The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India's largest research and development organisation that runs 37 laboratories, has declared a financial emergency.
Its Director General, Girish Sahni, has said that out of Rs 40.63 billion (Rs 4,063 crore) budgetary allocation for the current year (2017-18), after meeting the salaries, pensions, capital and other commitments, "the balance available for laboratory allocations and various new research projects" is only Rs 2.02 billion (Rs 202 crore). Of this, a sum of Rs 1.58 billion (Rs 158 crore) has already been allocated.
"If we were to release further sums we will be left with no funds to support new research projects," he has in a letter informed all the laboratory directors. "This is the stark reality."
In view of this tight position, further requirements for funds have to be met by laboratories from their external earnings, Sahni said.
According to the letter, seen by this correspondent, the constraints of budget arising from the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission for the employees as well as pensioners leave CSIR with no other alternative.
Sahni has asked the laboratories to make a business development report on status of technologies "that can be out-licensed to industries/stakeholders immediately".
"Each lab should make a compendium of its current technology basket (old and new ones) as well as at least one outstanding game-changer technology that it can provide in the short run," he said. "Kindly note that this is a very important activity and should not be neglected at any cost."
The Council's Business Development Group has also been asked to come up with "a strategy paper on the road map to market CSIR's knowledge base" before the end of June 2017.
Further, it has been decided that all new projects of CSIR laboratories "must have involvement of stakeholders who should bear the "cost of all temporary manpower, consumables & contingencies" and share at least 30 per cent of capital cost.
Sahni hoped that CSIR would not only tide over the present financial constraints "but come up with a robust business model for the sustenance" of its laboratories.
Sahni said that at the directors' meeting held recently in Hyderabad, it was resolved that the CSIR will on its own generate 25 per cent of its budget for this financial year and "take immediate steps that will enable us to progressively to meet 50 per cent of the total budget by 2020".
This, he said, is "a step that will give greater functional and financial autonomy and self-respect to our organisation".
(K.S. Jayaraman is a veteran science journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Editor's Note: The first version of this article had erroneously used a picture, that was the logo of another organisation. We regret the error.)