From the Secretary’s DeskI feel truly privileged to report recent activities and R&D support by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science and Technology. This year was particularly challenging for research investigators and SERB given the prevailing conditions of Covid-19 pandemic and as a consequence the closure of research laboratories. I feel proud to share that despite these circumstances, SERB was able to provide continued support to our investigators, students and other research personnel, and launch a number of new initiatives to strengthen our R&D capabilities and to address equity issues and gender disparities in science and engineering.
Special research calls were released for COVID-19 and related respiratory viral infections for urgent strategic investments to accelerate antiviral research with a strong interdisciplinary component in the research areas of new or repurposed antivirals, viricidal coatings, affordable diagnostics for respiratory viral infections. In addition, a special call was made to develop mathematical models to study the rate of spread of COVID-19, statistical forecasting and inferences from pandemic data, algorithms for infectious disease modeling and quantitative approaches for epidemiological models.
SERB-FIRE (Fund for Industrial Research Engagement) was created as a new vertical to enhance industry engagement in public-funded research. Memorandum of Understanding have been signed with Intel India, GE India Private Limited, and Applied Materials, to catalyze research and development through public-private-partnership mode. Many strategic and upcoming themes such as next-generation gas turbines, additive manufacturing, engine services technology, computational biology, new semiconductor materials, digital and health care technologies, are expected to be supported in future.
As a major initiative to mitigate gender disparity in R&D funding, SERB – POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research) was launched for female S&T researchers serving in Indian academic institutions and R&D laboratories. SERB-POWER program is specially designed to provide structured effort towards enhanced diversity in research to ensure equal access and weighted opportunities for Indian women scientists engaged in research and development activities.
It is envisaged that new programs and strengthening of our ongoing flagship schemes will further add value to the drive of innovation, inclusion and collaborative spirit, and the ideas of today will be executed well to position India at the top of the S&T pyramid at the global level. SERB will remain focused and committed to support exponential science in India and bring the right return on R&D investments to closely align with national missions in order to usher ease-of-living with desired innovation and scientific breakthrough.