Pitching for greater collaboration between institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology and the corporate sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the country urgently needed to increase quality research in science and technology, especially to meet newer challenges like climate change.

Science and technology played a dominant role in determining the power and progress of a nation. “This role has become even more critical in the wake of newer challenges like climate change,” he said addressing the convocation of IIT-Kanpur here.

Advocating greater collaboration between the IITs and the corporate sector, the Prime Minister said, “This would be of mutual benefit — to the corporate sector it would mean cost-effective solutions and newer technology, while for the IITs it would bring much needed funds and enhance their research capabilities.”

While noting that efforts had been made to expand higher education facilities on an unprecedented scale in the last five years, he said, “The issue of quality remains.”

A major constraint was availability of good faculty, he said, adding a large number of bright students should be encouraged to join academics, and the IIT community must come together to evolve innovative ways to address these issues.

The government would ensure that the IITs functioned with the required degree of autonomy and flexibility, and genuine needs of the faculty were met.

Dr. Singh said the government had set in motion an ambitious programme to restructure the legal and regulatory environment of higher education. Intensive consultations were on to set up the National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER).

The Prime Minister was conferred the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.

Later addressing a function organised by the Merchants Chamber of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Singh said the economy was poised to grow to double digits in the next 2-3 years, it having successfully weathered the impact of the global downturn.

“Global recession did not have much impact on us, as it had on other countries. Our target is to bring India to double-digit growth path in 2-3 years.”

Awaiting approval

In a veiled dig at the Mayawati government over delay in project approvals, Dr. Singh said Central public sector units were awaiting approval from Uttar Pradesh to set up power plants in the State.

“To resolve the shortage of power in Uttar Pradesh, Central PSUs — NTPC and the Neyveli Lignite Corporation — have proposed to set up several major power projects.” Once the approval of the State government was received, work on these projects would start.