Insights into funding: Indian Department of Science and Technology

Indian research spending is approximately $70 billion annually.

By Seema Sharma

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Introduction

In 2016, India spent 0.85% of its GDP on research and development. Although this may lag behind some of the research commitments of its Asian neighbours, (China spent 1.98% and South Korea lead the region with a significant investment of 4% of its GDP), it still represents a non-trivial funding amount of ~$70 Billion annually. In recent years, Indian Research Institutes have significantly increased their influence in global rankings for research output, with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) now ranking 41 globally, and in the top 10 in the Asia-Pacific region [1].

DST Funding Overview

In this post, we’re focussing on funding opportunities from the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST). The department has a multi-functional role that includes setting scientific policy, advising the government, supporting its 21 research institutions and promoting emerging areas of science and technology (S&T). Additionally, together with its subsidiary body — the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), it allocates S&T research grants within its funding criteria to undertake research at its institutions and beyond. Note, there are several other Indian governmental departments, including the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), that also support grants in scientific research fields. The full list of all departments can be found here.

The funding focus available from the DST in India falls into the following 6 broad categories: Scientific & engineering research; technology development; international S&T cooperation; S&T socio-economic programmes; technology missions division and women scientists programmes.

There initiatives and projects funded in these categories are diverse. Some examples include: the technology mission division supporting solar energy research though a dedicated Clean Energy Research Initiative (CERI); women scientists programmes providing funding for those women returning to work after career breaks; the technology development funding a new quantum computation and communication systems project.

Calls for proposals have a definitive submission deadline and those currently available can be found listed at http://www.dst.gov.in/call-for-proposals. Announcements, in the form of ongoing funding opportunities are also invited throughout the year, with no definitive deadline, and are available here. The format and requirements for funding applications differ and researchers should play close attention to the guidelines stipulated in the individual call or announcement.The DST has adopted an electronic project management system portal (e-PMS) for the online submission of research proposals. Researchers are required to register on the portal (onlinedst.gov.in) and then upload the proposal in the given format specified in the call.

Proposals will be sent to at least three peer reviewers selected by DST. Applicants can nominate three reviewers and the DST guarantees to select at least one of these, subject to ensuring there are no conflicts of interest. Applicants have an opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments in writing. In addition, applicants may also be called to an interview before a panel to gather more information and clarity on the proposals. The expert panel may review and moderate peer review reports and seek further information based the what it presented by the applicant at interview.

DST International Collaborative Funding

As part of a focus on international cooperation, the DST has a number of joint global calls for funding, teaming up with international partners. It’s notable that many of its current calls for proposals involve collaboration with one or more countries. The DST states that in recent years its cooperation has strengthened notably with Australia, Canada, EU, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, UK and USA.

UK-India, Germany-India, France-India and US-India collaborative calls are regularly announced. Here, research applicants are required to apply jointly from the two countries involved, and each proposal should involve one or more organisers from each country. Two funding councils will be involved, the DST and the joint partner research council.

In the UK, a number of recently funded grants have included joint collaborations between the DST with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on projects for improving water quality through monitoring pollutants, and reducing energy demands in the built environment. Current Indo-UK joint research calls available through the Research Councils UK (RCUK) can be found here.

The DST is also involved in a UK-India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI), a bilateral governmental commitment from both countries to partner in research. They have a number of funding calls currently available, (independent to those listed by the RCUK), listed here. Equivalent bilateral research initiative centres also exist in France (Indo-French Centre for Promotion of Advanced Research), Germany (Indo-German Science & Technology Centre) and the US (Indo-US Science and Technology Forum), which are worth checking for regular funding calls.

The DST require that all international collaborative research projects proposals should emphasise the joint research effort between Indian researchers and the other participant country. Furthermore,  both applicants should clearly demonstrate the added value drawn from a collaboration with India. They also encourage the exchange of research staff, including travel funding specifically for that purpose. The Indian Lead applicant researcher must work at an institution that receives grants from the DST and have registered online at their portal.

Finally, we’ve listed a number of standard assessment criteria to help when submitting international collaborative projects with the DST, these include:

  1. Quality of proposal
  2. Importance
  3. Pathways to Impact
  4. Appropriateness of applicants (CV’s are submitted as part of this)
  5. Resources and management
  6. Fit with the call

Good luck with your application!

References

Useful Links

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