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Industry-Academia collaboration essential for India becoming a world leader: Dr Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)

May 26, 2023

Industry leaders and academicians discuss innovation, startups, and internationalisation at the FICCI Industry Academia Conference

NEW DELHI, May 26, 2023 - Speaking at the 2nd FICCI Industry-Academia Conference today, Dr Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Government of India underscored the importance of a symbiotic interconnection between academia and industry, fostering an environment conducive to the seamless conversion of ideas into successful enterprises. 

"Innovation is about lowering the friction experienced by an idea in becoming an enterprise," he said. "This ecosystem needs the right actors performing the right functions and interconnected meaningfully," he added. 

He noted that "we have to change how we teach in academia," highlighting the need for companies to change their approach to startups. For example, rather than viewing startups only in terms of impact on the top or bottom lines, companies should embrace startups' innovative risks, particularly in industries where the market is contracting. 

"When the pie is disappearing, then I think the startup is your way," Vaishnav explained, "because you can't take the innovative risk that a startup can take." 

Lastly, Vaishnav highlighted plans for the next year, including the implementation of several niche industry-academia accelerators and an intensive nine-month deep tech acceleration programme. These projects aim to funnel industry investments into translational work and encourage more robust relationships between academia, industry, and startups. 

Dr Vaishnav concluded, "We have to do a 10x in 10 years. So, all we can do from our Atal Innovation Mission at NITI Aayog is yours."  

In her theme address, Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Chair of the FICCI Higher Education Committee & Pro-Chancellor of Symbiosis International University, noted that universities across India are welcoming robust engagements with industries, highlighted by the establishment of research centres on campuses nationwide.  

"In recent times, we've seen a wave of industries eager to engage with academia and set up research centres in Indian universities, a phenomenon that we had not witnessed before," said Dr Yeravdekar. 

A shining example of this deepened engagement is the Serum Institute's initiative to establish a research centre for biologicals and vaccines at Symbiosis International University. This collaboration is the first of many, with BITS Pilani and Manipal University set to follow suit. 

Beyond the partnerships between academia and industry, Dr Yeravdekar also underscored the shift towards internationalisation. It is not just Indian students keen on industrial internships but also students from developing and developed countries expressing interest in participating in the Indian industry's internship programmes. 

"Internationalisation is an exciting new avenue we are exploring, with increased interest from students worldwide eager to intern with Indian industry. This unprecedented interest underscores the international recognition of the quality of Indian higher education and industry," she said. Further, she noted that this global engagement goes beyond internships. Universities are partnering with industries to offer mentorship programmes for new incubators on university campuses, marking an exciting evolution of the academic experience. 

Mr Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra, Executive Director & Head, Indian Oil Institute of Petroleum Management (IOCL), identified potential common areas of collaboration, including data sets, applied research, and developing core curriculums, aligning with the NEP's objectives. "As we strive for economic growth and technological advancement, the synergy between academia and industry will become an essential part of our path forward," he concluded. 

Mr Ravi Panchanadan, Co-Chair of the FICCI Higher Education Committee and MD & CEO of Manipal Global Education, called for a shift from identifying to solving the issues inherent in academia-industry collaboration. Panchanadan stressed the need to teach future-focused skills, enhance outcome-driven learning and education, and boost investment in internships, apprenticeships, and research. Responding to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, he urged a focus on its practical implementation rather than the policy itself. He concluded by emphasising the potential of stronger collaboration among government, industry, and academia to establish global leadership. "We can be world leaders only if we collaborate. FICCI aims to be the catalyst that bridges the gap between industry and academia, providing clear solutions to not only today's problems but also to the challenges we foresee in the next decade," he concluded. 

Prof Rajan Saxena, Hon. Advisor - FICCI Higher Education Committee & Former Vice Chancellor, NMIMS and Prof Souvik Bhattacharyya, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee; Principal Academic Advisor, TCG CREST and Former Vice Chancellor, BITS Pilani, also spoke on occasion. 

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