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NCAER’s roots lie in Prime Minister Nehru’s early vision of a newly-independent India needing independent institutions as sounding boards for the government and the private sector. Remarkably for its time, NCAER was started in 1956 as a public-private partnership, both catering to and funded by government and private industry.  NCAER’s first Governing Body included the entire Cabinet of economic Ministers and the leading lights of the private sector, including names like C. D. Deshmukh, J.R.D. Tata, John Mathai, and Asoka Mehta.  The Ford Foundation provided strong financial support in the early years, combined with support from the Finance Ministry and Tata Sons. 

On October 31, 1959, Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for the current iconic campus designed by Harvard-trained architect, A. P. Kanvinde. In doing so, he laid the foundation a unique research institution that has stood the test of time in its service to the nation. More than five decades later on July 27, 2013, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for the new NCAER India Centre that will come up on this campus as part of the physical rejuvenation of NCAER.