India is a priority partner for Australia for bilateral collaboration in research because of the significant opportunities presented by the rapid development of the Indian economy and its increased investment in, and strengthening of, its research capabilities.
India’s global share of scientific publications stands at 3.61 per cent and is ranked 9th in the world (DST, 2012). From 2007-2011, India has seen an explosive growth in its scientific output, with a five year growth percentage of over 14 per cent. The quality of India’s publications, measured by the average number of citations each receives, also continues to grow.
Government funding for research is also rising. In parallel, there has been significant growth in the number of R&D facilities established in India by multinational companies. A 2009 Cambridge University study found 63 major research and development facilities in India set up by Fortune 500 companies, making India the 7th most popular location for such facilities worldwide. Australia came in at 14th place with 24 labs.
India’s 12th Five-year plan (2012-2017) calls for a paradigm shift in the research sector, which will deliver innovations to the economy and society, and outlines initiatives that support the goals of the new Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy. The STI policy aspires to position India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020. This will be achieved by encouraging and facilitating international collaboration and alliances by partnering with established leaders in S&T, as well as offering Indian expertise to neighbours.
The targets for the sector include increasing India ’s share of global scientific publications to 5 per cent; improving India’s global ranking from 9th to 6th; focusing on doubling the number of patents and increasing commercialisation of patent portfolio to 5-6 per cent from a level of less than 2 per cent. The 12th Five-year plan proposes backing India partnering in high-value mega projects, like the Square Kilometer Array, encouraging greater research intensity in universities, increasing industry-academic linkages and promoting Industry Innovation Clusters.
Scientific research will focus on national priority areas including agriculture, energy security and water, and a policy environment will be created for greater private sector participation and investment in research and innovation. The policy aims to attract more high quality students to science careers, stimulating research in universities and expanding the number of research institutions. The sector is encouraged to deliver ‘people for science and science for people’, where innovation is defined as an ‘S&T led solution that is successfully deployed in the economy or society’.
The primary mechanism for science and research engagement with India has been through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF). It is Australia’s largest bilateral fund for science with any country at $64 million over ten years from 2006 – 2016. It is also one of India’s largest sources of support for international collaboration and has supported over 220 strategically relevant collaborative projects. The AISRF supports the participation of Australian researchers and institutions in joint activities with their Indian counterparts. The Government of India supports Indian participants’ costs in these joint activities.
Acknowledging the success of the Fund, Australia’s Prime Minister The Hon Tony Abbott MP announced further funding of $20 million by the Australian Government over the next four years during his visit to Indian on 4-5 September.The Prime Minister’s media release announcing the extension of the Fund can be found here.
More information on the AISRF can be found here.
In addition to the AISRF, the Australian Government has supported research collaboration with India through other programs and organisations. These include:
- The Australian Research Council (ARC): In the period 2008 – 13, the ARC supported 568 projects involving Indian collaboration. This represents a commitment of over $100 million;
- Cooperative Research centres (CRC): Of the 38 CRCs funded in 2012, seven are collaborating with Indian partners. This includes the CRCs for Future Farm Industries Automotive, Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, Smart Services, Hearing, Vision, and Wound Management Innovation;
- The Australian Centre for Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has a long history of collaboration in India, especially with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.