Bridging the gap between academia and industry – Why’s and How’s
‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’ – Helen Keller

Ideally, a robust and functional collaboration should exist between the industry and academia. That would augur well for any country given that it would enable the growth of the education system and also produce employment-ready workforce. The common interaction between the two pillars of society has been that of producer-consumer, where the industry provides feedback to the academia for faulty products rather than providing keen insights and feedback, which will help improve the quality of education, research or infrastructure. This has led both sides to develop a frosty relationship. Following are the five biggest pain points in the academia-industry relationship and the key to addressing those pain points:

Social environment and lack of awareness: One of the biggest problems that both the industry and the academia face is the lack of knowledge on what the other really wants. Despite being a long-standing problem, there is no specific model that is widely used. The lack of structure and appropriate forums meant that the few interactions that took place were neither structured nor ongoing. Both look for self-serving purposes rather than with the objective of working out the differences.

The bane of stereotyping sciences: Firstly, there is very little awareness about scholarships and other basic understanding of various streams and there are very few institutes that offer quality education in the sciences. Also, parents and students have built stereotyped images of pure science subjects, which are thought to lead to a career in darkness, with the result being that there are more engineers today than science students. Secondly, many companies prefer to do their own research rather than associate with a university, unlike the West.

Research and development: The intellectual capital of Indian talent is well known, however research funding is not uniform across all sectors. For example, fund crunch has hit research in ICMR institutions. While India is being touted as a R&D destination, it has contributed only 4.36% of the global research output in 2013. Many R&D partnerships between the corporate and the academia are yet to take off even though the investments are tremendous. The proof is always in the pudding, so we will have to wait and see how they pan out. However, it is encouraging to note that India is fast emerging as a new innovation destination of choice. The Central government instituted the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) to rank institutions across the country. According to NIRF methodology, one of the parameters that carries a lot of weightage for the ranking is the number of research papers published. Hence, it has become necessary for institutes to collaborate with the industry for research fellowship programs, which is a win-win for both.

Outdated curricula & teaching methodologies: Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that the curricula and teaching methodologies in universities seem outdated and out of sync with the market. This results in companies spending a tonne of money in reskilling employees in the skills they need. Recent surveys have shown that majority of educated youth in the country are unemployable and given the rising demographic dividend, it can quickly turn into India’s worst nightmare if adequate measures are not immediately to address this demand-supply gap.

It is time to set aside the differences and create a nurturing environment where the industry and the academia can work together. In order to facilitate this collaboration, Kestone is organizing an event called MeltingPot2020 Innovation Summit 2016
(www.meltingpot2020.com) in November in New Delhi. This initiative will see a confluence of ideas from academia and corporate to drive innovation and catalyze India’s transformation into one of the top 10 Innovative countries of the world. The focus is to identify and discuss in detail key drivers, challenges and game changing solutions that have the potential to pave a roadmap to create India into an innovation fueled economy powered by break through research at the institutional and corporate level.