The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on encouraging research and development (R&D) in telecom, broadcasting and IT sectors. The purpose of the consultation paper is to develop a comprehensive ecosystem for enhancing R&D in the ICT sector of the country, wherein there are well-established processes for generating a pool of R&D scientists and engineers, duly supported by the government and private partners for development and innovation of ICT products and services.

According to TRAI, India has made remarkable progress in R&D and innovation, emerging as the highest-ranked economy in the central and Southern Asia region. The country has experienced significant growth in the generation of intellectual property rights (IPRs) by the residents. The government’s initiatives such as National Education Policy 2020, National Policy on Electronics 2019, National Digital Communications Policy 2018, Make in India, Digital India, Startup India etc. have played significant roles in strengthening the R&D ecosystem in the country. Further, recent initiatives such as Atmanirbhar Bharat, telecom product-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, and Digital Communication Innovation Square have also been encouraging steps in this direction.

However, TRAI believes that in the existing R&D ecosystem in India, there are areas of further improvement in promoting R&D in the ICT sector, learning from the international best practices in R&D and applying relevant learnings in India. It is also necessary to identify the issues which require interventions in terms of policies and incentives to improve the R&D in the ICT sector and help India emerge as a world leader. In view of this and in accordance with the TRAI Act 1997 on measures for orderly growth of the ICT industry with indigenously developed products and services, the regulator decided to take up issues of encouraging the R&D ecosystem for lCT sector in the country on suo-moto basis for consultation with the stakeholders with a view to making recommendations to the government on this subject.

In the consultation paper, TRAI has analysed the important issues which require intervention in the existing R&D ecosystem in India under the three focus elements: education and training system, science system and regulatory framework. The third focus element has been divided into two parts, namely, policies and programs, and IPR framework. In the consultation paper, TRAI emphasises the need to build a robust R&D ecosystem and discusses potential issues which need to be addressed to enable the same. As discussed in the consultation paper, issues related to government-industry-academia collaboration, commercialisation of research, encouragement of private investment, patent approval cycles, IPR protection and IP-based finance etc. need to be focused to capitalise on emerging trends and unleash the full potential of India’s R&D and innovation efforts. Further, TRAI has also explored the R&D ecosystem of leading countries in the R&D and innovation space. These include Israel, the Republic of Korea, the US, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland etc. International best practices in R&D may act as key learnings for India in its ambition to strengthen its R&D ecosystem and become a $5 trillion economy.

TRAI has invited written comments from stakeholders on the issues raised in the consultation by October 23, 2023 and counter comments by November 6, 2023.