India’s largest and premier R&D organization, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), which has 38 national laboratories, is in dire financial straits.
CSIR’s Director General Girish Sahni says the labs and new research projects will be left with $31.3 million out of the nearly $630 million the government allocated for fiscal 2017, which runs through March 2018. The financial crunch stems from implementation of recommendations by India’s Seventh Central Pay Commission for higher pay, perks, pensions, and other benefits for government employees and retirees.
The remaining $31.3 million is not enough to cover CSIR’s costs for new research, instruments, supplies, utilities, travel, and maintenance. The labs will have to address the financial shortfall by commercializing technologies rapidly.
In a June 1 letter to directors of the CSIR laboratories, Sahni asked the labs to report on the status of technologies they are developing and to identify ones that can be licensed immediately.
Sahni asked each laboratory to report on “at least one outstanding game-changer technology” that can provide revenue in the short run. “This is a very important activity and should not be neglected at any cost,” he says in the letter.
In a March 1 letter to the lab directors, Sahni warns, “The currently available financial resources are limited, and therefore we need to effectively supplement these resources by generating a substantial external cash flow. Thus, a relatively limited number of projects will be supported with internal CSIR resources.”
Ashwini Kumar Nangia, director of CSIR’s National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, tells C&EN that this year’s financial impact will be heavy due to the dual impact of enhanced salaries, which are part of the pay commission recommendations, and arrears for the past two years. However, Nangia is optimistic that the fiscal crisis will blow over.
Two years ago, the Indian government directed CSIR, which employs nearly 8,500 scientists and technical staff in India, to finance half of its budget from external sources by commercializing its technologies.