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  • Indian science: the achievements and the challenges


India is becoming one of the world's powerhouses for scientific research, but there are still challenges to overcome, says an article published by TWAS, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

The country has seen steady increases in government spending on research and development of 15 per cent or more each year, and has a critical mass of "well-educated professionals and a vast pool of scientists and technologists". Additionally, the private sector is stepping up and providing an increasing proportion of funding.

In 2008 the government announced plans to build 30 new universities, eight technology institutes, five new institutes of science education and research, hundreds of polytechnic and vocational schools and thousands of skills development centres.

The relaxation of India's bureaucratic framework in the 1990s, which had held back innovation and the economy, has "placed India on a fast-track for economic growth" and "unleashed the scientific capabilities in India's institutes of science and technology".

But its research and development spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), at one per cent, lags behind nations such as China, South Korea and Taiwan where between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent is invested.

India still only contributes less than three per cent of the global research output and half of its peer-reviewed publications come from just 40 Indian institutions.

And there is a huge difference between India and China with regards to the number of patents filed. China received more than 2,400 patents in 2006 while India received 648.

"The long-standing question of whether India will ever emerge on the world stage ... has largely been answered. In that sense, India is indeed on a roll," says the article.

"But whether that future will be inclusive of all its citizens remains an open question ... If India is able to respond successfully to all of these challenges it will not only have created a just and prosperous society but also a paradigm for growth."

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