Infosys' Murthy yearns for more science research in India

Infosys Technologies chairman and chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy called upon Indian scientists to focus more on research and innovation to catch up with their counterparts in the developed countries.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2009 22:44 IST

Infosys Technologies chairman and chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy on Tuesday called upon Indian scientists to focus more on research and innovation to catch up with their counterparts in the developed countries.

"In the last 25 years, we have taken our eyes off the radar screen as far as progress in Indian science and technology is concerned," Murthy said while announcing the setting up of the Infosys Science Foundation to promote advanced research in science and technology.

The foundation will award five top Indian scientists Rs 5 million each every year in recognition of their outstanding research contributions and achievements across various sciences.

"We are at a point from where extraordinary things our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru did by putting India on the global higher education have started to fall off the pedestal," Murthy lamented.

Stressing that focus on higher education was extremely important, Murthy said no country in the world had succeeded in solving the problems of its people, including basic issues, without a sound higher education system.

"For instance, the US universities currently employ 70 per cent of the world's Nobel Prize winners. About 30 per cent of the entire world's articles in science and engineering and 44 per cent of the most frequently cited articles are from the US," Murthy pointed out.

Reeling out more stats, Murthy said India had just two universities in the world's top 500 universities. In fact, no Indian university figures among the world's top 300 universities, while Japan has 34, China 18, South Korea seven and Brazil four.

"The absence of research excellence has seriously impacted Indian scientific and technological output. And if it has not impacted yet, it is likely to in the near future if corrective steps are not taken now," Murthy observed.

Similarly, India ranks a lowly 119th of the 149 countries in the citation index.

A McKinsey study found that a typical Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) faculty was granted six-eight patents in a year as against 64 patents for Stanford engineering faculty and 102 for MIT engineering faculty in a year.

"India filed for 365 patents in 2004 compared to 84,271 by the US, 35,350 by Japan and 5,938 by Taiwan," the study said.

Referring to the glorious contribution of Homi Bhabha in nuclear science, of Vikram Sarabhai in space science, of M.S. Swaminathan in agriculture science and by Sam Pitroda in telecommunications from the 1960s to the 1980s, Murthy regretted that the country had not seen any major scientific or technical adoption since then.

"To be fair, steps have been taken in the last three-four years. I am happy that in the interim budget, acting finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that in the next five-year plan, the expenditure on higher education would be increases by nine times - 19 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product) as against 7.7 per cent in the 10th plan," Murthy noted.

Even as the government was increasing its outlay or expenditure on higher education, Murthy said a lot of Indian expats were returning from the developed countries like the US and Britain in the last five years.

Asked whether the Infosys initiative to promote science was a partial atonement of the 'guilt' for having weaned away the best and brightest brains from the mainstream science to IT services, Murthy said the IT industry, which had come up and created very good opportunities for youngsters, had obviously impacted other sectors of the economy.

"The solution is not to throw the industry into dustbin but for others sectors of the economy to think of creating incentives, not necessarily money, but respect, recognition, creating a passionate environment and excitement. I don't think there is any sense of guilt. If it be so, I am glad that there is somebody who is standing and saying we will create India's largest pride," Murthy added.

First Published: Feb 17, 2009 22:42 IST