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[NEW DELHI] India has increased its annual science and technology budget by 16 per cent to 200 billion rupees (US$4.5 billion), and will upgrade research programmes at three major universities.

Sectors set to gain from the budget announced today (28 February) include biotechnology, nanotechnology and pharmaceutical research.

Raghunath Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, says the council will use the extra funding to help upgrade the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow to a "world class drug research institute".

Another centre to benefit is the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, which will now be turned in an autonomous national institute.

"This will help us to upgrade to a frontier centre for biotechnology and is an excellent opportunity to develop high-quality PhD students in the field," says Maharaj Krishan Bhan, secretary of the government's Department of Biotechnology whose funds have doubled over the past two years.

The budget includes US$40 million for a national nanotechnology research programme, and funding to allow the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Board to support new technology-based businesses.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram also announced special research grants of US$29.5 million to the universities of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai, which are all celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

An additional US$22.6 million will go to the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana in acknowledgement of 'its pioneering contribution to the Green Revolution'. Its research on high-yielding crop varieties helped boost food production in the 1960s.

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