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Finance Minister backs AI ecosystem to ensure innovation and research

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will set up three excellence centres that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to conduct research in several fields, including medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and sustainability.

These centres will be established within top educational institutions with participation from leading industry players. The government aims to conduct interdisciplinary research and develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions in the areas of agriculture, health, and sustainable cities.

“This will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field,” Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.

Responding to this announcement, Meena Ganesh, Co-founder and Chairperson of Portea Medical, said the centres of excellence in AI in sectors such as health will ensure that the country starts creating tech-based solutions inhouse. “This will encourage innovation in the country and ensure that the healthtech sector in India picks up pace,” she said.

The government will make facilities available in select Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) labs for research by public and private medical college faculty and encourage private sector research and development teams for collaborative research and innovation.

To expand medical infrastructure, the government will set up 157 new nursing colleges alongside the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014, the finance minister said.


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Dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices will be supported in existing institutions to ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies, high-end manufacturing, and research.

The government is also on a mission to eradicate sickle cell anaemia by 2047 through awareness creation, universal screening of seven crore people in the age group of 0-40 years in affected tribal areas, and counselling through collaborative efforts of central ministries and state governments, said Sitharaman.

Healthcare expenditure in 2023-24 is expected to increase to 2.1% of the GDP from 1.4%.

Bhanu Prakash Kalmath S J, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat, told YourStory that increased budget allocation towards public health expenditure from 2% to 3% of GDP will “help us move closer to universal health coverage and make quality healthcare available, accessible, and affordable for all”.

He also said ICMR labs being made available for research to public and private players will go a long way in making India the pharma capital of the world.

Edited by Suman Singh

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