Innovation and R&D highlights of Union Budget 2021-22

Suneet Mohan

The Union Budget 2021-22 rests on six pillars listed here:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Physical & Financial Capital, and Infrastructure
  • Inclusive Development for Aspirational India
  • Reinvigorating Human Capital
  • Innovation and R&D
  • Minimum Government and Maximum Governance    


Innovation and R&D

The Union Budget 2021-22 was announced on 1st February 2021, including for the first time, a pillar dedicated to Innovation and R&D. Here are the key announcements made:

  • An announcement to establish a National Research Foundation (NRF) was made in 2019. The modalities of the NRF have been laid down and the Budget 2021-22 provides an NRF outlay of Rs 50,000 crore over five years. It will ensure the overall research ecosystem in the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national priority thrust areas. “The NRF will support peer-reviewed R&D of all types and across all disciplines including interdisciplinary and social science research, in order to significantly strengthen India’s research and innovation potential. It will seed, grow, and facilitate research at academic institutions, particularly at universities and colleges where research capacity is currently in a nascent stage”, said Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India following the announcement.
  • A new initiative on National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) was announced. This will enable the wealth of governance and policy-related knowledge on the Internet to be made available in major Indian languages. The NLT mission is steered by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and is one of the nine missions of the PM’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). NLTM also aims to make opportunities and progress in science and technology accessible to everyone in their mother tongue and remove the barrier of the requirement of a high level of proficiency in English.
  • To enhance our understanding of Oceans, a budget outlay of more than Rs. 4,000 crores over five years were announced for the Deep Ocean Mission. Steered by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), this Mission will cover deep ocean survey exploration and projects for the conservation of deep-sea biodiversity. Also, one of the PM-STIAC’s identified missions, the Deep Ocean Mission aims to scientifically explore deep oceans, with the goal of improving our understanding of the blue frontier. The mission's focus areas include the development of technologies for the deep-sea exploration of living (biodiversity) and non-living (minerals) resources; underwater vehicles and robotics; ocean climate change advisory services; technological innovations and conservational methods for sustainable utilization of marine bio-resources; offshore-based desalination techniques; and renewable energy generation.
  • To create more opportunities and to incentivize start-ups in the country, the budget proposes to extend the eligibility for claiming tax holidays for start-ups by one more year – till 31st March 2022. Further, in order to incentivize funding of the start-ups, it also proposes to extend the capital gains exemption for investment in start-ups by one more year - till 31st March 2022. This will give a boost to the deep tech start-up ecosystem.
  • The Union Budget observed that many of our cities have various research institutions, universities, and colleges supported by the Government of India. Hyderabad for example has about 40 such major institutions. It proposes setting up a Glue Grant to create formal umbrella structures so that these institutions can have better synergy, while also retaining their internal autonomy. The Science and Technology Clusters will work in areas of national importance, leveraging the existing strengths in geographical proximity, driving future economic growth, wealth creation, and enabling rapid and direct knowledge exchange. Six such city clusters have been initiated under the Office of PSA at Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jodhpur, and Pune.
  • The Budget has announced the launching of a Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22 for generating hydrogen from green power sources. By ushering in the hydrogen economy, India is expected to gain significantly by promoting the usage of green hydrogen in power generation & power storage, transportation, industrial heating, and fertilizer production. The mission that will have an R&D component will help to attain energy security and reducing the Carbon footprint of the country.
  • The Budget has introduced a new mission called the Jal Jeevan Mission. This mission will aim at a universal water supply in all 4,378 Urban Local Bodies with 2.86 crores household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities. It will be implemented over 5 years, with an outlay of 2,87,000 crores. The mission will build on the momentum created by the Jal Jeevan Mission (Rural) to extend the "Har Ghar me Jal se Nal goal" to cities. The Office of PSA leads the Technology Selection Committee for the mission since its inception and screens evaluate, and tests deployable technologies for their robustness and coherence with the various objectives of the mission.
  • The Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be implemented with a total financial allocation of Rs. 1,41,678 crores over a period of 5 years from 2021-2026. The Union Budget has focused on complete fecal sludge management and waste-water treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction and demolition activities, and bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites. This provision will further the cause of swachhta for urban India. PM-STIAC’s Waste-To-Wealth mission, the "scientific arm" of the Swachh Bharat Mission launched last year, aims to identify, test, and validate technologies towards conservation, sustainable use, and restoration of our land, air, and water resources. The goal of the mission is to move India towards a zero-waste nation.


Health R&D

  • The budget has announced the setting up of a national institution for One Health, a Regional Research Platform for WHO Southeast Asia Region, 9 Bio-Safety Level III laboratories, and 4 regional National Institutes for Virology. The budget further announced the Strengthening of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its 5 regional branches, and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units; the Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs. A substantial boost to health R&D has been provided by enhancing the budgetary outlay of the Department of Health Research.


Space R&D

  • The New Space India Limited (NSIL), a PSU under the Department of Space (DoS) will execute the PSLV-CS51 launch, carrying the Amazonia Satellite from Brazil, along with a few smaller Indian satellites. With the tremendous growth in space-based services and applications in India having huge commercial potential, DoS has enabled the participation of the Private Sector in end-to-end space activities, to expand the space economy through the recently established New Space India Limited (NSIL).
  • As part of the Gaganyaan mission activities, four Indian astronauts are being trained on Generic Space Flight aspects, in Russia. The first unmanned launch is slated for December 2021.


Budget S&T highlights in Tamil (translation edited by Dr. Karthick Balasubramanian).


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