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India drafting latest National Science Technology and Innovation Policy

India is looking to bolster its innovation and transformation journey by ensuring strong policies are in place.  As India reorients itself in the present context of the COVID-19 crisis, a new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) was initiated in mid-2020. India’s sustainable development pathway must include economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. If it is to achieve an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self Reliant India), a greater emphasis may be needed on promoting traditional knowledge systems, developing indigenous technologies and encouraging grassroots innovations.

The emergence of disruptive and impactful technologies poses new challenges and simultaneously greater opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a compelling opportunity for R&D institutions, academia and industry to work in unison for sharing of purpose, synergy, collaboration and cooperation.

The draft STIP was put together by STIP Secretariat with guidance from the Office of Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science & Technology (DST). and was released for public consultation on 31 December 2020. Prior to the draft, there were 300 rounds of consultations. For the first time, the consultations included states, line ministries, and Indian diaspora. These kinds of consultations would make the document more inclusive said Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor, DST and Head STIP Secretariat.

A post-draft consultation drew inputs from India’s top experts and thought leaders from a range of disciplines. The collaborative initiative aims to strengthen the initial version of the 5th National Science Technology and Innovation Policy. Professor K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India confirmed that the policy document is designed to taking everything into consideration to shape the future of the country

He went on to add that there has been a digital revolution with immense changes in technology in last few years. While assimilating and embracing the evolution, he felt, it was critical to have it rooted within the culture and context of the nation. Practical implementation and large-scale learning of STI will be directly linked to this. One step in that direction is strengthening of language labs.  He stressed the need to incorporate the Policy Process Framework Document and the implementation strategy in the final document.

To be ready for the future, states need to connect with the centre and use science, technology, and innovation to solve their problems. At the same time, international connects and science diplomacy needs equal attention, said Secretary, DST Prof Ashutosh Sharma. In India, he opined, we focus on generated knowledge, but we need to consume them properly to bring innovation-connecting innovation to knowledge.

Other experts stressed on the need for a roadmap and implementation mechanism coupled with timelines for manpower and financial plan for increased investment in science and technology. Additionally, the role of social sciences, humanities as well as ethics is equally important in any country, and the policy should reflect this.

The role of academies in the country and the academics, especially in science diplomacy was seen as key. Involving them in more engaging ways would be critical, allowing them to become active and contribute more meaningfully. The integration of disciplines in the policy and the need for fostering a culture of excellence throughout the country was stressed. Highlighted, too, was the need for training of supervisors who would supervise research and the necessity for the strengthening of institutional collaboration.

A balance between society, environment and economy was advocated. Grassroots innovation and traditional knowledge is the strength of India and often offer solutions to problems. Women play a key role in the majority of grassroots innovations and their role should be acknowledged. In a country like India, where the larger population lives in rural areas, the policy must reflect their needs and aspirations. There is a need for the scientific validity of traditional knowledge.

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