Union Budget 2021: Provide grants, investments in new methods of production, automation to cut dependency on imported tech

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should look at all fields more objectively with a focus on science and technology research in industries.

Samit Jain January 21, 2021 12:14:12 IST
Union Budget 2021: Provide grants, investments in new methods of production, automation to cut dependency on imported tech

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Science and technology play an important and fundamental role in the socio-economic development of a country. The response in budgets for furthering science in the industry has often been driven by events in the immediate past or expected in the immediate future. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should look at all fields more objectively with a focus on science and technology research in industries.

Until all technologies and segments of society develop, we cannot become a developed nation.

We feel the growth of newer sustainable technologies will depend on the following factors and must be considered in the upcoming Budget:

Investments needed for enhanced tech: A dedicated fund for grants and investments in newer materials, newer methods of production, automation, and reduction in energy consumption will help India reduce dependencies on imported technologies.

Redefine startups: The definition of ‘startups’ in manufacturing and science space should be extended to beyond the current. These industries get compared with IT which is not a fair comparison.

Make MSMEs sustainable: The onus of providing all services such as pollution control equipment, diesel generators for electricity, etc. should be centralised and become the responsibility of the Industrial Development Corporation of the respective state. A service charge may be charged from the industry. This will go a long way in reducing corruption, especially from various state pollution departments. Today the industry in India, unlike China, Europe or the USA, has to spend its time, energy and money to make available resources which is actually the responsibility of the state.

Mandate DST to give grants to industry, too: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) should be made as efficient as the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). The government should reverse the process where grants for new projects where the industry is a part of is led by academia. The Budget should mandate DST to give grants to industry and not only to academia. Making the industry as the lead partner for all industrial and scientific R&D will put pressure on academia to deliver on time.

Industry should engage with universities: Make it mandatory for industry to engage with a university and have them on board. Having universities at the helm has not delivered much. The industry has stiff deadlines to meet and is more market-driven. This will create monetisable patents. DBT has moved to active funding of industries and money is released on time as promised. DST has not been able to emulate this.

Create fund to access literature on scientific research: Equipment to carry out scientific research and access to literature and journals for the latest in science and technologies is expensive. A fund should be created for the country as one to have access to this literature which can be made available to the industry at a nominal cost.

Alternatively, increase the tax exemption on any amounts that the industry spends on R&D.

Fund new technologies for farmers: A lot of work has been done by agricultural startups. However, the end-user, the farmer is unable to pay for these technologies. To encourage adoption, entrepreneurial models at village levels can be created. The industry could be allowed to access this fund to enable the development of entrepreneurs. The fund could be at a low-interest rate and offered as a loan to the industry to help adapt its products in villages.

This will serve the purpose of creating employment generation models as well as funding newer technologies which can be provided to the farmer on a pay-per-use basis.

The writer is MD, Pluss Advanced Technologies Limited- India-based materials research and manufacturing company.

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