+ Acadsourcing of research – Way to go for Industry - CII Blog

There is no debate that those who innovate are those who lead. Leading economies put research on their priority list, and the same is true for any organisation. The best way to stay ahead of the game is to create out-of-the-box products and services through Research and Development (R&D).

As per the R&D Statistics and Indicators 2019-20, based on the National Science & Technology Survey 2018 brought out by the National Science and Technology Management Information (NSTMIS), Department of Science and Technology (DST), India’s gross expenditure in R&D has tripled between 2008 and 2018 from Rs 39,437.77 crore in 2007- 08 to Rs 1,13,825.03 crore in 2017-18. 

Notably, India spent 0.7% of its GDP on R&D in 2017-18, the lowest among other developing BRICS countries with Brazil at 1.3%, Russian Federation at 1.1%, China at 2.1%, and South Africa at 0.8%. 

GERD in India is mainly driven by the Government sector with Private Sector Industry contributing only 36.8% during 2017-18. In most of the developed and emerging economies, the participation of industry in GERD is more than 50%; in fact, it is more than 70% for China, Japan, Korea, and the USA. 

On a brighter side, India ranks third in terms of the number of PhD’s awarded in Science and Engineering (S&E) after the USA and China. It is interesting to note that 60% of India’s doctorates were from the Science & Technology discipline in 2018-19. 

This shows that our higher education system is producing a lot of research, while the industry is not using it enough. Also, the industry needs to almost double its spending on research. Of course, not every company can afford to have R&D wings or earmark large funds to drive research efforts. Some of the larger companies, too, sometimes compromise on new research for optimising costs and manpower utilisation. Other factors such as expensive and right research staff, day to day monitoring, to ensure continued focus and sincerity, among others, can also pose hurdles. 

Based on its competitive technological talent, India has emerged as a preferred outsourcing destination for global companies, including for design and product development. Taking a cue from this, Indian industry too can ‘outsource’ its R&D.  The best way to do it is through ‘outsourcing’ it to Indian academic institutes, which may be termed ‘acadsourcing.’ 

These institutes have PhD scholars working on problems in the area of Science and Technology (S&T). The topics taken up by a majority of researchers are real-world problems. Organisations can judiciously leverage their skills and doctoral endeavours for problem-solving and come out with innovative products. 

India’s IITs, IIITs, NITs, IISERs, NIPERs, and thousands of higher education institutions (HEIs), are spending millions of hours on research. The scholars are guided by the best minds in the world and are known for their competence and capability and cutting edge research. The most recent example is the low-cost COVID testing kit developed by IIT Delhi. 

A staggering 250+ research projects on Covid related topics such as Personal Protective Care Equipment, testing kits, sanitization, medical equipment, robots, surveillance, treatment, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological and data analytics and Artificial Intelligence to model epidemic patterns and disease dynamics have been undertaken by IITs even though traditional campuses are not functioning normally. There are many such examples across HEIs in the country.

If a company ties up with HEIs in its work area to sponsor PhD candidates, it can fulfil most of its short-term and long-term R&D needs and stay ahead of its competitors. 

One of the vehicles that a company can consider using is the CII-SERB Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research (www.primeministerfellowshipscheme.in), a public-private partnership (PPP) since 2012 between Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), which is an autonomous body under DST, Government of India, and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). 

An organisation can ensure that its research is done in a time-bound and sincere manner by collaborating with PhD researchers. The researcher will select the company’s research problem as their dissertation. The Fellowship duration is a maximum of four years or completion of PhD, whichever is earlier.

Also, with the institute’s academic guide constantly monitoring the work and results, companies get to use high-end expertise for their research work at no cost. They can oversee the progress from time to time and give necessary inputs to ensure that the R&D moves forward the way they would like. 

Since a company would be an industry partner under CII-SERB PM Fellowship, the scholar’s progress is measured accurately and consistently based on performance. Organisations which prefer researchers to work on the company’s equipment or with colleagues can enter into an understanding with the scholar and the guide for some company workdays. 

The best part is the cost, which is negligible for each researcher that one ties up with – just about Rs. 5.5 lakhs per year as per 2020 slabs. This works out to be a total of 20 lakhs for a four-year R&D with a full-time PhD scholar, academic guide expertise, and use of institute labs!  

In terms of intellectual property, an organisation can decide the terms with the scholar, guide, and the institute. CII and SERB are not in the picture on this area.

This approach not only brings researchers with industry outlook on board but also helps the industry save time and resources that go into training R&D personnel on-the-job.

Find a research scholar for your R&D today by signing up free of cost at https://primeministerfellowshipscheme.in/company-register-new.php. CII will help you identify the right researcher in no time!

Here’s hoping that Indian industry will write a new growth story with our academia oiling its R&D!

For more details, do reach out to neha.gupta@cii.in