Online grants approval system unlocks India R&D

The government is hoping a new system that digitizes the grant application process will help facilitate greater innovation in India, where bureaucracy and red tape regularly strangle new ideas and projects.

India has proposed the building of a new system that digitizes the grant application process as a way to facilitate greater innovation, as it eliminates prohibitive paper requirements of the application process.

In the Indian House of Representatives last week, the Minister for Communications and IT Kapil Sibal announced the electronics project proposal system (e-PPS), an online portal to manage the entire grants workflow. This includes the submissions of proposals by individuals, research and development (R&D) organizations and institutions; evaluation of proposals by project investigators (PI) and working groups; project recommendations; and project monitoring.

The Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) has delegated the application build to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), which is based in Noida, Delhi.

In an interview with ZDNet, the C-DAC's speech and natural language processing joint director, Paras Nath Barwal, said the new system would eliminate the need to submit applications and full proposals on paper which can sometimes number in the hundreds of pages. He added that it removes the first big hurdle to publicly funded innovation: the application process.

Barwal noted the new portal would allow a lot more people to send in a greater number of proposals from all around the country. "India, as you know, is a very big country. There are various estates and provinces, and people in these areas can now simply send a proposal online. That is the most important thing," he said. 

The portal would also give more people the ability to apply for grants for R&D work and streamline the process.

An application must be mailed to the relevant department. Multiple copies are supplied to the PIs to assess whether they are worthy to pursue. If successful, the applicant must submit a full proposal to subject matter experts--comprising four to five people--who will give the final approval. Finally, a letter stating a successful application will be mailed to the applicant.

The new e-PPS system will host the documents online, which can be accessed from anywhere. Candidates can similarly apply wherever there is an Internet connection, as well as find relevant information about available grants across various areas such as e-government , mobile, and cloud.

As it invites more applications and speeds up the approval process, ultimately, the system helps get the money to where it is needed most, according to the India government. 

A similar system was developed for the Indian Concept Medical Research (ICMR) organization 16 months ago, Barwal said, and has already received 2,500 proposals. All applications and proposals will be archived and searchable to ensure there is no duplication.

The government can also use the system to monitor the total R&D spend across the different departments.


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