The ANRF Plan Has Got Off on the Wrong Foot


07:29 AM

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The ANRF Plan Has Got Off on the Wrong Foot Blog Image

Why in News?

  • In 2023, the Indian Parliament passed the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill, a landmark move aimed at revitalising research in India, particularly within its universities and colleges.
  • This initiative seeks to develop an environment where academic research can flourish free from bureaucratic constraints, bolstered by enhanced funding and collaboration with industry partners.
  • Despite the promise, the initial steps of the ANRF have revealed significant shortcomings, particularly in its governance structure and representation.
  • Therefore, it is important to delve into these challenges and outlines the necessary reforms to fulfil the ANRF's ambitious vision.

Objectives of the ANRF

  • Enhancing Research Infrastructure
    • This includes upgrading laboratories, providing access to advanced research tools, and creating an environment conducive to high-quality research.
    • The foundation is particularly focused on state universities, where the majority of Indian students are enrolled, recognising that these institutions have traditionally been underfunded and lack the necessary resources to conduct cutting-edge research.
  • Reducing Bureaucratic Hurdles
    • A major objective of the ANRF is to create a more efficient and less bureaucratic system for research funding and administration.
    • The traditional processes involved in securing research grants in India have been criticised for being slow and cumbersome, often stifling innovation.
    • The ANRF seeks to streamline these processes, making it easier and faster for researchers to obtain the necessary funding and support for their projects.
  • Fostering Industry-Academia Collaboration
    • Another critical goal is to enhance collaboration between academic institutions and industry.
    • By facilitating partnerships with industry, the ANRF aims to ensure that academic research is not only theoretical but also practical and applicable to real-world problems.
    • This collaboration is expected to drive innovation and make Indian research more competitive on a global scale.
  • Increasing Research Funding
    • The ANRF is tasked with increasing the overall funding available for research in India.
    • This includes not only government funding but also raising significant amounts from non-governmental sources, including industry and private sector contributions.
    • By expanding the funding base, the ANRF hopes to provide a much-needed financial boost to the research ecosystem in India.
  • Building a Robust Research Ecosystem
    • Ultimately, the ANRF aims to build a robust and sustainable research ecosystem in India.
    • This involves nurturing young researchers, supporting interdisciplinary research, and ensuring that research findings are effectively translated into practical applications and policies that benefit society.

Initial Enthusiasm Surrounding ANRF

  • Positive Reception by the Scientific Community
    • The scientific community in India welcomed the ANRF with open arms.
    • Researchers saw it as an opportunity to conduct their work without the usual bureaucratic constraints, allowing them to focus more on their scientific pursuits.
    • The promise of increased funding and better infrastructure was seen as a major step forward in creating a more conducive environment for research.
  • Potential for Academic Excellence
    • Educators and administrators in universities and colleges were optimistic that the ANRF would help raise the standard of academic research in India.
    • With better facilities and more funding, it was anticipated that Indian institutions could produce research that would be competitive on an international level.
    • This, in turn, would enhance the global reputation of Indian universities and attract more international collaborations and partnerships.
  • Industry Interest
    • The industry also showed interest in the ANRF, seeing it as a bridge to connect with academic institutions for collaborative research projects.
    • The possibility of working closely with universities was viewed as an opportunity to drive innovation and develop new technologies that could have commercial applications.
  • Government Support
    • The government’s backing of the ANRF was seen as a strong signal of its commitment to improving the research ecosystem in India.
    • The establishment of the ANRF was viewed as a strategic move to address long-standing issues in research funding and administration, aligning with the broader goals of economic development and technological advancement.

Critical Flaws in the Implementation of ANRF

  • Governance and Representation Issues
    • However, nearly a year after its inception, the ANRF's structure has revealed significant flaws.
    • The announcement of a 15-member Governing Board and a 16-member Executive Council has sparked criticism due to the absence of representatives from central and state universities or colleges.
    • Despite the fact that over 95% of students in India attend state institutions, these bodies are instead populated by high-ranking government officials, directors of premier institutes like the Indian Institute of Science, and international experts.
  • Exclusion of Ground Level Educators
    • This exclusion of ground-level educators and researchers is a glaring oversight.
    • Effective governance requires members who understand the systemic bottlenecks and can implement practical solutions.
    • Furthermore, the multiplicity of committees can lead to confusion and inefficiency, underscoring the need for a streamlined, single committee focused on strategy formulation and implementation.
  • Lack of Industry and Diverse Representation
    • A critical omission in the current board and council is the lack of adequate industry representation.
    • The ANRF's vision includes raising over 70% of its funding from non-government sources, primarily the industry.
    • Yet, the sole industry representative is Romesh T. Wadhwani, an Indian-American businessman based in Silicon Valley, with no Indian industry representatives or entrepreneurs on the committee.
    • The representation of women is also inadequate, with the only female member being the Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR).
  • Funding and Operational Challenges
    • India's underfunding of research and development is a well-documented issue, with the R&D budget needing to increase to 4% of GDP to make Indian innovations globally competitive.
    • The ANRF must address several operational challenges including adequate staffing and robust grant management systems, an internal peer-review system incentivizing reviewers.
    • The ANRF must work on timely disbursal of research grants and fellowships, flexibility in spending, free from stringent government financial rules, freedom from bureaucratic hurdles at both the funding body and grantee institutions.

Future Directions for the ANRF to Realise its Vision and Become a Transformative Force

  • Broadening Representation
    • The ANRF must diversify its governing bodies to include representatives from a wider array of backgrounds.
    • This includes incorporating more voices from state and central universities, industry leaders based in India, practising natural and social scientists, and entrepreneurs.
    • Such diversity will ensure that the foundation’s decisions are informed by a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities within India’s research ecosystem.
  • Reducing Bureaucratic Hurdles
    • Minimising bureaucratic obstacles at both the funding body and grantee institutions is critical.
    • The ANRF should streamline administrative processes to allow researchers to focus on their work rather than navigating complex bureaucratic procedures.
    • This includes simplifying reporting requirements and providing clear, consistent guidelines for compliance.


  • The ANRF holds the potential to transform India's research landscape, but only if it addresses its current governance and operational shortcomings.

By ensuring diverse and inclusive representation, streamlining its committee structure, and reforming funding and operational practices, the ANRF can create a vibrant research ecosystem that propels India to the forefront of global innovation. 

Q) What are the key objectives of the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) as outlined in the initial phase?

The key objectives of the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) are multifaceted and aimed at revitalising the research landscape in India. Firstly, the ANRF seeks to enhance the research infrastructure within the country's universities and colleges, with a particular focus on state universities that serve the majority of Indian students. This objective includes upgrading laboratories, providing advanced research tools, and creating an environment conducive to high-quality research. Secondly, the ANRF aims to reduce bureaucratic hurdles that traditionally stymie the process of securing research funding and support. By streamlining these processes, the foundation hopes to make it easier and faster for researchers to obtain the necessary resources for their projects. 

Q) What strategic reforms are necessary for the ANRF to achieve its goals and avoid becoming another bureaucratic entity?

To achieve its goals and avoid becoming another bureaucratic entity, the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) needs to implement several strategic reforms. One crucial reform is broadening the representation in its governing bodies to include members from state and central universities, industry leaders, practising scientists from various fields, women, and young entrepreneurs. Such diversity will ensure that decisions are informed by a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges within India's research ecosystem.

Source:The Hindu