RoI in R&D, invest big in the future

Earlier this week, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, US, took a major step in the direction of harnessing energy from nuclear fusion. For the first time, fusion reaction – rather than the usual controlled fission in nuclear energy generation – has produced more energy than was needed to initiate it. It’s still a very long way off delivering clean energy via nuclear fusion. But it’s an important start on which to build R&D on, the operative letters being R and D.

India is reportedly planning to fire up its nuclear power generation to bolster its renewable energy programme. The focus will be on activating small modular (fission) reactors (SMRs). For real progress on this front, investments in research and development (R&D) have to increase – both bigger and longer. R&D investment is about backing the future of the country’s growth and development. GoI understands this. Thus the prime minister’s call-out for making ‘research’ a key pillar (read: a far greater outlay in R&D than it is currently).

R&D is, ironically, not an exact science. Not all investments will yield satisfactory results. Many will take long to yield what can be deemed as RoI. Scientists have, for instance, worked for decades in fusion research to come to this week’s ‘starting point’. For low middle-income countries like India, allocating substantial sums of public funds for R&D can pose a challenge. Therefore, India needs to devise funding models that leverage public funds. Sustained investment in R&D is essential if countries are to reach and then maintain their competitive edge. Besides sustained funding, this means creating an ecosystem that encourages R&D and innovation, rather than fetishising the much fetishised jugaad.

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