NATIONAL

S&T policy seeks to give greater autonomy to R&D institutions

Bangalore Jan. 3. The new national Science and Technology Policy unveiled today by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, seeks to address the various challenges facing the sector because of the on-going globalisation process and, at the same time, help it meet the growing economic and social needs of the country.

A main highlight is that the policy aims at using the full potential of modern tools of science and technology to protect, update and add value to the traditional knowledge available, strengthen the mechanism for quicker commercialisation of indigenously developed technologies and establish an intellectual property rights (IPR) regime that would maximise the incentives for the generation and protection of intellectual property. It also seeks to provide greater autonomy to research and development institutions to create an ambience for truly creative work, even while ensuring that the science and technology enterprise is fully committed to its social responsibilities.

A detailed implementation strategy for identification of specific plans, programmes and projects, with clearly defined 0tasks, estimates of necessary resources and time targets has been spelt out. The road map, among other things, envisages a major initiative to modernise the infrastructure for science and engineering in academic institutions.

Education to get support

While all middle and high schools, vocational and other colleges would have ``appropriately'' sized science laboratories, science, medical and engineering departments in academic institutions, and universities and colleges would be selected for special support to raise their standards of teaching and research. To begin with, some academic institutions, especially universities and engineering and medical institutions would be selected for the support to make an impact.

Another important feature is setting up of new funding mechanisms for basic research with special focus on simplification of the administrative and financial procedures and creation of world class facilities in carefully selected and nationally relevant fields to enhance the country's competitiveness in areas where it had strength, opportunities or natural advantages.

The policy envisages provision of new procedures such as flexibility in rules and regulations to meet the special needs of women scientists and provisions to encourage mobility of scientists and technologists between industry, academic institutions and research laboratories.

Besides, it seeks to squarely face the problem of inadequate contribution of technology to the economy, by laying as much emphasis on social, institutional and market factors needed for adoption, diffusion, and transfer of innovation to the productive sector as the R&D and technological factors of innovation.

The focus would be especially with regard to the export sector, which at present, by and large, derives its competitive edge because of cheap labour, and the traditional industry, considering that it provides employment at lower per capita investments, and involves low energy inputs and carries with it unique civilisational traditions and culture.

Also envisaged is the creation of autonomous technology transfer organisations as associate agencies of universities and national laboratories to facilitate transfer of the know how developed by them to the industry and seeks to encourage the industry to adopt or support educational and research institutions by various means such as funding of courses of interest to them.

Among other things, a programme to enhance India's share in global herbal market, develop special IPR systems to protect scientific discoveries and technological innovations arising out of traditional knowledge, and formulate a series of tax and non-tax fiscal instruments to attract higher levels of public and private investments in S&T is also planned.

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