In this blog, I will talk about industry-academia partnership and involvement, not merely industry-academia interaction. This partnership requires efforts to integrate the world of scientific and technical education with the world of work resulting in a broader & deeper model of engineering education.

Such a model necessitates active partnership of industry-academia-society-government to create a unique engineering graduate, exploring and exploiting the strengths of each other for the benefit of the student.

Various avenues, internships – rural, industry, and research; joint projects at the students, faculty, research, education levels; constant discussions and deliberations; team-teaching courses; joint evolution of dynamic curriculum, etc., will result in a graduate who is technically sound, sensitive to societal needs, exposed to the industry culture, and who quickly adapts to a new situation with ease in a rapidly changing world.

There is a lack of overall commitment to this partnership currently probably because of lack of perception and belief that this partnership will add substantial value to each partner. These partnerships take time to develop and typically involve many complex relationships. The onus appears to be on the academia to keep pushing the industry for their active involvement and partnership. The prerequisite is a strong R&D base, thinking, and commitment by the Industry. Issues regarding IP (Intellectual Property) and very clear and quickly enforceable IP laws need immediate attention.

An excellent example is the recently established IIT Madras Research Park that “facilitates the promotion of research and development by IIT Madras in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures, and promoting economic development. The Research Park assists companies with a research focus, to set-up a base in the Park and leverage the expertise available at IIT Madras”. The Park has evolved an ingenious, innovative ‘credit system’ to attract and retain companies.

I believe we academics need the industry more than they need us! If we agree that this is desirable, doable, and must be done then we together need to do the following:

  1. Generate dynamic curriculum to match students’, industry, and society needs.
  2. Build technical skills based upon strong science, engineering science fundamentals, design focus, and provide practice in using these skills through problem-solving approach and well-designed innovative experiments (involve industry engineers and scientists in teaching or team-teaching roles; industry involvement and support of academic laboratories).
  3. Encourage students for self-study, life-long learning, discovery of knowledge, and excitement of research (rural, industry, and research internships, joint research projects at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, open-ended problem solving, etc.).
  4. Motivate students to continuously renew skills needed to succeed in the knowledge society.
  5. Impress upon students the importance of HASS & Management courses, effective communication, interpersonal dynamics, and the benefits of cooperative approaches to problem-solving. In addition, assist them to tackle complex real-life situations.
  6. Provide opportunities and encouragement to working professionals and make it simpler for them to register for Master’s/ PhD degree through flexible admission criteria and innovative time scheduling without compromising quality.

It would be desirable to have the Academic institutions, Development labs, and Entrepreneur Park in close proximity with each other, preferably on the same campus, with in-built mandate for cooperation and collaboration – students, faculty, researchers (a multi-way process). This arrangement would facilitate converting ideas into innovation and thence to manufacturing.