Dr. Rajiv Sharma
Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) is empowering scientific community to address challenging issues of national interest and equipping them to attain global competitiveness in innovation
The mandate of SERB is to promote S&T research through appropriate policy interventions and to provide extramural funding to academic institutions, research laboratories and other R&D organisations for carrying out basic research in frontier areas of science and engineering. SERB strives to serve the needs of researchers through quick and responsive funding decisions. To achieve this, SERB has put in place the required policy and administrative framework that overrides conflicts of interest of grant seeking applicants, reviewers, committee members and SERB officers to bring its functioning at par with leading global R&D funding agencies. The aim is to bring-in more transparency and increased accountability to assure the general public that processes followed are fair and non-discriminatory.
SERB seeks to achieve its mandated objectives through activities built around six programmatic themes, referred here as “pillars”. SERB provides a dynamic vehicle of choice catering to the diversified needs of institutions engaged in S&T research by developing inclusive processes in the various programmes and schemes listed under these pillars
Over the last 6 years, SERB has grown manifold not only in terms of its budget outlays, but also in terms of number of schemes being implemented, targeting various segments of the scientific community. On an average SERB has been instrumental in initiating and implementing three to four new schemes every year Some of these are:
a) Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY)
The UAY has been launched by the MHRD with a view to promote innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the need of the industries, thereby improving the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing capabilities. While MHRD funds 50% of the project cost, industry and other participating Ministries share the balance project cost (25% each).
b) VAJRA: Visiting Advance Joint Research
VAJRA provides for Adjunct / visiting faculty positions to overseas scientists, faculty members and R&D professionals including NRI & OCI to undertake high quality collaborative research in Public funded academic and research Institutions in India. The scheme was announced by hon’ble PM during Jan 2017, and has the following features:-
- Minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 3 months of residency period every year.
- A lump-sum amount of US$ 15000 in the first month of engagement in a year and
US$ 10000 p.m. in the next two months. Host Institution may provide additional support (accommodation, medical / personal insurance etc).
c) MATRICS (Mathematical Research Impact-Centric Support)
This scheme is aimed at providing fixed grant support to active researchers with good credentials in Mathematical Sciences. The main attribute of this scheme would be the submission of a simple one-page mathematical proposal along with curriculum vitae. The funding provided would cater to the specific needs of Mathematical Sciences research.
d) TARE (Teachers Associateship for Research Excellence)
This is a scheme for bringing out latent talent of researchers working in State Universities, Colleges and Academic Institutions in Private Sector. The aim is to facilitate mobility of faculty members working in a regular capacity in State Universities/ Colleges/ Academic Institutions in private sectors to work in established public funded institutions such as IITs, IISc, IISERS, National Labs etc. located near to the institution where the faculty member is working. Not exceeding three years covering areas under Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences & Mathematical Sciences, including interdisciplinary areas. Research fellowship of Rs. 60,000/- per year (in addition to the researcher’s own salary) will be provided subject to completion of minimum 90 days research work per year in the host institution. Research grant of Rs. 5 lakhs per annum (50% each to host and parent institution) and overheads (as per SERB norms) will be provided.
e) DIA (Distinguished Investigator Award)
To award performance based research grant with honorarium to PIs who have excelled in existing SERB or DST projects, the board this year approved a onetime career award known as Distinguished Investigator Award (DIA), that grants an additional project sanction to the perspective Project Investigator as well as monthly honorarium.
f) Review of J C Bose, SERB Distinguished & Year of Science Chair Professorship:
J C Bose Fellowship is instituted to recognize active scientists for their outstanding performance. Whereas the SERB Distinguished Fellowship is to cater to the eminent superannuated scientists who do not hold any administrative roles and functions but are active and performing, the YoS Chair Professorships are to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of scientists and academicians to the cause of Indian science, in the areas of STEM. These Professors are regarded as bench mark for stature, value and eminence in the international area. The board decided to work out a mechanism to regulate the number of JC Bose Fellows at a given point in time and develop a dynamic criterion to measure the performance of the fellows so that parameters so developed can be taken as performance index for taking decision while seeking extension by the fellows. The other two fellowships were revised upward, considering the need of the times.
g) Schemes going truly International:
Having received several requests from the scientific community to open up the scheme for various categories of researchers such as Non-Resident Indians (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO), Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), the board has opened up SERB schemes/programs such as EMR, ECRA, HRHR, IRRD, IRHPA etc. to scientists regardless of nationality to apply and compete for grants. However, this will not be applicable to fellowship such as JC Bose, Ramanujan, N PDF etc.
Some of the other schemes that have already been approved by the board and are being implemented and launched soon are as follows: –
The objective of this scheme is to have a systems approach, that can push high-end scientific research and prepare scientific manpower capable enough to venture into research careers.
This programme has been conceived by SERB on the recommendation of Group of Secretaries (SGO-8) to give a boost to science.
Consolidation of the existing training related programs and activities in the country to provide single platform for access for the ease of students as well as other stakeholders.
Initiation and support of the High-End Workshops and Research Internships by SERB during next five years for dedicated capacity building in selected areas / disciplines.
III. INTERNATIONAL LINKAGES & NATIONAL COLLABORATIONS
Over the past more than six decades, certain events have influenced international scientific and engineering R&D cooperation, throwing up new challenges and concerns in their wake. These include, but are not restricted to, capacity building, sustainability, data management, mega science cooperation, ethics, conduct of science, human rights and multilateral institutional reforms. Recognising this, SERB has been making constant efforts to build peer networks through its pillar “Building Research Networks (BRN)”. Some of the international linkages are:
Overseas Doctoral Fellowship:
The Board continued the Fellowship Scheme along the lines of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which the Board had entered with select Overseas Universities to undertake doctoral research by Indian students in those institutions. Five students in Cambridge University and one in Rice University have been selected for doctoral research.
Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship
Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme that the Board had initiated in the past to build national capacity in frontier areas of Science which are of interest to India was continued in the current year also. Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) has made a separate call for US specific institutions. 50 researchers have been offered fellowship to pursue their postdoctoral research in various countries under renowned guides. Another 50 researchers have been selected to US Institutions by IUSSTF.
SERB Newton – Bhabha International Fellowships
A MoU had been signed between The Royal Society, United Kingdom and SERB to institute 15 Newton – Bhabha International Fellowships per year to the Indian research community to undertake postdoctoral level research covering fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in U.K for a period of two years. 15 students have been selected for the fellowship in the reporting period.
European Commission (EU) SERB Research Partnership
The Board approved an Implementing Arrangement (IA) between the European Commission (EU) and SERB to provide opportunities for Indian early career researchers and engineers [Early Career Research Awardees (ECRA) / National Postdoctoral Fellows (N-PDF)] to pursue research collaboration with European scientists who are supported through the EU-funded European Research Council (ERC) grants. IA was signed by Dr. Rajiv Sharma, Secretary, SERB and Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski of the European Commission on 6 October, 2017, and exchanged it in the presence of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and Mr Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, during the 14th EU-India Summit in New Delhi.