National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023

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July 15, 2023

Why in news?

The Union Cabinet has recently approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023.

What are the features of NRF Bill, 2023?

  • NRF - The bill will establish National Research Foundation as an apex body.
  • SERB - The bill will repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body that was established in 2008 to promote basic research in Science and Engineering and to provide financial assistance to persons engaged in R&D.
  • SERB will be subsumed into NRF which has an expanded mandate and covers activities over and above the activities of SERB.

What is NRF?

  • NRF is one of the key recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
  • It is modelled on the lines of the hugely successful National Science Foundation of the United States.
  • Aim - The NRF intends to act as a coordinating agency between researchers, various government bodies and industry, thus bringing industry into the mainstream of research.
  • The NRF plans to seed, grow and facilitate research in India’s universities, especially State universities, by funding research infrastructure and researchers.
  • Governance - NRF will be administrated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and governed by a Governing Board.
  • Funding – The NRF will operate with a budget of Rs 50,000 crore for five years, of which 28% will be the government’s share, and the remaining 72%will come from the private sector.

Composition of Governing Board

  • Ex-Officio President - Prime Minister
  • Ex-Officio Vice Presidents
    • Minister of Science and Technology and
    • Minister of Education
  • Executive Council will govern the functioning of NRF
  • Executive Council will be chaired by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India.








What is the significance of NRF?

  • Focus on universities - The main objectives of the NRF is to get colleges and universities involved in scientific research.
  • Research in social sciences - It promote research not just in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences and art.
  • National priorities - It also aims to identify priority areas such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, etc. in which S&T interventions can help larger national objectives.
  • Democratisation - The focus area for NRF is peripheral, rural and semi urban areas which are often neglected.
  • Uniformity It also aims to  bring uniformity in funding and reduce the bureaucratic hurdle associated in raising money.
  • Internationalization - It will promote international competition and find solution to complexities of Indian society.

What is the status of R&D in India?

  • R&D expenditure - India spends around 0.7% of GDP in R&D which is lesser than many other countries.
  • Gross expenditure on R&D in India is declined from 0.84% in 2008 to 0.69% in 2018.
  • Research funding - Eminent institutions like the IITs and IISc get a bulk of research funding but State universities get very little about 10% of the research funds.
  • Patents - According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), although India registered a 16.5% growth in patent grants in 2021, the patent applications are very much less than China and US.
  • Other challenges - Other challenges that constraints the scientific community includes:
    • Inconsistent funding stream
    • Complex application processes (multiple guidelines & rules)
    • Bias towards established researchers and institutions
    • Straight-jacketed themes which allow little intellectual freedom
    • University bureaucracy and procedures result in delays in decisions

science research

What are the challenges associated with NRF?

  • Financial crunch- 50% of the funding mechanism is dependent on private sector.
  • While the participation of the private industry in the NRF is an important and welcome step, it is unclear how the government will raise Rs 36,000 crore from the industry.
  • Autonomy - The top positions in the NRF board are reserved for members of the government, including the PM and the Ministers of Science, Technology and Education.
  • Time period - Although the NRF draft mentions that the peer-review process will be completed within 6 months, releasing funds may take time, pending financial clearance.

What is the need of the hour?

  • The time between applying for a research grant and receiving the money must be minimal, preferably within 6 months.
  • All the paperwork must be digitally processed without sending stacks of papers in hard copies to the NRF.
  • All finance-related queries, paperwork, approval, and acceptance need to be between the NRF and the finance department of the university/research institution keeping the scientist free to focus on research.
  • The NRF needs explicit spending guidelines away from the General Financial Rules (GFR) and the government’s e-Marketplace (GeM) usage.
  • Although the NRF draft mentions timely disbursal of funds, a mechanism needs to be in place to facilitate and implement this.

Department of Science and Technology

  • Estblished in 1971.       
  • Functions under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Its flagship programs are National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI), Vigyan Jyoti, INSPIRE etc.,



  1. The Indian Express | centre gets nod
  2. The Indian Express | views on NRF
  3. Indian Express |boost research
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