Science and technology have always been an integral part of Indian culture. Natural philosophy, as it was termed in those ancient times, was pursued vigorously at institutions of higher learning. The Indian Renaissance, which coincided with our independence struggle, at the dawn of 1900s witnessed great strides made by Indian scientists. This innate ability to perform creatively in science came to be backed with an institutional setup and strong state support after the country’s independence in 1947. Since then, the Government of India has spared no effort to establish a modern science and technology infrastructure in the country.
The Indian science and technology space has been instrumental to bring social and economic changes. The country has not only endeavoured to upgrade traditional skills to make them relevant and competitive, but has also been on a spur to develop advanced technologies, which has eventually played a pivotal role in transforming the nation into a modern, industrialised society. Scientific knowledge and expertise, innovation, high technology, industrial infrastructure and skilled workforce are the key factors that have driven the progress of the country to a major extent.
India is also one of the top-ranking countries in the field of basic research. Certain developments that took place on this front in the recent past have been discussed hereafter.
The Indian space technology has come a long way in terms of infrastructure as well as investments. India is currently the fifth largest consumer of energy globally and is expected to become the world's third largest by 2030, leaving Japan and Russia behind. The country has been ranked as the third best investment destination in renewable energy sector, next only to China and the US, as per a recent report by Ernst & Young (E&Y). Research and development (R&D) is an inseparable part of science and technology, and in this sphere also, India is fast emerging as a global R&D hub. Presence of world class institutions, a robust intellectual property (IP) regime and a rich talent pool of technical manpower available at a very competitive cost are major factors that are making India a viable destination for global researchers.
India ranks ninth globally in the number of scientific publications and 12th in the number of patents filed. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of Indian publications is around 12±1 per cent. By 2020, the global share of publications is expected to double and the number of papers in the top 1 per cent journals will quadruple from the current levels.
According to the Global Science Report of the UNESCO, India’s current global ranking is commensurate with its number of full-time equivalent (FTE) of R&D personnel. It is imperative that the total number of FTE of R&D personnel will increase by at least 66 per cent of the present strength within the next five years.
"We need a new wave of investment from the private sector so that young people will be encouraged to seek a career in science," according to Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.
Some of the major investments in Indian science and technology sector are as follows:
- Raman Research Institute (RRI) has helped build the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope in the Australian Outback, to explore the formation of early stars and galaxies almost 13 billion years ago
- Dr Reddy's Institute of Life Sciences plans to set up a Centre for Disease Biology to focus on diabetes research. The centre would aim at promoting epidemiological research to understand the genetic, lifestyle and nutritional pre-dispositions of Indian population
- Hero MotoCorp has commenced the setting up of a R&D centre at Kukas, Rajasthan, with an investment of Rs 450 crore (US$ 71.53 million). The centre will play a key role in the company's future product development
- Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) is working at making an operational integrated R&D centre in Rohtak. The test tracks at the new facility would be longer and considerably enhanced in technical capabilities than the ones at the Suzuki Motor Corp (SMC) facility in Japan
- Ashok Leyland has set up a technical centre in the UK to strengthen R&D and address new markets in South America and Africa. The company has doubled its international operations revenue base over the past two years
- Adtran Networks India Private Ltd has opened a high-technology engineering facility in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (AP). The centre would help increasing the capabilities of the company in the region, said Mr Nate Bhadriraju, Vice-President (Engineering), Adtran