Astrophysics institute seeks CSR funds for research

Newer horizons

Annapurni Subramaniam, Director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

With India on the cusp of a renaissance in space-based research, Bengaluru--based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) said it is more willing to explore funding from private companies under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative to make vital contributions to the field. 

“There has been a sudden spate of breakthroughs in astronomy, with the 2017 discovery of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein in 1916, and the April 2019 imaging of a black hole, which was a first. If India intends to be among the countries making such breakthroughs, it needs to invest more in institutions such as the IIA, which is working in fundamental sciences,” Dr Annapurni Subramaniam, the newly appointed director of the institute, said on Saturday. 

Capability-building

She added that the money would go into addressing priorities in astronomical research such as capability-building among the next generation of astrophysicists and increasing infrastructure, such as laboratories where young scientists have the liberty to experiment with ideas. 

She clarified that many of the worldwide advances being made were a result of researchers being allowed to play with and test out ideas under laboratory conditions. The California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is an example of this paradigm of innovation, she explained. 

Under Dr Annapurni’s stewardship, the IIA will seek to attract CSR funding, now that the government has decided to allow private corporations to research efforts in science and technology. 

In September, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman greenlit the expansion of CSR to cover major institutions and publicly-funded incubators. Scientists have expressed the hope that this will result in an influx of resources to fund research and development (R&D), which has been limited for years because national spending on science has been limited to less than one per cent of the GDP. 

Dr Annapurni, who took over as the IIA director on October 15, explained she would also approach entrepreneurs and philanthropists in an effort to secure endowments for research activities. 

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