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Connecting to Academic and Industry

Academic and industry are two important pillars of our economy. A robust collaboration between the two will augur well for our developing economy, enabling innovation, growth in the education system and producing an employment-ready workforce.

For several years, innovation in the education system has impacted the way businesses operate. Millennial entering the job market today are ready to learn new technologies and how to collaborate. Entrepreneurs and educational institutes need to recognize this opportunity and build a constructive framework for collaboration to make India a global innovation hub.

There are beginnings of a shift in this approach in India. There have been huge leaps taken by various corporate and academia to bring about positive change and innovation. The country is currently at a juncture where platforms like MeltingPot2020 are playing a major role in the transformational story and reaching the heights of innovation through industry-academia collaboration. Consider a few examples:

* HDFC bank recently announced its plan to partner 50 technology companies and business schools to tap emerging financial tech ideas starting with IIT-Bombay and IIT-Roorkee as part of its industry-academia partnership effort.

* The Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) also increased funding to IIT- Madras by nearly Rs 300 Cr ($47 million) to encourage innovation and strengthen industry-academia ties.

Reasons behind the Gap between Academia and Industry

  •  Academics and Industrialists have a different mindset; therefore both are living in two different worlds.
  • Both Academics and Industrialists are pursing different goals entirely. The Academic is striving for recognition from his or her peers. The Industrialist is striving to survive.
  • Industry thinks in terms of short range goals whereas the Academic has a long range perspective.
  • Industry prefers proven solutions with a low risk, whereas Academia is interested in creating new solutions with a high innovation rate.
  • Industry seeks the minimum solution to minimize their risk, whereas Academia strives for a maximum solution to maximize their recognition.
  •  Industry is mainly concerned with costs. Academia could care less about costs; it is mainly interested in the benefits (and prestige).

Industry Needs and Expectations

Large industrial companies have the resources to invest in technology development initiatives. Academic participation is often needed in minor technological innovation. Small scale industries often depend on support in the areas of design, process improvement and machinery performance, etc. They also rely on processes to yield a product which already exists. In some cases, problem solving may simply amount to product testing and production enhancement in terms of quantity and quality. In such interactions, industry’s expected time frames have been immediate and investment is directed towards efforts that promise result oriented solutions.

Academia Expectations

An academician shows interest normally in problems that are intellectually challenging. His or her areas of interest lie in technology development initiatives and methods related to process and design improvement. Researchers have strong preference for working towards creation of knowledge in specialized areas. For industry-related problems, a researcher has to explore a variety of options which is time consuming.
In academic institutions, the time frame of an academician is governed by research guidance and teaching assignments.
Academicians are oriented towards R&D activities of the industry for funds which helps them to sustain their broader research interests.



Academia-Industry Interaction Should Be Considered As Part of the Education

A support system is needed to ensure a focused involvement of both academia and industry. Academic institutions should develop systems and procedures to ensure that industry expectations are met without any compromise on academic aspirations. Initially, academia should conceive and take up short term, small budget projects which would instill confidence in industry and encourage it to start development projects. Industry also has to give a fresh look to its R&D efforts. This process must be guided by a complete shift from trading set up to a technologically- driven entrepreneurial set up. Academia should tilt the focus of basic research to applicative research. Research initiatives involving industry people with flexible formats could serve as the first step in this direction.

Venues should be created for close interaction starting from conceptualization down to commercialization. Setting up of technology incubation centres in close proximity of academic institutions could provide for fostering wholesome technology development.

Apart from classes, Engineering/Management/healthcare industry needs to be on campus with clear offerings for internships.

Industry Project: Real World Experience

At the completion of one’s optional coursework, there should also be a final ‘Industry  Project‘where students are to solve a real-world problem in industry. An Industry sponsor should assign the Team Project. Also, having an ‘Entrepreneurial Competition‘would allow students to write a business plan, compete, and potentially turn their plan into a start-up company with help of small grants or funding.

One important way of facilitating interaction between academia and industry is for teachers to take short period of absence for study at business organizations in their field of expertise. Such involvement will facilitate mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and challenges.

In order to ensure that the teaching programs and the curriculum meet the challenging needs of the industry, senior personnel from industry should be involved as expert members of the committees which vet changes in curriculum as well as new academic programs. To provide a real-life exposure of the industrial world to its students, a “vacation training program” (similar to an internship) can be organized. The program can include industrial training of faculty and students with a built-in provision of incentives as well as for the appointment of adjunct faculty from the industry.

Knowledge Transfer

The industry can hire significant number of students. This is a highly effective form of technology transfer. While working in the industry, students frequently return to universities and colleges to recruit new students.

Summer Camps

These can be arranged in collaboration with the industry to expose the students to various academic and extracurricular activities. As mentioned above, these can comprise a series of lectures and presentations from distinguished professionals from the industry and academia, video shows on some industry projects, group discussions, debates and field trip to some industrial companies. These camps serve as a forum for the development of overall personality, leadership, organizational skills and exemplary team work which are essential for a successful career in addition to academic activities.
Camps provide a platform for professionals to enrich the participants with their first hand experiences in the field and their professional expertise.

Provision for Scale-up Operation and Entrepreneurial Ventures

Students develop new products or processes which are restricted as bench experiments. Due to non-availability of scale up processes as a result of capital and operational cost, the research is not able to reach the market. Interaction and informal tie ups can ensure successful implementation of work developed in the institution.

Consultancy Services

Academic institutions can help the industrial companies by providing consultancy services which are sought by small-scale entrepreneurs having no access to R&D and quality control facilities. It can be in the form of evaluation of products, processes, software development etc.

Important principles for industry academic interaction

Following principles can be used as guidelines:

  •   Open academic environment: It is the responsibility of the administration, the academic senate and departmental faculty to establish appropriate norms for existence of an open environment.
  • Freedom to publish: Freedom to publish is fundamental to the university and is a major criterion for the research project. Faculty should be encouraged to engage in outside projects. These at the same time, should not interfere with their performance of teaching and research duties.

At the very least, companies should sponsor a series of lectures and presentations from distinguished professionals from the industry on or off campus. In addition, this could include networking events (Happy Hours), video shows on some industry projects, group discussions, debates and field trips to various industrial companies. After lectures or presentations, grad students and post-docs should have the chance to meet with the speaker and discuss potential opportunities, set up an informational interview, or further build their network.

Let’s do this TOGETHER!



The Academic-Industry Partnership Programme (AIPP)

The aim of The Academic-Industry Partnership Programme (AIPP) is to promote better co-operation and closer alliances between the business sector and Colleges. It leads students out of the classroom to gain a wider perspective of the world so that they can get prepared for life in the society. Through this new learning platform provided by the business sector, students will be able to know about different careers and understand the requirements of employers, enhance generic skills, develop correct work attitude and values which enable them to adapt to economic and social changes, hence ultimately achieve the goal of whole-person development. 

Aim

Through better co-operation and closer alliances between the business sector and colleges, we intend to widen our students’ exposure and equip them to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
We also hope to provide a better learning environment for our students to understand different careers, establish right work attitude, adapt to changes of the economy and ultimately achieve whole-person development.

Mode

Industry can provide various kinds of resources and co-operate with institutions in offering activities. Activities can be in the form of talks, small group learning, workshops, workplace visits, mentoring, Job shadowing, work experience and professional development programmes. Activities may include introduction to various careers, job knowledge, and work attitude, spirit of enterprise, life value, and organizational culture etc. Duration of activities could vary, ranging from one session to a few days. The activities could be held regularly throughout the school year. Participating enterprise may provide activities for one or more schools.

Benefits

Industry ASPECT

Demonstrate as a good corporate citizen and enhance public image of the enterprise.
Promote the related professions and business to students.
Train up a young potential workforce for the related profession and business sector.
Have a better understanding of the thoughts of the young generation and hence enhance / adjust the professional training strategy for their own staff.

COLLEGE ASPECT

Help students understand the business operations and the requirements of employers.
Assist students to learn the correct work attitude and positive life values.
Through partnership experience, develop school-based curriculum and activities as well as career guidance service that suit the students' needs.
Support students for career exploration, life planning and actualization of their career/academic aspirations.

STUDENT ASPECT

Understand individual capacity and potential to plan for future studies and careers.
Acquire knowledge, skills and attitude to make wise study / career choices in accordance with their interests, abilities and orientations.
Widen vision and establish correct values to adapt to the changing economy and society.
Acquire life skills and equip well to face challenges ahead.