Bangalore: The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore plans to increase annual spending to Rs700 crore by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-2017), a 40% increase from the present level, as it pursues key research initiatives in areas, including materials science research, super-computing, biomedical engineering and solar and thermal energy, among others.
IISc’s annual budget for scientific research and educational activities is about Rs500 crore per year now, associate director N. Balakrishnan said in an interview.
While Rs250 crore is dedicated non-Plan expenditure and Rs100 crore is plan expenditure, Rs150 crore comes from sponsored research from external agencies and companies.
The planning for IISc under the 12th Plan has been more or less completed, Balakrishnan said.
Energy research will be a key focus area, in which IISc will consider projects worth about Rs1,000 crore over the next five years.
This will span solar and thermal energy and the institute will look at both small and large projects, Balakrishnan said.
One of the most ambitious projects the institute plans to take up is the setting up of an advanced particle accelerator, a synchrotron, which will be “at least as complex” as the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland.
The proposal is currently with the Planning Commission pending approval, and IISc has set its sights on something that may eventually cost Rs6,000 crore and take over 12 years to build, Balakrishnan said.
While particle accelerators like the LHC are used for fundamental particle physics research, with implications in astrophysics, the IISc synchrotron will be optimized for macro-molecular crystallography and materials science research.
A synchrotron is a type of particle accelerator where the magnetic field to change the trajectory of a subatomic particle and the electrical field to accelerate it are synchronised with the travelling energy beam.
Here the focus is not so much on the particle, but the radiation it emits, which can be used to analyse the structure of biomolecules like proteins, in order to better understand their function, explained M. Vijayan, Homi Bhabha professor at IISc’s molecular biophysics unit.
“A synchrotron of the kind we are looking at will be an engineering marvel. That is why it will take 12 years to build, and we don’t actually have the people yet in the country to build something like that,” Balakrishnan said.
The synchrotron will be installed in IISc’s Chelkere campus at Chitradurga in Karnataka.
“This kind of research is central to modern biology and drug development,” Vijayan said.
On the issue of budgets and funding for research, Vijayan, until recently president of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, emphasized that while the availability of money was no longer a problem in Indian science as a whole, putting together a “system” that will deliver results was still a challenge.
“The money is there. Other things have to come together— less bureaucracy, less hierarchy, more autonomy and so on,” he said.