Companies looking to channelise CSR spend into research
Sitharaman had last month announced that India Inc can now use their CSR spending on publicly funded incubators and contribute to research in science, technology, medicine and engineering at major institutions.
|, ET Bureau
Oct 01, 2019, 06.25 AM IST
New Delhi | Kolkata: Companies such as Larson & Toubro, Schneider Electric India, Dabur and ITC are looking at funding key research works in top institutions in the wake of the government’s decision to expand the scope of mandatory corporate social responsibility spending.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last month announced that India Inc can now use their CSR spending on publicly funded incubators and contribute to research in science, technology, medicine and engineering at major institutions to help boost R&D investments in the country.
L&T, Schneider, Dabur and ITC have been engaged with institutes through their incubation facilities.
Now they are exploring funding research activities as well, using their CSR funds.
“This announcement is seen by L&T as making additional resources available for funding R&D projects collaboratively with national institutions of eminence and excellence.
This will help to increase the nation’s R&D spend,” said Yogi Sriram, senior vice president (corporate human resources) at L&T.
The engineering company has existing collaborations with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and some Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
Schneider is “looking at investing in research around energy and energy digitalisation space in colleges through CSR funding”, said Venkat Garimella, vice president, strategy & alliance at the Gurgaon-based energy management company.
Dabur is looking at expanding funding research activities in ayurveda.
“The move to expand the scope of corporate spends under CSR norms would encourage companies to deploy CSR funds on research, specially to promote our traditional medicine ayurveda through science-based interventions and research,” said A Sudhakar, CSR head at Dabur India.
The ayurvedic and natural consumer products company had been investing in validation of the benefits of ayurveda and ayurvedic ingredients.
Kolkata-based tobacco-to-hospitality conglomerate ITC plans to fund agriculture research. “We have been engaged with incubators in areas like farm equipment that reduces the physical drudgery of small farmers and smart irrigation that optimises water consumption; we will now explore other possibilities in agriculture and value addition to farm produce, maybe even waste management,” said S Sivakumar, group head of agriculture business and IT at ITC Ltd.
IITs eye more corporate funding
Academic and research institutions, on their part, are drawing up plans to tap CSR investment from India Inc to fund research in technology and innovation. Colleges are eyeing industry-academia alliances not just for funds but also for targeted collaborations in areas relevant to industry.
“Our current CSR partners towards incubated startups include Pfizer and a few PSUs,” said Anil Wali, managing director of Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer at IIT Delhi. “We hope to raise twice the amount this calendar year over the previous year.”
IIT Delhi’s incubator has partnered with corporates including telecom equipment maker Ericsson, drugmaker Pfizer, and state-run firms Power Finance Corporation, Power System Operation Corporation (Posoco) and Goa Shipyard Ltd to help channel their CSR spends to innovative startups.
IIT Guwahati plans to tap a host of Indian and global companies across industries, including Intel, Microsoft, BMW Group, TCS, Infosys, Reliance Industries, and Vedanta Group.
“CSR fund from corporate sectors is very important in order to realise the mission and the vision of IIT Guwahati and to become one of the top 100 universities in global rankings while focusing on cutting-edge research areas,” its director, TG Sitharam, said.
IIT Mandi is eyeing partnerships in areas such as waste management, disaster management, road safety, health and nutrition, agrotech, clean energy, and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“We are not interested in money alone,” said Puran Singh, faculty in-charge at IIT Mandi Catalyst, the institute’s technology business incubator. “This is an excellent opportunity for incubators to raise funds and propel their efforts to boost startup ecosystem.”
IIT Kharagpur has been engaged in CSR fund-raising in areas such as livelihood of rural and urban low economy groups, affordable healthcare, food technologies for eradication of hunger and malnutrition, and environmental sustainability.
Post the amendment in CSR norms, the institute is reaching out to PSUs, IT companies and other private corporations for funding research.
“Inclusion of R&D under CSR is a great step as more people will be benefited out of the research outcomes,” said Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, officiating director of IIT Kharagpur. “This will also enhance industry-academia relationship.”
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