Schemes in Budget would boost S&T ecosystem: Harsh Vardhan

There are various new schemes in the Union Budget which would further boost the science and technology ecosystem in the country, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan said on Monday, hailing the Budget presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

According to the Science and Technology Ministry, the Budget 2021 includes several initiatives to promote science, technology and innovation with applications in the country.

It is a forward looking Budget to substantially boost support for R&D in the key identified areas of national priorities, it said.

This includes a total allocation of Rs 50,000 crore over 5 years for the National Research Foundation, an autonomous body envisaged to support researchers working across several streams of S&T with special focus on universities.

This will ensure that the overall research ecosystem of the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national-priority thrust areas.

Harsh Vardhan said there has been a 30 per cent increase in budget of Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences put together for the year 2021-22 compared to last year.

“The last year has been a very challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and science and technology has played a crucial role in tackling various problems caused by COVID-19.”

He added, “There are various new schemes in this new Budget which would further boost science and technology ecosystem in the country, spread its benefits to the people and help the country become a major force in S&T globally.”

The Budget also announced the launch of a Deep Ocean Mission with an outlay of more than Rs 4,000 crore over five years to better understand this new realm which offers exceptional opportunities in mapping, exploring and utilising oceanic resources.

The mission to be coordinated by the Ministry of Earth Sciences will cover deep ocean survey, development of technologies for exploration and harnessing of ocean resources as well as projects for the conservation and bio-prospecting of deep-sea biodiversity.

The Budget also declared setting up of umbrella structures in nine cities for building better synergies among R&D institutions, universities and colleges supported by the government while also retaining their internal autonomy.

This will be coordinated by the Ministry of Education, and a Glue Grant will be set aside for this purpose, the S&T Ministry said.

The Department of Biotechnology is implementing the URJIT clusters (University Research Joint Industry Translation Clusters) which are being set up in 10 locations as per the Budget announcement in February 2020. These will complement the activities of the umbrella structures.

A National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) was announced, which will enable the translation of the wealth of governance- and policy-related knowledge on the internet to major Indian languages using technologies such as AI-based Machine Translation together with traditional methods.

The launch of a Hydrogen Energy Mission by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was declared for generating hydrogen from green power sources, its storage, transport and utilisation.

The Department of Biotechnology is developing a Biomass to Hydrogen Mission which will be important from the R&D perspective. Department of Science and Technology and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will also be contributing to this mission.