally-context-specific models will be developed along with promoting cross disciplinary research in Science Communication. To improve Science teaching, the engagements between science communication and science pedagogy will be facilitated. Entertainment platforms such as television (TV), community radio, comics etc. will be explored to take science to the last mile. NonGovernmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society groups will be involved through popular science programmes and citizen science projects at local and regional levels. Science Media Centres will be established at national and regional levels to connect scientists with media persons and science communicators.

10. STIP charts pathways to a dynamic, evidence-informed and proactive international S&T engagement strategy. Engagement with the Diaspora will be intensified through attracting the best talent back home through fellowships, internships schemes and research opportunities expanded and widely promoted across different ministries. Appropriate facilitating channels will be created for remote contribution as well. An engagement portal exclusively for the Indian scientific diaspora will be created. ‘S&T for Diplomacy’ will be complemented with Diplomacy for S&T ’. International Knowledge Centres, preferably virtual, will be established to promote global knowledge and talent exchange. The number of S&T Counsellors will be increased with redefinition and revitalisation of their roles.

11. A decentralized institutional mechanism balancing top-down and bottom-up approaches, focussing on administrative and financial management, research governance, data and regulatory frameworks and system interconnectedness, will be formulated for a robust STI Governance. Appropriate mechanisms will be set up at the highest levels for the overall (including inter-sectoral, inter-ministerial, CentreState and inter-State) governance of the STI ecosystem. A robust Research and Innovation (R&I) governance framework will be set up to facilitate, stimulate and coordinate R&D activities across the sectors. A Capacity Building Authority will be set up to help plan, design, implement and monitor capacity building programmes at the national and state level. A strong STI collaboration framework to strengthen existing channels and create new ones for enhanced interconnectedness among all relevant stakeholders at the domestic and global levels will be created, promoting inter-institutional, inter-ministerial, interdepartmental and cross-sectoral vertical and horizontal linkages and multi-stakeholder partnerships, to pursue projects in alignment with the national priorities.

12. The policy outlines the institutional mechanism for STI policy governance along with the implementation strategy and roadmap and monitoring and evaluation framework for the policy and programs and their interlinkages. To serve all the aspects of STI policy governance and to provide the knowledge support to institutionalised governance mechanisms , a STI Policy Institute will be established to build and maintain a robust interoperable STI metadata architecture. It will conduct and promote nationally and internationally relevant STI policy research and strengthen the science advice mechanism at national, sub-national and international levels. It will develop long term capacity building programs for STI policy through training and fellowships. An implementation strategy and roadmap will be devised for STI policy and programs along with continuous monitoring and timely evaluation mechanisms.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy will be guided by the following broad vision; (i) To achieve technological self-reliance and position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come. (ii) To attract, nurture, strengthen and retain critical human capital through a ‘people centric’ science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem. (iii) To double the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Dimestic Expenditture on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years. (iv) To build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aspiration to achieve the highest level of global recognitions and awards in the coming decade.

To capture the aspirations of a new, future-ready India, by ensuring active participation, shared responsibility and equitable ownership of all stakeholders; transforming the national STI landscape maintaining the delicate balance between fortifying India’s indigenous capacity and nurturing meaningful global interconnectedness.

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