The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) can soon start applying for government money to fund research, but there’s a caveat; the research has to have “clearly defined outcome” and 25 per cent of the expenses have to be borne by an industry partner.
The Union Ministry for Human Resource an Development has earmarked Rs.250 crore per annum for fostering “very high quality” research in the IITs under the ‘Uchatar Avishkar Yojna’, which will have industry partners with the institutions of excellence.
While the government says the move is to give research relevant to the industry and the campaign to ‘Make in India’ a leg up, the proposal has been received with scepticism in the academic and research circles, given the implications of allowing private players to collaborate with institutions that have been set up with public money.
A source in the Ministry told The Hindu that a large part of the mandate for the IITs was to train very high quality manpower and produce outcomes that are relevant for the design and manufacturing industry.
“We want IITs to help in the Make in India campaign, by investing in research and link innovation to the industry to make the latter competitive in the global markets,” said an official. The Rs.250-crore purse will be used to fund several projects for up to Rs.5 crore, provided they meet the standards stipulated.
“The proposals will have to specify the time-frame, the outcome and the benefits that the industry stands to gain from the research to be eligible for the funds. We are looking at Rs.1,500 crore over the next three years to give manufacturing a boost,” the official explained.
Disagreeing with the government’s view that involving private players will make the industry competitive, Dunu Roy, an IIT alumnus, said the move would act contrary to the claims. “This proposal will shift the focus from fundamental research to applied research; thereby not allowing the scope of research to expand. To be competitive, equal weightage has to be given to fundamental research, which forms the basis of applied research. Second, with the private companies partnering in research, there will be the issues of intellectual property rights,” Mr. Roy said.
An official of an IIT not wishing to be quoted, said while there was a yawning gap between the industry and the academia, there was a need to guard against privatisation.