Industry‐Academia Partnership in India – Opportunities and Challenges by Prof O R S Rao, Vice‐Chancellor, The ICFAI University, Jharkhand Imperative for Industry‐Academia Collaboration Industry ( Manufacturing and Services sectors ) drives economy, whereas Academia provides the needed fuel ( Read “Talent and Know‐how” ) to drive the industry. Competitiveness and efficiency of the industry depends on the quality of the fuel, it uses. Prosperity of developed countries is primarily due to the quality of higher education. This underlines the imperative for the Industry and Academia to compliment each other , more so, in today’s globalised world. Government has to play the role of a catalyst to facilitate close knit partnership between Industry and Academia. Employability of fresh graduates and skill gaps : Only 17% of fresh Engg graduates that passed out in 2011 were employable, as per a survey by Aspiring Minds . As per Nasscom surveys, employability of IT graduates was 25% . During last year, Indian IT industry was estimated to have spent over US$ 1 billion ( Rs 5,500 crores ) to train the fresh graduates recruited by them. As per MeriTrack , employability of fresh MBAs in 2012 was 21%, compared with 25% in 2007, 5 years back. Major skill gap observed in fresh graduates ( be it Engineering or MBA ) is Application Skills ( to apply what they learnt in class rooms ) in work situations . How can Industry and Academia work together to produce talent required by industry ? Industry can help in every part of the entire value chain of education ‐ from curriculum formulation / updation , to effective delivery of education ( through Technology) and imparting hands‐on skills. If Industry can spell out their requirements , appropriate sector focused programs /curricula can be designed . Industry also has to help in imparting hands‐on skills to the students so that they are job‐ ready and are productive from day one. One of the core competencies of Academia is teaching. So, it can also help industry to sharpen the talent resources in the industry, on an ongoing basis , by offering continuing education programs (both short term and long term ) How can industry and academia create the Know‐How needed by industry? While the core competency of the Industry is to strategize and run day‐to‐day operations efficiently, Academia is generally good in abstracting principles from observations. It is better equipped to help industry to address certain specific , sticky problems ( be in Technology or Management ) . In order to be competitive in today’s global world, Industry needs to launch innovative products or apply cutting edge technologies, which could be done leveraging the research resources of Academia. Industry‐Academia partnerships in developed countries: In developed countries, Industry ( be it Pharmaceuticals, IT, Telecom or Financial services) and Universities built long term sustainable models of engagement with each other . Over 25% of the Research projects in Universities are funded by Industry. At the same time, leading universities like MIT, Stanford and Harvard created Research Parks. The US Universities filed over 6,000 patents last year and revenues from commercialization of their research products was over US$ 50 billion . They also incubate / spin off over 500 product companies every year.
Industry‐Academia partnerships in India: Though the benefits are understood and appreciated by both , collaboration between Industry and Academia has not been either broad or deep . The most visible interaction has been campus placements, wherein it is more like a Producer‐ Consumer relationship . Even there , it is not a long and structured relationship in most of the cases. Feedback from the industry on fresh graduates does not flow seamlessly to Academia, leave aside, remedial actions . No doubt, some of the leading industrial groups like Ambanis, Birlas, Kirloskars, WIPRO,HCL etc moved into Higher Education by establishing Private Universities/ Institutions by setting up additional capacity . Some major IT companies like Infosys and TCS have been conducting Faculty Development Programs , as a measure of capacity building. WIPRO has been conducting full fledged programs on Education Management . But, this type of broad engagement is not common across all sectors. However, there have been a few success stories of enriching collaborations in India like : a. IIT Madras Research Park Limited : Set up in 2010 by IIT, Madras and its alumni as Sec 25 ( not for profit ) company, modeled on Research Parks of Stanford, MIT and Harvard. Companies ( large corporate or start‐ups ) can set up R&D facility, leveraging expertise of IIT, Madras. Currently, it has 500,000 sq ft of research space , with ,24 R &D clients ( covering diverse sectors like Engineering ,Telecom, IT and Financial Services) and 11 incubatees . b. Collaborative Automotive Research project ( CAR) : was an Academia‐Industry interactive forum set up in 2006 , to develop world class automotive systems/sub‐systems/components. It was an Initiative of inter‐ministerial committee of Government of India ( MHRD,DIT and Dept of Heavy industries ), facilitated by TIFAC ( Dept of Science & Technology). Members of the project included Academia ( IITs, Universities, ), National Labs and major Automotive companies. The committee was headed by ex‐Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University Need for scaling up Though there have been a few islands of such successful deep partnerships, there is need to scale them up systematically. Besides, there is an imperative to extend the coverage beyond premier Institutions (like IITs,NITs, and IIMs). Models of long term engagement need to be evolved considering the type of industry and maturity and focus of the Institutions. Challenges and Way forward : A sustainable Partnership between Industry and Academia can be built only on the foundation of mutual respect and trust , for mutual benefit . Most often, engagements between industry and Academia did not progress, due to unrealistic expectations from each other. Both the parties need to understand and appreciate the strengths and limitations of each other, before setting expectations of benefits out of the partnership. Depending on the capabilities and interests of the individual organisations, an appropriate model of partnership needs to be designed. To start with, the engagement could be in areas of mutual comfort , which can be scaled up over a period of time. Experience has shown that long term partnerships can be built successfully, only if individual owners are identified from both sides at a senior level , who are equally motivated and committed to make it happen. Government should act as a catalyst to facilitate and speed up the pace of partnership by way of creating a common vision and providing adequate resources