By Smita Purushottam
China has grown immeasurably highly effective during the last twenty years, having positioned science & know-how (S&T) on the core of its developmental and army technique. China invests 2.2% of its GDP on R&D ($496 billion), dwarfing India’s $50 billion (PPP figures, 2017). It’s closing in on the American R&D spend of $549 billion, clocking over 17% in annual progress charges between 2000 and 2017, towards the US common of 4.3%.
China’s S&T drive, progress, army technique and geopolitical targets are intertwined, and made clear by Xi Jinping’s declaration that “know-how is China’s core fight functionality.” Unsurprisingly, China has concurrently grown extra threatening. It has unhesitatingly flexed its new-found muscle, to which the sacrifice of our troopers on the border bears tragic witness.
Like China, international locations the world over recognise that nationwide know-how possession equals energy, with the richest and essentially the most highly effective nations all being excessive R&D spenders. However India’s R&D expenditure has trended downwards from 0.85% in 2011 to 0.62% in 2015, the most recent 12 months for which figures are even out there, making it depending on high-tech imports in defence, plane, ICT (data and communications know-how) merchandise and different sectors.
Imports can not make up for nationwide safety, which may solely be assured by nationwide technological and financial power. However in a technology-obsessed period, we’re but to take the mandatory measures to rejuvenate our R&D ecosystem.
The federal government has, certainly, launched a number of incentives and reforms to turbocharge India’s financial restoration. However its putative industrial coverage lacks an R&D focus, an ingredient important for fulfillment. India has been granted a time window to turn into internationally aggressive by the federal government’s sensible delay in signing FTAs/the RCEP. It should use this interregnum to advertise nationwide technological resilience by way of a whole-of-government, R&D-intensive industrial coverage.
Even within the US, the economic coverage is staging a comeback as a consequence of a bipartisan consensus on China. How way more pressing it’s for India to forge the same consensus to satisfy the problem on our doorstep! Sadly, the federal government’s laudatory reforms are constantly being undermined by venal civilian and defence bureaucracies, a legacy of India’s import-with-benefits previous. Now we have a number of heart-breaking tales on how bureaucrats emasculate their very own nation’s capabilities in favour of imports; tenders and contracts proceed to be skewed in favour of the Massive-4/international OEMs; international firms obtain largesse underneath the Common Service Obligation Fund (USOF), whereas home high-tech firms are routinely proven the door; public sector firms ceaselessly act as fronts for imports; and so forth.
With out orders, Indian trade/high-tech SMEs are being squeezed out of existence or are fleeing overseas. India’s high-tech manufacturing sector has shrunk by 14% between 2011 and 2015. All that is in beautiful and full defiance of the Prime Minister’s name for atmanirbharta (self-reliance). It’s crucial that the federal government’s procurement reforms be carried out on the bottom. Thus, home procurement is estimated to offer an financial stimulus of as much as 25%. As well as, to encourage enterprise sector R&D, the federal government should institute a clear tender course of protecting focus areas—underneath which high R&D-intensive home firms turn into eligible for precedence procurement, tax incentives, grants or low-interest loans. A no-cost-full-commitment (NCFC) procurement mannequin in chosen tasks may even present a lifeline to home high-tech firms which personal their mental property.
The federal government should additionally present direct R&D grants to firms—alongside the US, Israeli and Chinese language fashions. At current, R&D funding is usually going to tutorial establishments, with valuable little to indicate by way of commercialisation.
It should create a disruption in authorities laboratories, the Defence Analysis and Growth Organisation (DRDO) and tutorial establishments, granting the identical incentives and funding for R&D within the non-public sector as loved by authorities labs and the academia. India desperately wants an Indian DARPA that may promote a real, networked and efficient innovation ecosystem which yields outcomes for the economic system. (The DARPA, quick for the Protection Superior Analysis Initiatives Company, is an R&D company of the US Division of Protection liable for the event of rising applied sciences to be used by the army.)
The federal government should lastly dwell as much as its dedication to encourage a non-public sector defence trade and implement the strategic partnership coverage. It should substitute the mystifying and intentionally obfuscating Defence Procurement Process with a clear Defence Manufacturing Coverage, which all superior international locations have. The US defence sector was the first mover on technological disruption. In India, it’s nonetheless overrun by import lobbies, which represent a deep state on their very own.
The US science state & real technological disruption
Of some consolation ought to be the truth that China has but to ship a really ‘disruptive indigenous know-how’. That distinction has at all times belonged to the US whose game-changing applied sciences—from airplanes, computer systems, semiconductors, to the Web and associated innovations—have utterly reworked life on our planet.
Sadly, whereas the US science state (Fred Block) was being hobbled by market fundamentalists, China was implementing its personal ersatz, top-down ‘science’ state, “parasitically siphoning off disruptive applied sciences born out of primary and basic analysis” performed within the US (Bruyere and Picarsic). China’s constant deal with utilized/experimental analysis (US Science & Engineering Indicators) helped it to repurpose disruptive applied sciences developed elsewhere, which it had acquired by way of espionage, compelled know-how transfers and abroad acquisitions. This enabled China to disrupt 5G, ICT, robotics, electrical automobiles/driverless vehicles, defence applied sciences, high-speed rail and biotech markets, with out enterprise the exhausting slog of primary analysis.
We have to transfer in the direction of the American mannequin of the networked science state. That will entail a reformed forms with a developmental and pro-technology mindset. The Prime Minister should give the decision for an pressing deal with R&D and carry ahead procurement reforms to save lots of the nation from exterior and inside predators. Sections within the forms should be made to reply for undermining the nation’s financial and technological capabilities on which nationwide safety finally relies upon.
The writer, a former ambassador, is the chairperson of SITARA (Science, Indigenous Know-how & Superior Analysis Accelerator)