Govt Offering 50 Per cent Funding To Relevant Industry-Academia Research Projects!

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A symbiotic collaboration between academia and industry can help the nation grow by leaps and bounds.

Recognising the immense strength that industry and academia can bring together, the Indian government, along with electronics industry experts and academic institutions, is bringing new R&D schemes and initiatives. These will propel innovative solution creation which can address real life challenges and necessities of the industry. In this article, we look into two such ongoing initiatives which can boost our R&D ecosystem further.

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The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science and Technology, GoI has joined hands with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to promote and support industry relevant R&D by partnering with institutions of academic excellence. This is a unique Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative to bridge the gap between industry and academia and make research and commercialization an inherent element of Indian life. The initiative includes promotion and execution of SERB’s two prestigious schemes.

●    Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research

●    Industry Relevant R&D Scheme

Industry relevant R&D scheme (Duration: 3 years)

The scheme is to encourage and promote research that addresses well-defined problems of industrial relevance. The objective is to utilise the expertise available in academic institutions and national laboratories to solve industry-specific problems for larger benefit of the society.

Areas of research for the project remain flexible as the associations have invited proposals across all relevant sectors. The project holds a couple of criteria for an applicant to be deemed eligible for being an academic partner. The applicant must be an Indian citizen residing in India. He or she must hold a regular academic/research position in an academic institution, national laboratories or any recognised R&D institutions. More than one academic partner will be allowed in a project.

Industry partners can be from any industries, including MSME and industrial R&D centers. More than one industry and/or more than one investigator from one industry can also be associated in a project. Proposal shall be jointly designed and implemented by industry and the academic partner (which includes partners from national laboratories/recognized R&D institutions as the case may be).

The proposal must contain any of the following characteristics:

●    Proposal that adopt an innovative approach to solve a problem faced by the industry

●    Proposal whose outcome will bring new scientific technological innovations

●    Solution driven research that aid technology transfer and commercialisation

The selection process will follow a sequence of steps, with most of the communication to be done online. SERB has explained the selection process as follows:

●    The call for applications will be notified through the official website. The application form along with a proper research proposal should be submitted online through the website.

●    The proposal must be jointly submitted by the Principal Investigator and the Co-investigator from Industry. The Industry should explicitly state in the proposal its (a) financial commitments and (b) any other support (if any) provided to the academic partner.

●    The selection will be based on scientific and technical feasibility of the proposal, track record of the PI, and commercial potential.

●    The proposal shall be subjected to peer review processes. The selection shall be made by a relevant subject committee (PAC)

The proposal must be submitted jointly by the principal investigator (academia) and the co-investigator (industry). The industry will have to explicitly state in the proposal its financial commitments and any other support (if any) provided to the academic partner.

Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research (Duration: 4 Years)

Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research scheme is a prestigious initiative of Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India towards the advancement of university research engagements in line with industry requirement. The scheme encourages full time PhD scholars to pursue research in “focus areas” identified by industries as well as of national priorities. There are 100 slots of fellowships available annually to researchers to pursue PhD in reputed technology and research institutions in India. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on behalf of SERB implements the scheme.

The areas of research will span across science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and medicine. Eligibility criteria for the Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research Scheme mandates the applicant to:

●    Be an Indian National

●    Be a full time PhD registered with any academic or research institution offering PhD degree

●    Apply within 14 months of PhD admission/registration, whichever date is earlier

●    Complete all required academic qualification in past

●    Have an industry partner to sponsor 50 per cent of the fellowship (Rs 4 lakh per annum)

Final selection for the award of SERB’s Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research will be done following a rigorous selection process

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) ownership will be mutually decided by partnering academic institution, PhD scholar and the sponsoring industry. SERB & FICCI will reserve no right on IP (if any) generated out of the PhD research.

The project will follow a systematic monitoring mechanism. Awarded scholars will undergo periodic review on progress of their research work and achievement of milestones. Scholars will showcase their work during the review meetings. Application can be submitted online only, through the program website. No physical copy of the application or supporting document will be required.

A quick chat with Swapna Das, Deputy Director, FICCI

EB: Give us a brief introduction to the industry relevant R&D scheme.
The initiative is being driven by SERB, which is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Science and Technology. It is currently being headed by Dr Rajiv Kumar Tayal, who is in-charge of the ongoing projects. This scheme is open for applicants across all sectors. Renowned companies have tied up with educational institutions or research institutions to drive this initiative. The scheme facilitates both parties (industry and academia) to work together and develop a joint research proposal (something innovative in nature and not based on any ongoing topic of research).

EB: What are the processes of selection and the criteria set for proposals to be selected for the grant? 
Participants can submit their research proposals to SERB for the scheme. After the submission process is done, the committee in charge of evaluating them reviews the proposals and approves it. Based on the approval, we will provide 50 per cent of the total project value. The participating industry should ensure that the objective of the proposal has industry relevance. These should not be mere routine proposals that address conventional problems or issues not related to industry, or be based on already established approaches.

EB: Have any monetary targets or limitations been set for the proposals?
No such target has been allocated by the Ministry till now. We can accept as many proposals as we receive, based on the selection criteria. But, of course, there will
be a limitation in terms of value. The value of the project proposal should be between ` 5 million and ` 10 million. If justified, the upper cap of ` 10 million can be
relaxed. The approval of this will depend on the innovativeness of the project, which will be evaluated carefully.

EB: How long does this approval process take?
It takes around three months. In every quarter, the selection committee (comprising subject matter experts from industry and academia) approves a certain number of projects.

EB: Are there a particular number of projects that can be applied for?
There is no limitation to the number of projects that one can apply for.

EB: Is there any particular deadline for submitting applications?
We do not have any such deadline, as of now. Applications are open throughout the year and anybody can submit the joint proposal at any time of the year.

EB: Have you got any responses yet?
Yes, we have! In fact, in the last two quarters, around 12 projects under the R&D scheme have been approved.

EB: Who does the Prime Minister’s Fellowship for Doctoral Research scheme aim to engage? 
The scheme is aimed at promising Indian PhD candidates. It encourages them to pursue industry relevant research and work closely with an organisation in focused areas or industries. Scholars can define their research agenda or topic in direct consultation with the sponsoring industry. The scheme is open to full-time PhD candidates who are registered with any education or research institution that offers PhD degrees.

EB: Which industries and institutes have you partnered with for the scheme?
We already have a large roster of participating institutes for this initiative. These include major IITs and NITs, IISc Bangalore, IIEST, CSIR-CECRI, CSIR-CFTRI, CSIR-NPL and many more. Some of the renowned enterprises who are participating with us include Microsoft, Google, GE, Infosys, Tata and many others.

EB: What role is FICCI playing in this entire initiative?
FICCI is the implementing agency for SERB to market and promote the Industry Relevant R&D scheme. We go to various cities and do exclusive workshops, road shows and promotional events to market this scheme. This project has been assigned to FICCI for almost a year now, and we have done around 20 road shows within this time-frame.

EB: Do you have any support centre 
for the ongoing projects?
We have a dedicated team working to address queries. The necessary contact details of concerned personnel are available on the official website ( Applicants can also come and meet us directly for assistance.http://www.serbficci-iirrada.

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