President Pranab Mukherjee Friday called for increasing the research and development expenditure of the country's chemical sector to bring it on par with global standards.
"The R&D expenditure of our chemical industry is at present less than 0.5 percent of its revenues. A significant scale-up in spending to the global benchmark of four percent is necessary," he said at the inauguration of the 66th Indian Chemical Engineering Congress.
Also the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers' annual session, the event is being held at the prestigious Institute of Chemical Technology, an erstwhile department of University of Mumbai and now accorded the status of deemed university since 2008.
Indicating high prospects for the growth of the Indian chemical industry, Mukherjee said Asia's contribution in the global chemical industry has risen significantly in the past 15 years.
With an impressive performance by the Indian economy, this country has become one of the important destinations for global chemical companies, he pointed out.
"The Indian chemical industry, at $108 billion, is three percent of the global market. There is every reason this share can rise," he added.
Mukherjee said that India can clock an annual growth rate of 15 percent to become a $290 billion industry by 2017.
"Turning this into a reality calls for preparation of a road-map that takes into account all growth-inducing aspects; R&D, enhanced capacity building of workers, and provision of better infrastructure to chemical units," he urged.
The expansion envisaged in the chemical industry also underlines the need to make available an additional five million skilled professionals by 2017.
The president urged strengthening the technical institutes to strengthen the burden of meeting the manpower requirements, provide infrastructure support in the form of power and water to chemical units.
Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment regions must be leveraged and investments planned in these zones must be realized on priority, he added.
Emphasising that the chemical sector touches humans like no other, Mukherjee said it products find wide applications like fertilizers and pesticides in the agriculture sector and as inputs and building blocks in the production of industrial goods.
He noted how because of the strong support provided by the chemical industry, the Green Revolution in the 1960s helped India attain self-sufficiency in foodgrains and today the country is a leading exporter of rice and wheat.
"Though the Green Revolution brought about a considerable rise in food production, the disproportionate use of chemical fertilizers eventually led to a decline in productivity. Today, our annual foodgrains production is over 250 million tonnes.
"We have to expand production levels significantly to meet the needs of a growing population," he said, stressing the need for balanced use of fertilizers and pesticides.