Given India’s R&D goals are far from being met, regional ‘science hubs’ are a good idea
Given how starved for research and development infrastructure Indian science is, the Centre promising to create five-six regional science hubs, with “science cities”, is good news indeed. The government aims to bridge the gaps between states in terms of R&D infrastructure with the hubs. The science cities will house , apart from research facilities, convention halls, lodging facilities for scientists as well as centres of learning for students. The idea, therefore, seems to be as much about disseminating knowledge-gains as it is about providing a fillip to R&D.
The proposed science cities, no doubt, are a crying need for India. At the same time, the ministry of science and technology estimates that developing these requires a 30% increase in the budgetary allocation to it. Despite India’s reiterated commitment to spending 2% of the GDP for R&D, we have been only able to spend 0.9% so far—as per the last Economic Survey, this was one-fifth of what China spends. Given R&D finds in the sciences, especially in the technical and applied disciplines, have important consequences for industry, realising the vision behind the science cities would be better served if the government were to partner the private sector for setting these up.