Context: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 in the Parliament. The approved Bill will pave the way to establish NRF that will seed, grow and promote Research and Development (R&D) and foster a culture of research and innovation throughout India’s universities, colleges, research institutions, and R&D laboratories.
- The bill, after approval in the Parliament, will establish NRF as an apex body to provide high-level strategic direction of scientific research in the country as per recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), at a total estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crore during five years (2023-28).
- The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be the administrative Department of NRF which will be governed by a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines.
- The Prime Minister will be the ex-officio President of the Board and the Union Minister of Science & Technology & Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
- NRF’s functioning will be governed by an Executive Council chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
- The bill will repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) established by an act of Parliament in 2008 and subsume it into NRF which has an expanded mandate and covers activities over and above the activities of SERB.
- NRF will forge collaborations among the industry, academia, and government departments and research institutions, and create an interface mechanism for participation and contribution of industries and State governments in addition to the scientific and line ministries.
- It will focus on creating a policy framework and putting in place regulatory processes that can encourage collaboration and increased spending by the industry on R&D.
How NRF holds significance
- As per the NRF detailed project report, less than one per cent of the nearly 40,000 institutions of higher learning in the country are currently engaged in research. NRF aims to get colleges and universities involved in scientific research.
- It will aim to remove artificial separation between research and higher education in the country. Presently universities and colleges are more focussed towards imparting education and very little research. One of the objectives of NRF would be to build research capacities in universities.
- Serving or retired researchers with no age bar would be encouraged to take up NRF professorships at universities and colleges. It also plans to offer doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships to young researchers at these universities.
- It will give opportunities to University professors and researchers to participate in long-term projects aimed specifically at solving societal problems, such as river cleaning, access to clean energy in villages, etc.
- It aims to identify priority areas in which science and technology interventions can help larger national objectives.