The Ministry of Science and Technology is set to come out with the first draft of India’s fifth Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) this month.
The policy, in which the government for the first time has decided to take a “bottom-up” approach in order to address the everyday concerns of Indians, comes after the ministry has undertaken one of its biggest ever exercises, in consultation with scientific agencies, institutes, civil society organisations, industry, students and teachers, and involving as many as 15,000 stakeholders.
The STIP will also be one of the fastest to be both formulated as well as implemented, with the process to develop it beginning earlier this year, and the policy set to be tabled by October. With the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the urgency for a push toward scientific solutions of crises, the government is keen to begin the implementation of the new policy by next year.
To this end, the ministry has set up a secretariat with in-house experts under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in order to reach this target.
“The STIP itself should be dynamic and therefore reviewed every year to keep pace with the changes in technology, since technology itself is developing so rapidly. It should not be static, like it has been so far, where the policy is visited once every decade. Our thrust areas are how to achieve sustainable development, intelligent machines and AI, to be future ready with areas like quantum technology and to have focused streams of national priorities and societal needs like health, water, energy etc,” DST Secretary Professor Ashutosh Sharma said.
“Problem-solving is usually multi-dimensional and inter-institutional — no one scientist can solve a single problem, which has many dimensions to it. That is why our focus is to make the policy more inclusive. For instance, receiving inputs from farmers, who will have specific problems, and maybe even solutions to those problems,” he said.
As per the Global Competitive Index, India was ranked 56th in 2003 against China at 44. However, India slipped to 71st place in 2014, while China improved to the 28th rank. Meanwhile, the Global Innovation Index (GII) ranked India at 76th place in 2014, while China was at the 29th position.
It is this gap that the new STIP is trying to close, while being able to meet the need of scientific solutions for national problems and crises.
“One of the problems with the 2003 and 2013 STIPs is that neither was really properly implemented. And this is because the policies were made by one government but during the implementation process, another government had come to power. Our idea is that the policy should be formulated and implemented within the tenure of the same government so that the policy is actually implemented,” said Professor Akhilesh Gupta, head of the STIP 2020 Secretariat at DST.
There have been four science policies in the country so far. The first was developed by Homi Jehangir Bhaba and was tabled in Parliament by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.