DST restructures fund to make infra, equipment accessible to startups

DST restructures fund to make infra, equipment accessible to startups
Photo Credit: VCCircle
19 Oct, 2020

In a bid to offer startups and industries in the country better access to equipment and infrastructure to enable experimentation and testing for R&D and product development, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) said it will restructure its FIST programme.

The FIST programme, or the Fund for Improvement of Science and Technology Infrastructure in Universities and Higher Educational Institutions, looks to scale up the network of infrastructural facilities for teaching and research, catering to high-end science and technological requirements of startups. 

Currently, only 8,500 researchers across the country benefit from these facilities, as a majority of startups opt for laboratories aboard. This is because startups don’t want to buy expensive equipment required for a limited period of time and don’t have access to high-end science and technology infrastructure in educational institutions in India.  

The restructured programme, dubbed FIST 2.0, will be oriented towards the goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat to create an R&D infrastructure not only for experimental work, but to cater to theoretical work, ideas and entrepreneurship as well, said Sanjay Dhande, chairperson of the FIST Advisory Board.

Additionally, FIST will be linked with programmes such as the Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facilities (SAIF), and Sophisticated Analytical and Technical Help Institutes (SATHI), the statement said. The programmes help set up science and technology infrastructure centres at different levels, including departments and universities at regional and national levels. 

As of 2019, Rs 2,970 crore had been invested under FIST to support about 2,910 science and technology departments, and postgraduate colleges. In SAIF, 15 centres have been funded, while SATHI has three centres running and more to be supported under the R&D infrastructure division, the statement said.

The science and technology infrastructure network will now reach out to more beneficiaries and focus on alignment with national missions and sustainable development goals, the statement said. The restructuring will entail a shift from discipline-based tool-centric research to interdisciplinary solution-centric research, it said.

“There is a huge investment in the creation of science and technology infrastructure running into several tens of thousands of crores every year in the country, which will bring manifold value with effective and transparent sharing practices with the ease of use. In view of this, DST is also currently formulating a policy on the best practices for the creation, effective use, sharing, maintenance, skill generation, and disposal of the S&T infrastructure,” Ashutosh Sharma, secretary of DST, said.