Science wins India’s budget race

In the past, Indian science and technology ministries have not been much of focus in the budget. But change is coming as science and innovation diplomacy is becoming increasingly crucial for countries in the current geopolitical context. This is to be seen in India’s 2020 Budget proposal which was published 1st of February. Major research funding departments in India got a hike of more than 10% from last year, which gives a signal about the importance of science and innovation in the future.

The OSI team attended one of the budget sessions. From left: Fanny von Heland, Emma Nilsson (intern) and Leena Kukreja. Photo: Hanna Söderlund

India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) will get a hike on 17% respectively 14% more than last year. The major sectors that received the hike are the genomics initiative to map India’s genetic landscape and the encouragement to set up knowledge transfer clusters led by DBT. Furthermore, 8000 crores, which is about 10 billion SEK, was given to the research program called “Quantum-enabled Science and Technology” (QUEST) led by DST and project within the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also to be funded. Last year, India launched its National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence. There will soon be a policy to enable private sector in building data centre parks throughout the country, thus enabling firms to incorporate data in every step of their value chains.

Today STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) determine the success and speed of a country’s economies. STEM has become a strategic issue and we have to harness the underutilized potential in women. Companies with a good gender balance perform better when it comes to innovation. If not included women will not have equal opportunities to participate in the knowledge economy and influence the design of our future society.

In the backdrop of Swedish feminist foreign policy the challenge within the area of innovation would be to get everyone on board. It has to be a reachable sector for people regardless of gender. According to sources, only 14% out of 280 000 scientists, engineers and technologists working in Research & Development Institutions in India were women in 2017.

Two weeks ago OSI took part in the International Summit on Women in STEM, where representatives from major departments participated to discuss female representation. Our take on it is that policy reforms and schemes along with an increased number of female role models could ensure women participation in STEM. 

There is hoping that events such as these could encourage women to choose a profession within the science and innovation sector. From a societal point of view, women have to be brought forward in all aspects of science, to ensure equal opportunities from the start, across sector and in different stages of the career.

Why is India investing heavily in Quantum technology? Stay tuned for our next blog post to know more about that!