National Research Foundation

National Research Foundation

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “National Research Foundation”. The topic “National Research Foundation” has relevance in the “Governance and Science and Technology” sections of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is the National Research Foundation, what are its governing bodies, objectives and functions? 

For Mains:

GS3: National Research Foundation (NRF) aiding in Research and Development in India 


Why in the news?

In a recent development, the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 was granted approval by the Union Cabinet, with the Prime Minister presiding over the meeting. Plans are underway to present the bill for introduction in the Parliament.

National Research Foundation:

The National Research Foundation is a proposed organization that will oversee and guide scientific research in India according to the National Education Policy(2020). It is expected to receive a funding of Rs. 50,000 crore over five years (2023-2028).

  • The proposed Bill aims to establish the National Research Foundation (NRF) which will play a crucial role in nurturing, expanding, and advancing Research and Development (R&D) activities. It seeks to cultivate a climate of research and innovation across universities, colleges, research institutions, and R&D laboratories throughout India.

Institutional Framework:

  • Governing Board: 
  • Prime Minister as ex-officio President of the Board 
    • Union Minister of Science & Technology as ex-officio Vice-President.
    • Union Minister of Education as ex-officio Vice-President.
    • Eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines as members
  • Executive Council: Chairperson will be Principal Scientific Adviser to theUnion Government 
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is designated as the administrative body for the National Research Foundation.

Repealing Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB):

  • Within the bill, provisions have been made for the repeal of the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), an entity established through an act of Parliament in 2008. Instead, SERB will be incorporated into the National Research Foundation (NRF).
  • The chairmanship of the SERB is held by the Secretary in the Department of Science and Technology, with the membership consisting of other distinguished government officials and eminent scientists.
  • The SERB was set up for promoting basic research in science and engineering and to provide financial assistance to scientists, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, industrial concerns and other agencies for such research.

Aims of NRF:

  • The NRF’s objective is to foster research across a wide range of disciplines, including natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humanities
  • It aims to address significant challenges confronting Indian society and seeks solutions through research endeavors.
  • The NRF aims to foster partnerships and alliances among academia, industry, government departments, and research institutions.
  • NRF will build an interface mechanism to facilitate the active involvement and contributions of industries, state governments, scientific, and line ministries. 
  • The NRF will prioritize the establishment of a policy framework and the implementation of regulatory procedures that promote collaboration and encourage higher investment by industries in research and development (R&D) activities.

Funding Pattern:

  • Out of the total estimated funding of Rs 50,000 crore for the next five years, Rs 36,000 crore will be contributed by the industry. 
  • Funding for scientific research projects under the NRF will be shared equally between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the industry, following a 50:50 funding model.

India’s Research and Development (R&D) Scenario: 

Country Percentage of GDP Spent on R&D
India 0.70%
South Africa 0.80%
Brazil >1%
Russia >1%
China >2%
USA 2.80%
Global Average 1.80%

It has been observed that approximately 60% of the total expenditure on R&D is covered by public funding, with the remaining 40% contributed by the private sector. However, there has been a decline in the proportion of public expenditure over the past decade.

Issues with R&D Ecosystem in India:

  • Data Insufficiency:Lack of a centralized, credible, and official data source with disaggregated information hampers policy formulation as data from different sources such as DST, MoSPI, and DPE do not align.
  • Absence of R&D Plan: Absence of a central planning body like the erstwhile Planning Commission leads to a lack of coordination and connectivity among R&D projects undertaken by different government departments.
  • Low percentage of GDP allocated to R&D: Despite a current Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) of around USD 1 lakh crore, the percentage of GDP allocated to R&D in India is significantly lower compared to competing countries. Furthermore, there is no dedicated provision to address cross-sectoral national issues.
  • Low Private Sector Participation
    • Although there is a large number of private players in R&D, the private sector’s contribution to the Indian R&D ecosystem remains secondary. Creating a more favorable environment for R&D business could encourage their significant participation.
  • Limited Collaboration in Public Sector: Among 184 profit-making/operating PSUs, only 65 actively contribute to R&D. Lack of connection between PSUs and limited collaboration between PSU investments in R&D and academia hinder the overall R&D ecosystem.
  • Overdependence on government funds for University Research: Universities heavily rely on government funds for R&D. Multiple submissions of the same proposal to different government agencies and the lack of independent monitoring and evaluation units lead to inefficiencies in resource allocation and evaluation of research projects.
  • R&D by State Governments: State governments primarily allocate their R&D budgets to agriculture, lacking a separate funding category for research. Insufficient funds at the state level further limit research opportunities.

Way forward:

NRF’s comprehensive approach to funding, collaboration, priority areas, policy support, infrastructure development, and coordination is expected to significantly improve India’s low R&D spending and foster a culture of research and innovation in the country.

Yojna daily current affairs eng med 6th July 2023


Q1. With reference to National Research Foundation (NRF), consider the following statements:

  1. NRF is proposed to be a statutory body to promote the culture of research and development in India. 
  2. The Union Minister of Science and Technology will act as ex-officio President of the governing board of NRF. 
  3. NRF aims to fund the scientific research on equal sharing patterns between the Government and the Industry.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only 

(d) 1, 2 and 3 

Answer: (c) 


Q2. Consider the following statements in context of India’s Research and Development (R&D) Ecosystem:

  1. India spends more than 2% of GDP on Research and Development, which is above the global average. 
  2. Private Sector Participation forms a majority share in R&D funding. 

Which of the statements given above are correct?

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 and 2

Answer: (d)

Q3. Discuss the objectives and significance of the National Research Foundation (NRF) in promoting research and development in India.

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