I am a researcher. Curiosity is my drive. Thinking over an issue is my routine, experimenting and deriving conclusions is my job, and I get paid for it. Bringing the conclusions to a logical platform and submitting it to the educational fraternity in the form of research publications, scientific articles review articles is my way of enhancing my career, and hence my life.

I mostly approach government agencies to get funds for my research. I finally get something tangible, which brings me satisfaction. Am I thinking of the utility of the work I am doing? Am I trying hard to explore the ways and means? Am I contributing to the betterment of Indian industrial  and social systems, or generating an innovative idea, which makes our lives better/easy? Well, the answer is not that apparent, but Indian researchers and scientists are surely reaching a concrete version of it.

A friend of mine, an industrialist, owns a factory which manufactures an industrial product, which goes as a spare part to a bigger automobile factory. He has a target for the day, and that is his drive. He has a process which is optimised and it has to run his machinery for the same. This is his routine. His job is to produce that “n” number of spare parts and deliver to the bigger multinational company, and he gets money out of it. Getting more of such orders is his way of enhancing his career and hence his quality of life. 

His company portfolio, his yearly balance sheet, profit-gain charts, his company manpower volume, exhibits his strength. But is he thinking on the novelty in his product? Diversifying his product portfolio? Or expanding the business range? Again, the answer is not easy. His satisfaction is solely dependent upon the profit he makes. Yet, even India’s small/medium scale industrialists are set to change their mindsets.

Traditionally, in India, academia and industry have worked independently. The dependency is either not realised or has not been pushed by government policies and political strategies. In recent times, however, with the new policies of the current government, things are changing for good. 

Academicians and manufacturers are two different sets of people. Academicians are generally satisfied with publications and patents. They like to be free-spirited and work for “proof of concept”. Universities, institutions, centres of excellence are the bodies which fall under this category. Academicians write papers and conduct projects in their area of research, guide PhD students and get the papers/projects implemented. Government departments such as University Grants Commission (UGC), and in my field, the Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, Department of Defence, and the Department of Science and Technology fund such projects.

Manufacturers and industry professionals have a different culture. They are highly objective-driven. Following a process for manufacturing is their priority. They intend to become profit-centres and hence doing research is not their priority, because it is a ‘money-sink’ (actually it is an investment!) and not a ‘money-source’. 

Technology in India is mostly sourced from foreign shores. Take the examples of automobiles, cosmetics, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals or even consumer electronics. Most of the technological know-how hails from the Western world, and this is the problem. 

If a researcher suggests any new product, industry professionals refuse to adapt to it or inculcate it in their process. This is because it involves the cost of alteration and raw materials. Checking compatibility with foreign goods is also an issue. Hence, the research and development done by a researcher remains on paper and does not reach industry. This is a vicious circle – if the research carried out in our country does not reach the manufacturer, foreign technology prevails, and the researcher’s work remains on paper. On one hand, government’s investment is not optimally used and on the other, the industry remains dependent on the foreign technology. We, as a country, lose on both sides!

Should academics take the responsibility of going further with their research results and ensure that they are available to the public in a form that is accessible and intelligible? Well, yes…! Do manufacturers also have the responsibility to use in-house technology for product development? The answer, again, is yes…! 

How do we bride this gap?

Recently, government policies regarding the industry-academia interface have radically changed. The “Make in India” movement is taken very seriously by the current government. This is facilitated by easing duties, providing  subsidies, and allowing foreign countries to set up their base in India. Government funding agencies have also been instructed to check if any research proposal has an “industry partner”. Incubation Cells and Innovation Centres have been made mandatory in the university system, ensuring industrial presence and a “push” to researchers towards carrying out applied research by interacting with the industrial sector.

This imparts the responsibility of working together to bring a technology to the market to both, the academician as well as the industrialist. This will help turn our “Make in India” dream into a reality. Entities like BIRAC, BIG, TIFAC and IMPRINT are few such examples which are being run by government. 

It is going to take time for the effects to be seen, but the ball is set rolling. It will go through rough roads and obstacles, but we will soon have our academia-industry partnerships generating their own Intellectual Properties and selling their indigenous products in domestic and global markets. Patanjali Industries is one such good example of research and manufacturing convergence.When a large number of scientists become part of an industrial product team, and when the industry becomes a research partner in any University, we will be very close to achieving the vision of “Make in India”. And with India’s huge young population, we would indeed be nearing the dream of an economically superior power…!

Sangeeta Kale

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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