South Asia

  • Cambridge to 'brain train' in India

    Marianne de Nazareth


Cambridge University and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have plans to collaborate in research with a view to generating innovation that benefits society.

Alison Richard, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, while delivering a lecture at the IISc on 16 January, said: "Initiatives could take several forms, focusing on areas where India has high ambitions and great needs; energy, healthcare, sustainable engineering, materials and high end manufacturing, all spring to mind."

Scientists at IISc told SciDev.Net that specific areas of collaboration are being worked out.

Richard said she would like her university to help India scale up its advanced training opportunities for outstanding students and provide a high-quality research environment and a dynamic innovation system.

Under the system Cambridge University can help 'brain train' – that is, offer training opportunities locally – rather than add to India's 'brain drain'.

Such a system, she said, could foster innovation that could benefit India's economy and society.

Citing studies Richard said California's Silicon Valley was powered by talented Indians who stayed on to take advantage of better opportunities in the United States. The time has come, she said, for "brain circulation" that can be made possible by improving the environment for innovation in the home country.

Universities play a vital role in generating innovation, and can share experiences, complement and synergise each other's efforts, she said.

Indian universities are increasingly engaging in research, which covers not just technological innovation but also social and economic processes that can help innovation reach poor and neglected communities.

For example, the University of Hyderabad is part of a team of institutes and NGOs that is looking at agricultural innovation under an International Development Research Centre -funded project that began in 2008 (see China and India share dryland farming tips ).

In June 2009 the Canadian government also announced an International Community-University Research Alliance programme under which universities and community organisations in Canada are teaming up with counterparts in developing countries to undertake research on global issues such as coastal adaptation to climate change, the impact of poverty on environment, and mental health.

Students are already enthused by the innovation concept. "Science students often have innovative ideas but get discouraged by lack of incentives or start-up support," observed a science graduate in Bangalore.