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Increase in CSIR earnings through licensing tech

In the 2017-18 financial year, CSIR increased its earnings from the private sector by 70% over the previous year, largely owing to technology transfers

india Updated: Jun 08, 2018 23:17 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CSIR,Council of Scientific and Industrial Research,CSIR earnings
The Union science ministry’s usually cash-strapped Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has managed to increase its earnings by licensing patented technologies to private industries.(HT File Photo)

The Union science ministry’s usually cash-strapped Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has managed to increase its earnings by licensing patented technologies to private industries, according to data provided by the body.

In the 2017-18 financial year, CSIR increased its earnings from the private sector by 70% over the previous year, largely owing to technology transfers. The body’s director Girish Sahni has described this as a turning point for CSIR, and a move towards “self sustainability”.

Of the Rs 963 crore total revenue generated by CSIR in 2017-18, Rs 515 crores came from licensing its technologies to private companies and Rs 448 crore, from doing so to the government sector. This is the first time that its earnings from the private sector are higher than the earnings from government agencies.

In 2016-17, the department generated a total of Rs 727.3 crore revenue — Rs 302 crore from licensing its technologies to the private sector and Rs 425.45 crores from other government agencies.

“In previous years, our private sector earnings would just touch about Rs 100 or Rs 200 crore. Although, Rs 500 crore might not seem like much, it is representative of the trend of CSIR generating funds through its patents,” Sahni said.

Established in 1942, CSIR is a research and development organisation that runs 38 laboratories and 39 field stations. Mainly funded by the ministry of science and technology, it operates as an autonomous body.

In 2015, a CSIR Dehradun declaration had said the body would attempt to make all its labs self-financing over the next two or three years, along with developing 12 game-changing technologies every year and focusing on developing technologies for the poor. Over the last four years, CSIR says it has licensed 600 technologies to various industries. These include the hand-held milk-testing device Ksheer Tester — which can detect adulterants such as urea, detergent, soda, boric acid and hydrogen peroxide in milk samples within 60 seconds — and a waterless chrome tanning method that eliminates chromium emission in the water bodies. Over 100 tanneries have already obtained the license for this, and other countries have shown interest with Ethiopia already striking a deal for technology transfer.

CSIR had written to its 38 labs just last year that only Rs 202 crore of the total allocation of more than Rs 4,000 crore could be spared for new research projects, and asked them to look outside for meeting their expenses.

“The CSIR labs are now focussing on translational research that can be licensed rather research in pure sciences. This is, however, not to say that there is no pure science research happening,” said a senior official from the department.

Experts welcome the change in trend but warned that becoming too product-oriented may hurt research in the long term.

“If CSIR is able to generate funds by licensing its technologies, it is a good move and my hope is that it offsets the costs of fundamental research. However, this whole mandate of generating funds for oneself forces scientists to create ‘products’ instead of focussing on fundamental research. This might seem like a good deal in the short run, but in the long run research will suffer,” said Professor Soumitro Banerjee, general secretary of the Breakthrough Science Society and a professor at Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, Kolkata.

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 23:16 IST