Bhubaneshwar: India's position in the world of science was being overtaken by countries like China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday and announced that spending on research and development (R&D) would go up two percent of the GDP from the current 0.9 percent by the end of the Twelfth Plan.

Inaugurating the 99th Indian Science Congress (ISC) here, Manmohan Singh said: "Over the past few decades, India's relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China."

"Things are changing, but we cannot be satisfied with what has been achieved. We need to do much more to change the face of Indian science. We must strengthen the supply chain of the science sector. While it is true that science and engineering continue to attract the best students, many of them later opt for other careers because of poor prospects in science," he said.

The prime minister also emphasised the need for increasing spending in science sector.

"As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of GDP spent on research and development in India has been too low and stagnant. We must aim to increase the total R&D spending as a percentage of GDP to 2 percent by the end of the 12th Plan Period from the current level of about 0.9 percent," he said.

He said this can only be achieved if industry, which contributes only 25 percent of the total R&D expenditure today, increases its contribution.

"I believe public sector undertakings, especially in the energy sector, should play a major role in this expansion. We have to increase public-private partnerships and catalyse significantly increased interaction between publicly owned S&T (science and technology) institutions and industry," he said.

According to Manmohan Singh, it was in some ways ironic that foreign companies like GE and Motorola had created world class technology hubs in India, while our own industry has not done so, except perhaps in the pharma sector. "We need to look at ways of incentivising private R&D investment under Indian conditions."

He said that at present, publicly funded R&D is skewed in favour of fundamental rather than applied research.

"It is easier to attract industrial funds into applied research areas and a set of principles should be formulated to push such funding and to drive public private partnerships in R&D."

More than 15,000 delegates, including scientists and students, are participating in the Jan 3-7 event being held at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT University). The theme of the conference is "Science and Technology for Inclusive Innovation - Role of Women".

(Agencies)