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Right to Research Foundation for India’s struggling scientists

S Choudhary returned to India last year with a PhD from University of Freiburg in Germany and was sure industry and research organisations would welcome him with open arms but a rude shock awaited him.

“Unfortunately, there are not many jobs for highly-qualified people. More importantly, one needs references to secure a job in research labs,” he said.

Several researchers, driven by a lack of opportunities in the US and Europe, are returning to India after PhDs and post doctorates abroad and are struggling to find suitable jobs, says Dr Jayant Khandare of the Right To Research (R2R) Foundation.

Job opportunities for both home-grown and returning researchers in Indian industry are relatively few, as investment in R&D programmes is comparatively low.

Choudhary’s search eventually came to an end when he discovered the Pune-based Right to Research (R2R) Foundation, launched by Khandare three months ago, specifically to support foreign-educated researchers returning to India, by providing free incubating space to carry out research until they find suitable jobs.

Khandare had faced a similar situation when he returned to India a couple of years ago, after declining a position at a German university. He has since secured an academic research position and co-founded his own company – Actorius Innovations and Research, developing low-cost diagnostic tools and drug delivery systems.

To help his fellow scientists succeed, Khandare obtained funding from philanthropists, well-wishers and friends to set up R2R, equipping it with dry lab facilities and some instrumentation, and opened it up to researchers.

The foundation’s goal is to provide a platform for scientists to generate ideas that will contribute to society, but that will also boost jobs,” Khandare said.

“Scientists are not trained to create jobs and become entrepreneurs in India as most of them are focused on basic research,” he added.

Scientists have come up with promising ideas to tackle domestic issues in healthcare, water and energy, he said. One group has set up a non-profit entity to produce high-purity water for dialysis while another group is developing a low-cost chip to tackle milk adulteration.

R2R has received funding from local philanthropists and businessmen, Khandare said, adding “we are not actively seeking funds for this initiative. We are comfortably placed to manage this space for the next three years and will be self-sustaining from the fourth year onwards, generating revenue from our projects.

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