India’s ambitious but not likely achievable goals are to become a developed nation through the use of science and technology (S&T) by 2020, rank within the top five globally for gross domestic product (GDP), and provide a developed-world standard of living. India has sustained both population growth and economic growth during the past 10 years, enhancing its domestic purchasing power and standard of living. Although its market is large, India remains a poor country with 80 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day. Its large English-speaking population has limited access to a first-tier S&T higher education. Its legal and financial systems are strong. The democratic government is highly bureaucratic, and new governments are formed about every five years. Its five-year (only) S&T plans place priority on reducing dependence on foreign technology through indigenous innovation. Security concerns about neighboring countries and protecting the coastline make development of dual-use technologies (such as nuclear technology, space and ocean exploration) a high priority. Developing capacities in health and agricultural technologies, information and communication technologies, biotechnology, and nanotechnology is also a priority. Obstacles to India’s advancement include high levels of poverty and a widening income gap, loss of talent through brain drain, a poor basic infrastructure, especially in rural areas, low agricultural productivity and literacy, little engagement of industry with research or research universities, and limited access to education and basic resources such as food, water, and medicine. The United States should support Indian growth and should strengthen the existing U.S.-India alliance.
India is widely recognized as a rising economic power. A decade of economic progress has propelled the second most populous nation in the world to command the fourth largest economy in terms of purchasing power (CIA, 2010), with GDP increasing by an average of 9 percent annually in the fiscal years 2004 to 2008.1 This remarkable growth has been accompanied by a pronounced rise in the purchasing power of the Indian middle class, fueling the expansion of domestic commercial markets, even though income inequality is growing, and poverty is still widespread. In addition to its large domestic market, India possesses many strengths that will play a crucial role in its achievement of major development goals: a young and growing population with expanding
access to education and jobs (Bloom et al., 2003), a strong private sector with experience in market institutions, a well-developed legal and financial system, and a large science, technology, and research infrastructure. Another advantage is the country’s population of highly trained English-speaking engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and other professionals.
Countering India’s strengths are the many social, political, and economic obstacles with which it must contend. India remains a relatively poor country, with per capita income below $700, a less than 2 percent share of global GDP, and only a 1 percent share of world trade. Moreover, 80 percent of India’s population lives on less than $2 a day, with more than 50 percent of the total labor force still engaged in agriculture (CIA, 2010). Barriers to further growth and development are many and include limited infrastructure and access to water, food, and medicine, widespread illiteracy, threatened national security in the face of regional and ethnic tensions, and stifling government bureaucracy.
India has long embraced science and technology (S&T) as a means to improve the national economy and the lives of its citizens. This continued political commitment is documented on a basic level in the Scientific Policy Resolution of 1958, the Technology Policy Statement 1983, and the 2003 Science and Technology Policy of the Government of India. These three initiatives have led to the creation of a vast S&T infrastructure within government research and development (R&D) institutions, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and industry.
India’s system for S&T innovation is comprised of central and state government agencies as well as public and private organizations. However, the most significant role is played by the government, with a large number of organizations functioning under central government S&T departments. Figure 5-1 illustrates this organizational structure.
The Indian government is responsible for about 74 percent of national R&D expenditures; of that, the central government is responsible for the greatest share. The industrial sector (public and private) accounts for about 30 percent of total expenditures. The government has encouraged greater participation from the industrial sector over the past five years, which has led to a small increase in private R&D funding, although more is needed to meet larger S&T objectives.
Within India, there are about 400 national laboratories, 400 R&D institutions in the government sector, and about 1,300 R&D organizations in the industrial sector. About 400,000 personnel are employed in R&D establishments. India’s more than 300 universities and educational institutions produce more than 450,000 S&T personnel every year. However, at this stage, many of these institutions devote few resources to research, focusing primarily on development. Recognizing that India’s skill base is growing, more than 300 multinational companies have opened their R&D centers and laboratories in different sectors of the economy (World Bank, 2007). Some corporations have formed alliances with Indian institutions for joint research projects. Indians also continue to go abroad for education and business, and they are building networks for S&T through the private sector, using new business models and creative value creation.
NET ASSESSMENT OF S&T INVESTMENT STRATEGY
India has not published a multi-year, long-range S&T plan. However, India’s planning commission has issued five-year plans since independence was achieved in 1947, each of which contains an important section on S&T. The plans discuss accomplishments and issues during the previous five years and propose initiatives for the next five years. Although India’s five-year plans offer flexibility, they provide little specific guidance on long-term S&T goals. Because the country is a democracy, the lack of stated long-term goals leaves India’s S&T strategy more vulnerable to interruption or dilution as a result of changes in administration.
India has a stated goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, ambitiously aiming to be one of the top 5 countries in the world in terms of GDP. The five-year plans highlight S&T as a contributor to this long-term vision. The current plan (2007-2012) lays out a broad strategy for improving the national S&T environment by enlarging the pool of scientific manpower, encouraging risk taking on the part of scientists, supporting creativity in the education system, celebrating both basic research and applied research and technology development, encouraging industry to interact with academia, and providing incentives for young people to pursue scientific careers. Finally,
the plan also recommends that scientific developments in the rest of the world be surveyed to assist in the selection of critical technologies for prioritized investment.
Defense is also a national priority. The Sino-Indian War in 1962 and two subsequent wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 made deep impressions on the Indian psyche. India now has the third-largest military force in the world. Although it maintains a “no first use” nuclear policy, India became a nuclear power in 1974 and has since expanded its nuclear capabilities.
A review of previous five-year plans reveals the continuation of strategies in key technology areas, which indicates that there is a long-term strategy, even though it is not documented beyond five years. The current five-year plan identifies detailed research foci and envisioned outcomes for 16 sectors with the greatest proposed national
laboratory funding in the following areas, in descending order: aerospace, pharmaceuticals, materials, information technology, biology, earth systems and exploration (including on- and off-shore geophysical studies), and energy (DST, 2006a). The central government of India funds nearly 60 percent of S&T expenditures, making it the largest single contributor to India’s innovation system. Within central government funding, atomic energy and space and ocean exploration are emphasized. In addition to promoting S&T advancement, these three areas present dual-use opportunities. For example, atomic energy provides India with energy independence, but the technology can also be used for nuclear weapons development. Another national goal is to develop indigenous technologies to protect itself from denial of technology (by other countries).
India, like many of the other countries examined in this report, suffers from a lack of connection between scientific R&D and industry. Industry in India does not sponsor students and educational programs to the degree that many other countries do, most notably the United States. The Indian government is trying to address this. In the current five-year plan, one goal is to improve interaction between industry and academia and to encourage students to pursue science and engineering, emphasizing both basic and applied research.
Although the above goals and strategies might appear rather generic, the goal of making India a developed country by 2020 provides a vigorous focus for India’s scientific efforts. Phrases like “risk taking,” “creativity,” “glorification of applied research,” and “interaction between industry and academia” have become new additions to Indians’ everyday lexicon.
PROJECTED ADVANCES IN S&T PROFICIENCY
It is doubtful that India will achieve its goal of reaching the top 5 in global GDP by 2020. Other stated goals include the increase of R&D expenditures from 0.9 percent to 2 percent of GDP and to increase education spending from 4 percent to 6 percent of GDP. Increases have been made, but it will likely take more than 10 years to achieve these goals, due to other challenges resulting from poverty and lack of infrastructure.
Administration changes every five years can have a significant impact on S&T direction and funding. Ministers can request funding for their constituencies, but they are guided by the India Administrative Services, a process that provides stability.
Weaknesses in the Indian education system, including large discrepancies in the quality of education between top institutions and departments and the rest of the Indian institutions, could potentially slow the growth of the S&T innovation system and prevent some goals from being achieved within their projected timelines. Recognizing the need to increase educational resources, the Indian government recently presented to the Parliament the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which allows foreign universities to establish campuses in India (Government of India, 2010). It is hoped that passage of the bill will spur an increase in the number of top-quality institutes in India and will offer students an alternative to traveling overseas for education.
S&T INVESTMENTS OF INTEREST
India’s technology requirements are vast and imply great utility for a wide variety of scientific fields from nuclear energy to agricultural science. “Technology Vision 2020,” a strategy document prepared by the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council’s of Department of Science & Technology, lays out a recommended set of actions that India should undertake to become a developed nation by the year 2020. It identifies five broad areas for development that can best leverage India’s core competencies and address its critical needs: agriculture and food processing, infrastructure with reliable electric power, education and healthcare, information and communication technology, and “critical technologies” (defined as nuclear, space, and defense).
Key Programs Under the 11th Five-Year Plan
The following are some of the key programs of the six major scientific departments that are specified in the 11th Five-Year Plan.
The plan calls for completion of the development of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-III), which is capable of launching a 4T class INSAT satellite. Other goals are to perform demonstration flights of the Reusable Launch Vehicle and to develop the critical technologies required for a manned mission.
India’s goals for biotechnology focus on specialized research in areas such as stem cells, animal biotechnology, and plant health. However, most efforts are geared toward short-term realization of diagnostics. There is little that is original, but much that is useful.
Priorities for this program include the demonstration of ideal coastal protection measures, as well as advancements in ecosystem modeling, marine ecotoxicology, and carbon cycling in coastal waters. The plan calls for the preparation of a Coastal Risk Atlas that would serve as part of a national Tsunami Early Warning System and the establishment of an Advanced Research Centre for Drugs from Ocean.
India’s overarching goals in the area of atomic energy are to improve the utilization of nuclear capacity and to enhance the economic competitiveness of nuclear energy with an eye to safety and the environment. Specifically, goals are to upgrade current technology based on latest developments in the pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) fuel cycle, and to set up fast breeder reactors, backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants, a move that has raised reasonable and serious concerns over the increased availability of plutonium to terrorist organizations and for nuclear weapons proliferation. The plan also calls for the establishment of thorium on a large scale for the next stage of the nuclear power program.
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
A major initiative of the CSIR is to develop an open-source drug discovery program through national and international collaborations between national laboratories and academia.
Department of Science & Technology (DST)
The goals for the DST underscore India’s need for improvements in basic infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Specifically, the plan calls for new initiatives in the technologies for security and safe drinking water, and for the establishment of a National Foundation for Technology for Rural Enterprises and Employment.
Major Accomplishments During the 10th Five-Year Plan
In order to understand India’s current areas of focus, it is helpful to study the accomplishments highlighted in the past five-year plans (DST, 2006b). The 10th Five-Year Plan, completed in 2007, was considered by many to be an enormous success. Its accomplishments include the commissioning of two 540 MW indigenously designed PHWR, the first light from the Indus-2 synchrotron, and the debut of a countrywide environmental radiation monitoring network with 37 monitoring stations across the country. Substantial progress has been made in satellite technologies, beginning with the operation of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the development and qualification of an indigenous cryogenic rocket engine (the most powerful rocket engine in
current development2), and the establishment of the state-of-the-art second launch pad facilities at Sriharikota. Several satellites were placed in operation, including the KALPANA-1 (Metsat-1), Resourcesat-1, and Cartosat-1/HAMSAT, and the INSAT system was augmented with the launch of INSAT-3A, 3E, GSAT-2, EDUSAT, and INSAT-4A satellites.
Other scientific achievements include the following:
Installing early tsunami and storm surge warning system
Strengthening the ocean observation network by deployment of state-of-the-art technology data buoys and Argo floats
Completing the maiden flight of SARAS, a multi-role civilian aircraft
Beginning the Nano Science and Technology Initiative
Forming a new Ministry of Earth Sciences for programs related to Earth and atmospheric sciences
India continues to develop atomic energy and space technology. New research areas include biotechnology and nanotechnology.
NATION-SPECIFIC INDICATORS OF S&T ADVANCEMENT
India’s progress in S&T development can be assessed using traditional indicators such as the level of R&D funding, human resources devoted to R&D activities, spending on higher education and graduation rates, and number of research publications and patents (including those that result from collaborations between universities and industry). Together, these metrics give a sense of India’s commitment to the advancement of S&T and of the efficiency of the S&T enterprise. A detailed breakdown of these indicators can also shed light on S&T priority areas. Other appropriate indicators are the levels of foreign investment in R&D, the influence of published papers (indicated by their inclusion in high-quality conferences or journals), and the number of highly educated citizens that return from abroad to work and live in India.
Although absolute numbers are important, trends in indicators over time can often be even more illuminating. In this respect, all selected indicators show that India is on a positive trajectory.
The national expenditure on R&D increased from about $180 billion in 2002-2003 to about $280 billion in 2005-2006. R&D expenditures were expected to reach a level of $330 billion in 2005-2007 and $380 billion in 2007-2008. R&D expenditure as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) in 2005-2006 was 0.89 percent, compared to 0.81 percent in 2002-2003. The government of India wants to increase R&D spending to 2 percent of GNP, but it remains to be seen whether this target will be achieved.
In April 2005, nearly 390,000 personnel were employed in the R&D establishments, including in the industrial sector. Some 40 percent of them were performing R&D activities, 27 percent auxiliary activities, and 33 percent administrative and support activities.
A large fraction (49 percent) of R&D personnel was employed in the government sector (major scientific agencies: 31 percent; central government ministries/department: 6 percent; state governments: 12 percent). The academic sector (higher education) employed 14 percent. The industrial sector, comprising both public and private industries, employed the remaining 37 percent at 6 percent and 31 percent, respectively (DST, 2008).
India’s first cryogenic rocket engine was used in a failed mission on April 15, 2010. If India executes a successful launch, then it will join the United States, China, France, Japan, and Russia in the small group of countries possessing this technology. For more information, see http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5811717.cms. Last accessed June 3, 2010.
Among R&D personnel, 17.5 percent were Ph.D.s, 38.2 percent post graduates, 30.3 percent graduates, and the remainder diploma holders (DST, 2008).
Although informative, these gross statistics do not communicate the fact that the variance in skill levels and quality of personnel in India is generally large.
Any analysis of data regarding the Indian education system must take into account its dual nature, with world-class institutes coexisting with others that have inadequate resources and are only able to impart education at barely satisfactory levels.
In 2005-2006, there were 358 universities, 13 institutes of national importance, and 20,677 colleges offering higher education. Of the 11.6 million students enrolled in higher education, 31.6 percent studied science and engineering. Also in 2005-2006, 18,730 Ph.D.s were awarded, of which 45 percent were in science. Within the science discipline, 66.8 percent of Ph.D.s were awarded in pure sciences, 13.3 percent in agriculture sciences, and 12.6 percent in engineering/technology.
The proportion of students completing higher education and in particular doctoral studies was very small; only 0.034 percent of the total school-going population was enrolled in a Ph.D. program in 2006.
Public expenditures in the education sector equalled 1.52 percent of GDP in 1961-1962, which increased to 3.68 percent by 2004-2005, and to 4.4 percent currently. Expenditures on higher education as a percentage of GDP was 0.77 percent in 1990-1991, which decreased to 0.62 percent in 1997-1998, and then rose slightly to 0.66 percent in 2004-2005. The Indian government wants to increase the total spending on education to 6 percent of GDP. Again, it remains to be seen whether this goal will be achieved.
Authors in India published about 323,000 research papers during 1997-2007 (about 30,000 papers per year). The cumulative number increased from about 65,600 papers during 1997-1999 to 121,500 papers during 2005-2007, resulting in a growth rate of 85 percent (NISTADS, 2009).
India’s share in global publications increased from 1.86 percent in 1997, to 1.97 percent in 2002, and to 2.55 percent in 2007. Correspondingly, India’s ranking rose from 13th in 1997 to 12th in 2002 and to 10th in 2007. By way of comparison, the United States published more than 3.5 million papers during 1997-2007, and its share of global publications was 23.4 percent (NISTADS, 2009).
Of the total papers published by Indian researchers from 1997 to 2007, 15 percent were the product of international collaboration. The United States was the leading collaborator, contributing to 37 percent of India’s collaborative papers (NISTADS, 2009).
Following a 1995 national campaign to create awareness about intellectual property, India’s patenting output increased from about 1,000 in 2001 to nearly 5,500 in 2007. Industry’s share of patents increased from about 40 percent of total patents in 1990-1999 to about 60 percent of total patents in 2000-2007. The leading assignees from the private sector were the drugs and pharmaceuticals companies, which obtained more than 3,600 patents in 2000-2007 compared to about 100 in 1990-1999 (NISTADS, 2009).
Indian firms have been filing for foreign patents at a steadily increasing pace. The number of countries in which Indian firms obtained patents rose from 29 in 1990-1994, to 52 in 2000-2004, to 101 in 2005-2007. Until 2004, most of the foreign patents were filed in the United States and Canada, after which the patenting activity expanded to Europe, Asia, and Latin America continents (NISTADS, 2009).
A significant number of Indian patents are in the areas of chemistry, chemical technologies, and drugs and pharmaceuticals. Other areas include food products and technology, micro-organism and genetic engi-
neering, information and communication technologies, optical computing devices, digital data processing, and telecommunication.
High Aspirations and Unifying Vision
India’s foremost nuclear physicist and former President Dr. Abdul Kalam articulated India’s aspirations most succinctly: “Become a developed country by 2020 through the use of science and technology” (Kalam et al., 1998). India’s plan of action includes broadening access to healthcare and education, improving food, water, and energy security, and constructing a national network of roads and railways (Planning Commission, Government of India, 2002). This simple vision has become a rallying cry and has galvanized policymakers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, administrators, and politicians to develop and implement actionable plans and programs.
Increasing Confidence in Indigenous Capabilities
India’s indigenous research has produced several recent successes: (1) simultaneous launch in April 2008 of 10 satellites on an indigenously built Polar Launch Satellite Vehicle, (2) launch in October 2008 of the moon mission Chandrayaan-1, and (3) launch in July 2009 of India’s first nuclear-powered submarine Indian Navy ship, called INS Arihant, demonstrating that India now has compact power plants for propulsion and pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology for future electricity production.
Emergence of Globally Competitive Business Enterprises in Automotives, Pharmaceuticals, Information Technology, and Telecommunications
Reflecting the growth of India’s middle class, the Indian automobile manufacturer Tata launched the world’s cheapest small car, the Nano, in 2009. In the same year, Mahindra and Mahindra launched Scorpio, an indigenous sport utility vehicle. India’s pharmaceutical industry is also globally significant, ranking 4th in the world in terms of production volume and 13th in terms of value. India now supplies 22 percent of the world’s generic drugs and a significant proportion of the vaccines made for the developing world (World Bank, 2007). Moreover, Indian pharmaceutical firms have progressed from the production of generic drugs to the manufacture and testing of new and experimental treatments. The Indian pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in global initiatives such as the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A disruption in India’s drug supply could result in substantial public health problems and even civil unrest in the populations that rely on it.
Information technology (IT) continues to be a booming industry in India, even amidst the current economic crisis, with some sources estimating that Indian IT firms such as Infosys and Wipro will have grown by more than 18 percent between 2006 and 2011 (Newstrack India, 2008). The telecommunications market is also experiencing rapid growth, with more than 10 million new mobile phone subscribers every month (TRAI, 2009). In June 2010, Bharti Airtel Limited, an Indian telecommunications company, finalized a deal with the Kuwaiti-based Zain, giving it access to growing African telecommunications markets (Rajan, 2010). Because innovation provides the foundation for success of these enterprises, Indian companies are increasingly inclined to invest in indigenous R&D to maintain their competitive edge.
Suspicion of Neighboring Countries and Fear of Technology Denial
Right or wrong, India feels surrounded by hostile neighbors and is fearful of becoming dependent on other countries for strategic technologies. As a result, India spends a disproportionally large amount on R&D in the government sector and on defense technologies. The inefficiency and waste in the current allocation of R&D
resources is well recognized, and government wants private industry to bear a greater share of R&D investment. However, change is likely to be gradual at best.
Inefficiency in Innovation
India lags behind both China and Brazil on many traditional S&T indicators, including the number of R&D researchers per million inhabitants, the number of patents granted per million inhabitants, R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, and high-tech exports as a percentage of manufacturing exports (World Bank, 2009). India suffers from inefficiency in transforming its S&T investments into scientific knowledge (publications) as well as into commercially relevant knowledge (patents). In addition to the structural issue of having a large portion of S&T work located in the government sector, the loss of top talent to developed countries also contributes to inefficiency. Data suggest that some of the best Indian students go abroad for higher education and never return, thus in effect reducing the quantity and quality of the pool of qualified S&T researchers and educators in India (NRC, 2007). Multinational corporations conducting business in India further aggravate this trend by luring away bright Indians from research careers.
In spite of tremendous progress in recent times, India continues to face challenges that could derail its S&T aspirations. There is a large gap between the installed capacity and projected needs in basic infrastructure, including power, roads, telecommunications, seaports, and airports. Agricultural productivity and literacy are low, and societal problems such as poverty, public health, and population growth have proven hard to crack. Frequent policy changes, shifts in the governing alliance of political parties, and stifling government bureaucracy compound the problem. The government of India wants to increase the investment in education to 6 percent of GDP and in research to 2 percent of GDP, but these goals might become hard to realize in the face of other development challenges.
Implications for the United States
Clearly, the United States can contribute tremendously to strengthening the Indian innovation system and to helping India realize its vision of becoming an economically developed country. Many U.S. companies already have large investments and technological alliances with companies in India, and many Indian companies provide technological services in the United States. There are many collaborations between academics and researchers in the two countries. Since the signing of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement in October 2008, the climate for collaborations between the two countries has never been better. Also beneficial to the prospects of future cooperation is the strong affinity most Indians feel with the United States. Like the United States, India is a democratic and pluralistic society, and a large Indian diaspora exists in America. The challenge for the future is how to make the current U.S.-Indian relationship deeper and extend it to the strategic sector.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Finding 5-1. India has increasing aspirations to become a major global player (i.e., become a developed nation by 2020).
Finding 5-2. India has had recent successful demonstrations of indigenous capabilities (nuclear power, satellite launches, multi-use launch vehicles).
Finding 5-3. India still faces significant developmental challenges including low spending on S&T and education and limited rural development. Disparity in the educational system between the top-tier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the second-tier institutions is significant. Although India’s population is large, relatively few students have access to a quality education.
Finding 5-4. A number of India’s S&T initiatives and self-reliance goals are based on a fear of technology denial. A tense relationship with Pakistan and a fear of technology denial from global partners has prompted India to pursue indigenous technology and capability development.
Finding 5-5. Cross-fertilization between the United States and India exists through industry partnerships and personnel exchanges exist. Many Indian students attend university in the United States; student and professor exchanges between India and the United States are quite common. The existing relationship between the United States and India is ripe for continued support and exchange.
Recommendation 5-1. The United States should deepen its S&T relationship with India and expand collaborations in programs such as nuclear power and space technology.
Recommendation 5-2. The United States should support India’s educational improvement in the critical infrastructure area. Support by the United States to improve Indian education would provide an increased talent pool to support Indian and global innovation, while increasing trust and collaboration between India and the United States. India is a stable democracy in Asia, and continuing and improving a strong S&T and educational relationship may help build better democratic traditions in the region.
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