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Indian R&D: Only higher spends not enough
Fri, 1 Mar Pre-Open

As per the Economic Survey, India's research & development (R&D) and innovation capabilities have been ranked lower than those of other BRICS nations - mainly Brazil, Russia and China. And this too, despite having better scientific research institutions! It is also pointed out that despite having better market knowledge, technology and creativity, the country ranks poorly when it comes to other metrics. These include institutional support, human resources, research infrastructure and business sophistication.

India recently topped the list of highest growth in R&D investments during 2012. Such investments by Indian companies were higher by over 35% from a year ago. China ranked second with a growth of over 28%. But while India's topped this chart, it must be noted that the amounts in absolute terms are considered to be quite meager. India's R&D spends stands at about 1% of its trillion dollar GDP. The point on the lack of human resource takes into account the quantum of people employed in the field of research. India's ranking on this parameter would be quite poor.

What also makes matters worse is that from the investments being made, a significant amount is not being turned into commercial ventures. Industry-university collaborations have also not yielded significant outputs, a model which works quite well in developed countries like the US.

Coming to what ultimately R&D is all about - patents - it is believed that the total number of applications filed in India stood at about 37,000 in 2011. Just to make a comparison, California filed for 30,750 patents in the same year.

While the numbers of R&D setups in the country have increased of late, to move higher up the value chain, long term plans need to be made. While investments in education or further incentivizing R&D efforts (such as tax benefits) are possibilities, India could also leverage its position as one having the capabilities and a fairly strong position in Asia of being the R&D hub for global companies looking to enter or expand in these parts of the world.

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