India, which is currently the fourth worst-hit nation in terms of the number of cases, has recently announced major reforms in multiple sectors, including defense production, civil aviation, power distribution, Space research and atomic energy. The government is now in the process of formulating a comprehensive Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020, based on close consultations with nearly 15,000 stakeholders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, and has presented unprecedented challenges on social, healthcare and business fronts. The outbreak has pushed governments and decisionmakers to think and rethink, and come up with innovative ideas and policies to deal with the current crisis.
India, which is currently the fourth worst-hit nation in terms of the number of cases, has recently announced major reforms in multiple sectors, including defense production, civil aviation, power distribution, Space research and atomic energy. The government is now in the process of formulating a comprehensive Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020, its first since 2013.
The policy, for which the Ministry of Science and Technology has set up a secretariat with in-house experts, is being formulated in close consultation with multiple stakeholders. “The new policy will be evidence driven, rather than wisdom based. It will be thematic, and not broad-based, and will be inclusive, with a bottom-up approach,” explained Professor Akhilesh Gupta, Head of STIP 2020 Secretariat, Department of Science and Technology. Professor Gupta was speaking at a virtual Town Hall meet to launch public consultations for STIP 2020.
According to a statement by the Indian government, the new policy, with its decentralized manner of formation, will reorient STIP in terms of priorities, sectoral focus, the way research is done and technologies are developed and deployed for a larger socio-economic welfare. “A lot has changed in the last seven-ten years, and some of those changes have been radical. There is a compelling case for us to look at what the future holds. For instance, the rise of Industry 4.0, which is intimately connected with science and technology. Then there is a strong need for sustainable development on the planet. We don’t have to create more shadows, but need to create more light from technology,” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology.
Professor Sharma added that with the advancement of “thinking machines”, and technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the future will be all about convergence of technologies, and so India needs a policy that establishes strong connects between all stakeholders and the entire ecosystem. Professor K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, was of the view that with its young demography, India can not only transform itself, but can be a great resource for the transformation of the world. “The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy needs to look forward in a post COVID-19 world in innovative ways, with special focus on people at the foundation (young researchers and professionals) and access to research from everywhere.”
The process of formulating STIP 2020 is based on four interlinked tracks, which, according to the government, will cover nearly 15,000 stakeholders. Track I involves extensive public and expert consultation process through a dedicated platform (Science Policy Forum) for receiving inputs from the larger public and expert pool. Track II comprises expert-driven thematic consultations to feed informed recommendations into the policy based on scientific evidence.
Track III involves consultations with ministries and states, while track IV constitutes an apex level multi-stakeholder consultation. For track III, nodal officers are being nominated in various states and in ministries, government departments and agencies.
The consultation processes on different tracks have already started and are running in parallel.
With India facing a plethora of challenges going forward, the time is right for a policy that encourages collaboration, safeguards all interests and promotes growth and development. As ProfessorVijayRaghavan said in his concluding remark. “There are so many areas that require extensive research. For instance, environment and ecology. We can have scientists, mathematicians and city planners come together and share knowledge towards this common cause.”