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India’s GERD on Research unsatisfactory: UNESCO Science Report 2021

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India’s investment in research unsatisfactoryThe ‘UNESCO Science Report 2021: The race against time  for smarter development’  released by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that India’s Investment in Research remains unsatisfactory. India’s Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research & Development (GERD) remained at 0.7% of the GDP for several years.

  • India has one of the lowest GERD/GDP ratios among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations.

UNESCO Science Report

  • The UNESCO Science Report 2021 is the 7th report in the series of UNESCO Science Report.
  • It has been published every 5 years since its launch in 1993.
  • The Indian chapter of the 2021 Report has been authored by Sunil Mani, Director of Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

India’s Investment in Research

India’s research intensity has been declining since 2014.

  • The Science of Technology Policy of 2003 fixed the limit of devoting 2% of GDP to Research & Development (R&D) by 2007. The target date for 2% of GDP on R&D was set to 2018 and later to 2022.
  • Finally, In 2020 the task force drafting India’s new Science & Technology Policy had set the target of 2% on GDP for R&D to 2030.

Density of Scientists/Engineers engaged in R&D

The density of Scientists/Engineers engaged in R&D in India stood at 11 in 2018 (per 10, 000 of the labour force). At the same time, the ratio stood at 50 in China, 130 in Japan and 180 in South Korea.

Decline of R&D in Government sector

The report highlights a steady decline in the R&D of the Government sector since 2015. However the share of R&D in  private business enterprises has increased to 42%.

  • The R&D is focused primarily on sectors like Pharmaceuticals, automotive, and Information Technology.
  • The investment in R&D by foreign multinationals has increased, accounting for as much as 16% of private-sector investment in R&D in 2019.

Positive Aspects

i.The number of scientific publications by India researchers on latest technologies has increased significantly from 80, 458 in 2011 to 1.61 lakh in 2019.

ii.India has also made ‘solid progress’ towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets concerning industry, infrastructure and innovation.

Need for Improved Linkages

  • The UNESCO Science Report highlights the need for ‘policy bridges’ for an effective interaction between foreign and local research firms.
  • It also calls for improved linkages between the start-up ecosystem and manufacturers to boost technological development in sectors in which India has a global presence.


Director-General – Audrey Azoulay
Headquarters – Paris, France