In her Interim Budget speech on February 7, 2024, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made two important announcements related to deep tech and research funding in India. She declared that the government would create a Rs 1 lakh crore fund to provide long-term, low-cost or zero-interest loans for research and development in sunrise domains (new sectors), such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, and robotics. She also said that the government would launch a new scheme to strengthen deep-tech capabilities in the defence sector, in collaboration with the private sector and academia.
These announcements are significant for several reasons. First, they show the government’s recognition of the importance and potential of deep tech, which are advanced and disruptive technologies that can trigger transformative change and provide solutions for the future. Second, they address the long-standing issue of lack of adequate research funding in India, which has hampered the growth and innovation of the scientific community and the industry. Third, they aim to create an enabling environment and a vibrant ecosystem for deep tech startups and enterprises, which can contribute to the economic development and self-reliance of the country.
The challenges and the opportunities of the announcements
While the announcements are welcome and commendable, they also pose some challenges and opportunities for the stakeholders involved. Some of the key challenges and opportunities are:
- Implementing and monitoring the fund and the scheme effectively and efficiently, ensuring transparency and accountability, and avoiding duplication and wastage of resources
- Aligning the fund and the scheme with the existing policies and initiatives related to deep tech, such as the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, the National Quantum Mission, and the National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP), which was finalised last year
- Leveraging the fund and the scheme to attract and retain talent, foster collaboration, and promote excellence in deep tech research and innovation, both within and outside the country
- Balancing the fund and the scheme with the other priorities and needs of the economy and the society, such as health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure
- Measuring and evaluating the impact and the outcomes of the fund and the scheme, both in terms of scientific and technological outputs and outcomes, and in terms of social and economic benefits and returns
The expectations and the prospects of the announcements
The announcements have raised the expectations and the prospects of the deep tech and research community in India, as well as the global community. Some of the expectations and prospects are:
- Enhancing the quality and quantity of deep tech research and innovation in India, leading to more publications, patents, products, and services in these domains
- Increasing the competitiveness and the visibility of India in the global deep tech landscape, leading to more collaborations, partnerships, and investments in these domains
- Creating more opportunities and avenues for deep tech startups and enterprises in India, leading to more jobs, revenues, and exports in these domains
- Solving some of the complex and pressing challenges and problems faced by India and the world, such as climate change, energy security, health care, and cyber security, using deep tech solutions
- Improving the well-being and the prosperity of the people of India and the world, using deep tech applications
The announcements have also generated a lot of interest and curiosity among the general public, who want to know more about deep tech and its implications for their lives. The announcements have also inspired and motivated the young generation, who want to pursue careers and opportunities in deep tech domains.