Innovation: The New Mantra for Science and Technology Policies in India, Pakistan and China

Swati Bute is Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), New Delhi
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • March 07, 2013

    “Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.” - President Barack Obama, April 27, 2009

    The stunning advances in various fields of science and technology have had a profound impact on our lives in almost every sphere of activity, such as health, agriculture, communication, transportation, and defence. These advances have been driven by an ever-growing volume of exciting discoveries, largely emanating from science laboratories in the West, and by their transformation into new products or processes that have flooded world markets. These floods in turn shower vast economic rewards on those nations that have the will and vision to make science and technology the cornerstone of their development programmes. The world is today sharply divided by a technology boundary that separates the technologically advanced countries from the technologically backward ones.’1 India, Pakistan and China show almost the same (poor) indicators of social development but they are struggling to achieve sustainable economic growth, self-reliance in technology development and in gaining an important global position. These three countries have totally different political systems and economic models for business. These differences play a very important role in their growth and development and in shaping their science and technology policies.

    Recent Science, Technology Policies and Programmes of India, Pakistan and China

    India’s Science, Technology, Innovation Policy of 2013

    A strong and visible Science, Research and Innovation System for High Technology led path for India” – “SRISHTI” – is the main goal of India’s new Science, Technology and Innovation policy (2013). At the 2010 Indian Science Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared 2010-20 as the “Decade of Innovations” and formed the National Innovation Council. The STI Policy 2013 is in furtherance of the declaration and aims to bring fresh perspectives to bear on innovation in the changing context.

    The statement “India’s global competitiveness will be determined by the extent to which the STI enterprise contributes social good and/or economic wealth” reflects India’s concerns about achieving higher economic growth for all sector development. Energy and environment, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, habitat, affordable health care and skill building and unemployment are the major identified areas that need new structural mechanisms and models, while the promotion of scientific temper, enhancing skill for application of science among the youth, making careers in science, making research and innovation attractive are some of the other major elements identified for connecting science with the people and increasing the number of skilled manpower in the Science & Technology (S&T) sector. In the new STI policy equal weightage is given to establishing world class R&D infrastructure, positioning India among the top five countries of the world and increasing private sector participation in R&D. India is looking to increase its Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) to two per cent of the GDP in the coming years.

    Promoting the establishment of large R&D facilities in public-private partnership (PPP) mode, permitting the participation of multiple stakeholders in the R&D system, treating R&D in the private sector at par with public establishments are some of the other proposed points that are mentioned in the new policy to get more private investments in India’s S&T programs.’2 STI policy 2013, gives hope to achieve high in developing indigenous technology by increasing private sector involvement in its S&T programmes.

    Pakistan: Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2012

    To achieve the security, prosperity and social cohesion of Pakistan through equitable and sustainable socio-economic progress using science, technology and innovation as central pillars of development in all sectors of economic activity” is the main vision of Pakistan’s Science, Technology and Innovation policy (2012). STI 2012 highlights four major areas – Socio-economic development, Human resource development, R&D infrastructure and S&T management – in which Pakistan wants to see more progress. Pakistan is looking forward to increase its R&D expenditure; which will be one per cent of GDP by 2015 and two per cent by 2020. The prominent features of the current policy are the proposal for an effective mechanism of policy oversight, highlighting innovation as a driver of economic activity, paradigm shift from supply to demand side and an effort to align ST&I policy with national policies in other economic sectors.’3 16 Thrust Areas are also identified for R&D activities. In this new policy, focus is more on promoting R&D activities, programmes for technology transfer and technology development.

    Science and Technology Programmes of China

    China’s science and technology is undergoing a great development. In all, the increasing development of China’s overall S&T capacity narrows its gap with the world level in science. China keeps pace with developed countries in some key research areas, while it has already reached the world level or even ranked top in some emerging research areas. China’s output in science and technology increased fast; its innovation capacity has greatly strengthened, the role of science and technology in socio-economic development has greatly enhanced, and the public awareness of innovation and science greatly improved.4

    China has developed its long term S&T programs in the form of “Science and Technology in China: A Roadmap to 2050”, which was published in a Strategic General report of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2010. China has identified eight basic and strategic systems for socio-economic development and twenty–two S&T initiatives of strategic importance to China’s modernization.5

    In January 2006, China initiated a 15-year “Medium to Long term Plan (MLP) for the development of science and Technology”. The MLP calls for China to become an “innovation-oriented society” by the year 2020 and a World leader in science and technology by 2050.’6 China’s science and technology programmes are more oriented towards developing “indigenous technology” and new “innovations”. In coming years China is planning to reduce imported technology and promote R&D infrastructure and activities. Since long China is investing a great deal in science education, specifically higher education in science and technology, to develop world class scientists and make China self-reliant in technology development.

    Since 1980, China is following very well developed science and technology programmes, plans and policies both for developmental and security requirements. China is running five major national programmes under the banner of National Programs for Science and Technology, which includes: The National Program for Key Science and Technology Programs (Key Technologies Research and Development Program - renamed in 2006 “zhicheng” or support), National High Technology Research and Development Program - (863 Programs), National Key Basic Research Program (973 Programs), The Torch Program, The Spark Program.7

    An Overview of Economic Growth of India, Pakistan and China in recent years

    “The re-emergence of China and India as major forces in the world economy is one of the most important developments in the early 21st century.”8 “The growth rate of their gross domestic products from 2020 to 2025 is expected to be about the same—5.7 percent in China and 5.6 percent in India. China's current overall GDP is about three times larger than India's, and by 2025 the difference between their two GDPs is estimated to be $4.4 trillion annually.”9 The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Pakistan grew by 3.67 per cent in 2012. These different growth patterns of economic development also tell different growth stories of science and technology development in these three countries.

    Brief Analysis of Science and Technology Achievements of India, Pakistan and China

    In recent times, the IT Industry, Space and missile programmes and Research in basic science have emerged as major areas in which India is showing good progress at the domestic and international levels. But in spite of having a good number of science and technology institutes and organizations, policies and programmes, a good number of human resources and recent economic progress, India’s science and technology programmes are suffering due to a number of reasons, of which lack of coordination between organizations and improper implementation of policies are the two main reasons affecting India’s science and technology programmes.

    Pakistan has developed a good number of science and technology institutes and universities for higher education and research. But its scientific programmes have always been influenced by other countries’ political and economic agendas. Between the 1950s and 1970s Pakistan received scientific and technical support from the USA while China emerged as a trusted ally in the 1960s. China has provided blueprints for its nuclear programme and the material required for developing nuclear weapons. “Pakistan has achieved a lot in nuclear science and acquired complete nuclear capability in 1983.”10 Post 9/11, Pakistan is getting more international funds including from the USA for different development programmes.

    The Chinese government’s national science programmes and industrial policies aimed at high tech industries are a significant contributor to the technological successes enjoyed by Chinese firms. Among the factors propelling China‘s emergence as a techno-industrial power is its low-cost manufacturing capabilities, a huge market, an export promotion strategy, and the shrewd appropriation of the best technology from the international system.’11 China’s science and technology programs are highly motivated towards economic Development and national Security. It is constantly increasing its strength in fulfilling security requirements and achieving sustainable high economic growth.


    India, Pakistan and China are three different countries with varying socio-cultural, economic and historical backgrounds. S&T innovations and economic growth are two sides of the same coin and deeply interconnected with each other. Today we are living in a globally connected world. These connections and collaborations are purely for business and economic purposes, but in coming years we will see global cooperation in the field of science, technology and innovations as well. But we should not forget that such collaboration and cooperation are premised on political, strategic and economic interests. These new developments in the science and technology policies of India, Pakistan and China will change global perspectives in many ways the in coming years. In such a scenario it will be interesting to see how science and technology innovations and all such collaborations will shape relations between India, Pakistan and China.

    • 1. White Paper on Science and Technology (2007–2010), Innovative Capabilities and Citizens’ Quality of Life will, Reach the Level of a Developed Nation by 2015, January 17, 2007, Approved by the 3,024th Meeting of the Executive Yuan, National Science Council, Republic of China, accessed on 11 February 2013
    • 2. Science, technology and innovation policy, 2013, Govt. of India, Ministry of Science and Technology, New Delhi, 2013.
    • 3. National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2012, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan, October, 2012
    • 4. Science and Technology in China: A Roadmap to 2050, Strategic General Report of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yongxian LU, Chinese Academy of Science, Science Press Beijing, 2012
    • 5. Ibid
    • 6. China’s 15 – year Science and Technology Plan, Cong Cao, Richard P. Suttmeier, and Denis Fred Simon, Physics Today, December 2006,, accessed on January 31, 2013
    • 7. National Programs for Science and Technology,, Chinese Governments official web portal,, accessed on 09 February 2013
    • 8. OECD Development Center Technological Upgrading in China and India: What Do We Know?, Jaejoon woo, Development Center, Working Paper No. 308, January 2012
    • 9., file://E://China May Have Technological, Economic Edge Over India in 2025, but Also Demographic Disadvantage, August 2011, accessed on February 15, 2013
    • 10. Nuclear Pakistan, Shalini Chawla, Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi, KW Publisher, 2012
    • 11. China’s Program for Science and Technology Modernization: Implications for American Competitiveness,, Sara Haimowitz , 22 April 2011, accessed on February 26, 2013