Just crunching the numbers from the 2013-2014 Union Budget from the perspective of science and technology research in the country...

The Union Budget has been announced by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, and for science and technology research in India, after the disappointing numbers in 2012, the planned investments for 2013 look much better. A big-picture look at seven departments shows clear heroes DAE and Space, followed by the comebacks of SIR and AR.

Going by the Central Plan Outlay by ministries and departments (PDF), the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has seen the largest increase of 55.59% from last year - from Rs. 8,920 crore to Rs. 13,879 crore. A similar but less hefty jump was seen between 2011 and 2012: 22.92%, from Rs. 7,257 crore to Rs. 8,920 crore.

Interestingly, this trend is paralleled by investments in the Department of Space, too. Between 2011 and 2012, it saw a hike of 36.44% to Rs. 2,785 crore, and between 2012 and 2013, it has jumped another 47.76%.

In contrast to the DAE's fortunes, the Departments of Scientific and Industrial Research (SIR) and Agricultural Research (AR) have both broken away from the slump that faced them in 2012, after 17.62% amd 2.06% drops, respectively, with 29.45% and 35.51% increases, respectively. That puts the current estimated planned allocation for SIR at Rs. 2,013 crore and for AR at Rs. 3,415 crore.

In fact, the same can also be said for the Department of Health Research (HR), which has seen a spike of 56.46% from 2012 (Rs. 464 crore) to 2013 (Rs. 726 crore) as opposed to the slump of -17.73% from 2011 (Rs. 564 crore) to 2012.

The department of science and technology, on the other hand, has seen a relatively modest increase from last year, going from Rs. 2,175 crore to Rs. 2,777 crore. However, given that the actual for 2011 and the RE for 2012 were Rs. 2,167 crore and Rs. 2,175 crore, respectively, the estimated allocation for 2013 points at a substantial increase of 28.15% across two years.

Similarly, the Department of Biotechnology has received Rs. 1,485 crore, up 14.23% from last year and 25.54% from 2011.

Here are the charts to compare.



The trends, on first impression, point at a strongly utilitarian mindset, with an interest in short-term commercializability, that the Centre has taken toward science and technology research in the country. The conclusion is exemplified by increasingly large allocations to the DAE and Space, and an atypically strong reversal of fortunes for SIR.

However, considering this is the highest investment in space research (Rs. 5,615 crore) in a while, the trend might just be pointing at the industry's growing importance for the country, especially with regards to improving weather-forecasting and prospecting for oil, minerals, and other natural resources. In fact, the investment in agricultural research is (somewhat) comparable at Rs. 3,415 crore.

What is most telling about the utilitarian mindset is the treatment of the Departments of Health Research and Biotechnology - although the former jumped by over 50%, the value of the jump is only Rs. 162 crore across two years. No matter; in fact, these are still early days, and I'm just crunching numbers at my desk.

(Special thanks to Vignesh Sundaresan.)