Extramural grants (all grants are termed "Projects"): See main website for granting agencies. International sources of funding are HFSP, NIH (Fogharty), NSF, WT. Currently WT-DBT is a big funding source. These are likely to be rigourous and are more in the nature of competitions. The other national funding sources are DBT, DST, ICMR and CSIR. Generally you can have only one major grant from an organization but you can bypass that by participating in collaborative grants. Researchers in ecology, evolution, conservation biology can apply to international funding agencies like the CEPF, Rufford, Ford Foundation, etc. In addition to the national agencies mentioned above, there is also the MoEF - Ministry of Environment and Forestry which will fund proposals that have a conservation goal. Some agricultural/plant related work is funded by the ICAR - Indian Council for Agricultural Research.
How easy/difficult is it to get companies based outside India to come and demo their equipment before deciding to purchase them? (& what about repair issues?) #
It's possible and improving each year. Historically, certain companies have had a strong presence in India, but in general it is possible to get practically any company/their agent to demo a device. One can also visit the company (eg. visiting Zeiss if one is in a meeting in the area) or have them come to India. The latter scenario takes longer, and because of import/export constraints, demo equipment that the company sends to India is rarely re-exported out. So the company makes arrangements to demo the piece at multiple institutions, then offers it at a "demo" rate to one of them.
A new approach to this is that an Institution can have what are company sponsored facilities where the Institution provides the space and pay the import duty but equipment is in the Institution for use. The company also provides a person to maintain the instruments and pays part of the instrument consumable. Such equipment are up for sale at any time of the contract by the investigator for a lower price. Buying demo equipment is also good because you know someone has tested it out and its okay. You can also demo the 'demo equipment'. Several imaging facilities allow other institutional investigators access to them at nominal costs.
With respect to repair issues, all the large suppliers have engineers in India or the Asia-Pacific and will be able to get to you fairly speedily. For very unusual equipment, you might encounter a problem is with a company that insists that it will not provide service onsite after you buy the device, but where you have to ship it back to them outside India for fixing-this is problematic because of customs rules.
Service contracts are fairly expensive. Generally it is worthwhile taking the time to do the negotiations and meeting the service Engineer before you decide on the make/model. Even if you are very familiar and like high-end equipment made by company A but they don't have a good presence in India, its better to go with equally good but not your favorite B. For high end equipment such as an EM, they will often provide an operator.
Is there administrative help available at institutions to assist with putting a grant proposal together? #
In the US there one can usually avail of administrative assistance while applying for grants, which are typically very competitive. In India the reality is that there are far fewer decent grants submitted compared to available funds, so any decently written grant has a very good chance of getting funded. It is not as stressful to write grants and get funding! (other things ARE stressful—getting your consumables ordered being the biggest one-see the relevant Q&A). So it's just a different set of challenges that Investigators spend time on....
There are usually colleagues who are happy to serve as a sounding board for grantsmanship and for talking through the scientific parts, but one might not find formal mentors as there often are in US institutions. Regarding the administrative side—many institutes have a specific office for providing information about granting agencies and institutional guidelines/compliance with various requirements such as biosafety, animal ethics, human subjects, etc (in CSIR labs this is called the PME—Project Monitoring and Evaluation—Cell). All grant formats are available online but most submission is still as hard copy—soon to change, so stay tuned!
In some Institutions, once the grant has been received, all expenditure and staff attendance, etc are online and can be tracked by the PI. Others are moving to such a system. Again, this is something to ask about.
Is funding available for instruments that are too expensive to be covered by a single researcher’s grant money? #
You can write a grant for a specific (big) equipment, and funding in the range of US$ 100,000 for a well-justified purchase is not unusual. Equipment more expensive than this can also be obtained more quickly through the department or institution as part of a facility. Most agencies will permit an equipment grant to be submitted as a multi-investigator grant, for example, flow cytometry, mass spec, high-end imaging etc, which are to be used as core facilities. Often the Institute will get a group of investigators together to write such a grant and to justify it with many lines of research. There are also "Center of Excellence" grants that can be obtained for specific advanced technologies. These tend to be a combination of mid-level and senior researchers rather than entry-level, but there are many exceptions, and it is Institute specific. If you require a particular/uncommon and expensive facility, you should discuss this at the time of your application. Often, that will mean bringing in a new type of expertise which can be an advantage. The mechanism for getting equipment is a bit different than in the US, but broadly speaking, equipment money is NOT the limiting factor in setting up a successful lab in India. [What are the limiting factors? Foreign travel funds and getting your consumables orders in at the frequency you need. See the relevant Q&As!]