THE NEW STI POLICY 2020: POSSIBLE IMPACTS ON SKILL, EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”, so wrote Benjamin Franklin in his book “The Way to Wealth” in 1758. This line describes the importance of knowledge (the informal process of learning) and education (the formal process of learning) for an individual and the whole country in an integrated form.
The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI Policy) 2020 is one such investment taken by the Government of India to promote quality education and knowledge in Science and Technology. It is jointly initiated by the Principal Scientific Adviser of the Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology, the Government of India. This is the fifth national STI Policy flagged by the government. The draft Science, Technology and Innovation Policy was released on January 1, 2021. It was finalised after 300 consultations with 43,000 stakeholders over six months, whittled down from nearly one lakh ideas. It contains radical and progressive proposals that could be game-changers for not just the scientific research community, but also the way ordinary Indians interact with Science.
STIP-2020:AS A LESSON FROM COVID-19
This policy has been formulated at a crucial juncture when India and the world are tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. This pandemic has shown the strengths and weaknesses of India especially the capabilities of its academic institutions. Many academic institutions focused on pointing solutions to the Covid problem. As a result, after 5-6 months we had the cheapest RT-PCR kit. We supplied 5 million PPE kits at an affordable price. We published research papers on Covid-19 in top journals of the world. We were able to deliver so much in such a short span of time because there was an urgency to tackle this problem. But this needs to be a process occurring during normal days also and not during certain times like the covid pandemic.
Whenever there is a financial crisis in the world there is an opportunity to acquire assets, transfer knowledge, patents at an attractive rate. This STI Policy is a way through which India is taking advantage of this opportunity.
NEED FOR A NEW STI POLICY:
- Times have changed with the future coming to us at a much faster pace. Globally, the expectations of society from science and technology are continuously changing and there is a need for course corrections. This policy will help us to prepare for the fast pace of change. Even 10 years ago we could not have anticipated the challenges of science, technology and innovation that we face today and we would we facing such challenges for all future. New problems are emerging that could only be tackled through science, technology and innovation, and this policy is a right step in that direction to build a strong foundation for the future.
- Science, Technology and Innovation are a strong pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals-2030 of the United Nations and this policy acts as a step to achieve it.
- Science and technology are to be used as a mechanism to empower the domestic industry of India. There was a need for a policy to create significant economic impact and do consistent economic value addition in the country.
- Currently, India is world’s 3rd largest producer of scientific articles. This means that the weakness not lies in producing knowledge but in using that knowledge. This new policy has a solution to this problem as it is about putting the knowledge back to work in terms of need wherever required in a cohesive approach.
Science, technology and innovation are the key drivers for economic growth and human development for a country and since the independence of India in 1947, it has been successful in building a massive ecosystem of science, technology and innovation which consists of universities, public and private enterprises as well as human resources. It has over 16,000 colleges, ~600 universities, ~2000 research and development institutes and over 4,00,000 science professionals, as per data collected during 2010-11 (source: www.data.gov.in).
The first national STI Policy was published in 1958, named the Scientific Policy Resolution-1958 (SPR-1958). The next policies that came after it and other than the STIP-2020 are the Scientific Policy Resolution 1983 (SPR-1983), the Technology Policy Statement -1983 (TPS-1983), the Science and Technology Policy 2003 (STP-2003) and the Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 (STIP-2013).
Some of the top scientists, technologists and CEO’s of the world have been beneficiaries of our science and policy system, which was possible through the implementation of robust policies by the central and the state system over the years, as an example the positive impacts of the previous STIP’s are proved by their following achievements:
- The emergence of several scientific organisations and national laboratories after the STIP-1958.
- Establishment of the Technology, Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) and the Technology Development Fund (TDB), the significant rise in R&D investment (0.7% GDP at the end of 10 years period) after the TPS-1983.
- Improvement in India’s rank in publication and steady increase in institutional and human capacity (establishment of IISERs-2006 onwards and new IITs-2008 onwards) after the STIP-2003.
- Increased participation of India in global mega-science initiatives such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the Lagre Hadron Collider (LHC-CERN), the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) after the STIP-2013.
On the other hand, the previous STI Policies were largely policy driven in their formulation but the new policy follows core principles of being decentralised, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven and inclusive. It aims to be dynamic, with a robust policy governance mechanism that includes periodic review, evaluation, feedback, adaptation and most importantly, a timely exit strategy for policy instruments. It is about making connections among industry, academia, R&D, government, startups, NGO’s and society at large.
The Vision of STIP 2020:
- Atmanirbhar Bharat: To achieve technological self-reliance and position India in top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come.
- Human Capital: To attract, nurture, strengthen and retain critical human capital through a ‘people centric’ science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem.
- Investment: To double the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) researchers. Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years.
- Globally Competitive: To build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aspiration to achieve the highest level of global recognitions and awards in the coming decade.
POSSIBLE IMPACTS ON EDUCATION AND SKILLS:
- Access to scientific data, information, knowledge and resources to everyone in the country on an equal partnership basis via building of an Open Science Framework. All data generated from publicly funded research will be available to everyone in the country under FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) terms and accessibility to its outputs will be ensured through creation of the Indian Science and Technology Archive of Research (INDSTA).
- Access to scholarly articles to not just researchers but to every individual (users of science) in the country via a centrally-negotiated payment through the One Nation, One Subscription Policy.
- Development of Online Learning Platforms using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will address the issue of accessibility in education, knowledge and innovation at all levels to children and will enable them to become a skilled workforce in future.
- Teaching Faculty members will be upskilled via establishment of Teaching-learning centres (TLC’s).
- Creation of engaged universities for promotion of interdisciplinary research will address community needs.
- Establishment of Higher Education Research Centres (HERC’s) and Collaborative Research Centres (CRC’s) will provide research inputs to policymakers and bring together stakeholders.
- Enhancement in quality of education through establishment of an institutional architecture to integrate Traditional Knowledge System (TKS) and grassroots innovation into the overall education, research and innovation.
- Intensification in engagement with the Diaspora (Educated and skilled Indians living outside India) through attracting the best talent back home through fellowships, internship schemes and research opportunities. An engagement portal exclusively for this purpose will be created. The site will be called ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Academic and Scientific Sampark’.
POSSIBLE IMPACTS ON EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES:
- Increase in career opportunities in R&D in government sector, private sector and PSUs via establishment of a STI unit with a minimum earmarked budget.
- Increase in STI investments will allow pursuing research through innovation support schemes and other relevant means also supporting industry, especially Medium Small Micro Enterprises (MSME's) on a need basis.
- More career opportunities will be generated after establishment of a national STI-Observatory, Centralised Database, STI Policy institute,a Strategic Technologic Board (STB) and STI development Bank.
- India today ranks 63rd out of 190 economies in the World Bank ranking in “Ease of Doing Business”. A proper STI policy, will function appropriately to attract foreign investments.
- The top most issue which needs attention in our scientific development policies is trying to fulfill the basic requirements of the country. A properly framed STI policy will work in the interest of stakeholders. The priorities of innovation need to be defined in terms of short-term effect, mid-term outcome and long-term outcome from the STI policy. We have to achieve the short-term within a span of next two years, mid-term within 4-5 years and long-term within 7-9 years as we will be with the youngest population in the globe till 2030 and thus it is the right time to take advantage of this.
- Government help in proper implementation of the STI policy across all educational institutions irrespective of self-financed or government aided, engaged in R&D is much needed. A combination of bottom-up (solves smaller problems at the fundamental level and then integrate them into a whole) and top-down (breaks a large problem into smaller fragments and solve them while having the big picture in consideration) approaches is required for proper implementation.
- Institutes of national importance or reputation need to be funded to the outcome of the research rather than limited to only publication of the research in international journals. Proper implementation is imperative for any policy to function effectively. Also, it needs to prove its viability, beginning at the ground level.
TO SUM UP:
It can be concluded that this new investment in scientific knowledge and education is expected to pay a good interest in terms of increasing knowledge, developing innovative skills in citizens of the country through its recommendations and its cohesive framework.