Here are the key findings from the Dataquest Top T-School 2020 survey.
Academia-industry partnerships to the fore
The nature and strategic importance of academia-Industry partnerships have increased significantly over the past decade. Given that academia and industry share an important symbiotic relationship, these partnerships have only evolved and increased as we enter an era marked by rapid, exciting technological developments and change.
The successful implementation of a university-industry partnership is critical and holds value for not just industry or academia, but government, policymakers and other ecosystem players at large. While the potential and advantages of such partnerships are known, it is important to address challenges and hindrances that could potentially lead to failure.
Among one of the most important factors guiding successful academia-industry partnerships pertains to that of what resources each partner brings into a partnership. This, in effect, will ultimately determine how viable, useful and successful such partnerships can be.
In addition, the other key factor for success that pertains to simplifying the different frameworks and structures that bound academic institutions and enterprises alike. The willingness of enterprises and institutions alike to listen and being open to change is important. Most importantly, successful academia-industry partnerships are fostered on the basis of trust that partners vest in a partnership.
While such synergistic partnership models involving academic and industry have existed in the West, especially in US and UK, it is only now that India is realizing the importance of such engagements. The nature and scale of academia-industry partnerships in India is on the rise and driven by economic and the need to innovate swiftly.
In 2019, institutions of higher learning in India forged ahead with successful industry partnerships. For instance, IIT Kharagpur (IIT-K) collaborated with Wipro to carry out applied research in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G.
Similarly, OPPO, the global smartphone brand has partnered with IIT-Hyderabad to undertake joint R & D projects in 5G. In addition, this joint partnership will focus upon research in battery, camera and image processing, system performance and AI among others.
With a intent to harness Indian research talent, Samsung India has set-up innovation centres at many different IITs. It also set-up a digital academy at IIT Guwahati for training in AI and IoT, among others. IIT Roorkee enhanced its pedagogy around quantum computing by partnering with Microsoft, and conducting lectures for BTech and MTech students on quantum computing for a full semester as a pool elective.
The government is also a key stakeholder in the industry-academia collaborations. ISRO, for instance, is going to set-up a space technology centre at IIT Delhi.
Going forward, the nature and scale of innovative engagement models involving academic institutions and enterprises is only expected to grow.
Intellectual property (IP) and research publications
Over the past 100 years, intellectual property has been the backbone that gave rise to innovations, across industry sectors, ranging from semiconductors to personal computers, from software to biotech engineering, from mobile to ecommerce.
From being a narrow legal specialty, intellectual property has now transcended business and academic spheres, as a driver of corporate value and as an imperative for national competitiveness and driving national economic growth.
As the seed capital for creating new knowledge and giving rise to new innovations, today’s T-schools are required to create an enabling academic environment that supports intellectual property generation, whether it be through patents or new research publications in national and international academic journals.
The metrics for measuring research outputs at T-Schools include the number of research papers published in journals and books. In addition, the impact of academic research at T-Schools is measured by the number of article citations, the number of patents filed and granted, and lastly, any revenue realization accruing from technology licensing to industry.
For T-Schools, the role of publishing high-quality research and fostering new innovations is key for enhancing its future brand positioning and equity. This, in turn, will determine whether the research environment at the T-School is conducive to attract promising students as well as high-quality faculty.
This year’s DQ-CMR T-School Survey illustrates the growth of academic IPR cells at T-Schools. These IPR cells are playing a pivotal role in guiding and mentoring students in facilitating new innovations, through formal IP protection. Across T-Schools, there is a healthy growth in the number of patent filings.
The research published by T-Schools, including academic research papers in reviewed research journals, articles and books, points to the overall research productivity of the T-Schools.
What the DQ-CMR T-School Survey results outline is a healthy growth in published research. At a regional level, while T-Schools in East India contributed 979 research papers, South India had a healthy share of 519 research papers in the last three years. While all this is good, a key metric that needs to be watched is the citation impact of the publications. This refers to the citations that research articles secure, with a higher number of citations signifying a positive impact.
When it comes to patent trends, T-Schools in North India had an average of 15 patents, while those in South India contributed to an average of 13 patents.
The impetus for T-School scholarship should be on translational research, focused on solving current industry and societal challenges. It is good to note that during 2019, the faculty at T-Schools carried out ~81 industry assignments.
The faculty at T-Schools in Western India had a whopping 151 such assignments while those in East India contributed to 6 industry assignments. The DQ-CMR T-School Survey results further reaffirm that professors at private T-Schools had on an average, 87 such industry-oriented assignments, while those from government T-Schools had 55 such assignments in 2019.
Giving wings to start-up entrepreneurship
A key role in enabling entrepreneurship is played by the dynamic value chains, that bind entrepreneurs, enterprises and engineering institutions together. The success of start-up entrepreneurship is dependent on a dynamic, collaborative and enabling ecosystem that is able to cater to the needs and standards of entrepreneurs. Such environments support entrepreneurship.
While traditionally they have been regarded as powerhouses of knowledge and new innovations, today’s T-Schools are also aiming to contribute to increased translational research, through promotion of start-up entrepreneurship. Through incubators, T-Schools aim to provide an enabling environment to encourage students to pursue new ideas, take new challenges and risks, and prepare the innovations that define tomorrow.
At a very early stage, incubators identify start-ups, and provide support to them through access to initial funding, infrastructure, including affordable resources, as well as access to know-how and training.
For start-ups, incubators provide not just technical and financial assistance, but also access through its knowledge networks, to a pool of industry experts, mentors, alumni networks and funding organizations. In addition, incubators also contribute to increased visibility and branding of start-ups, via association with such engineering schools.
The role and focus of incubators is defined by T-Schools based on a variety of factors, including access to knowledge networks, including enterprises as well as sources of funding, among others. By acting as a bridge between T-Schools and industry, the incubators are able to support students as well as faculty members with business inputs from commercial partners, charged with scaling-up and marketing the innovations.
According to the DQ-CMR T-School 2020 Study results, 82% of T-Schools surveyed had set-up an incubation centre to facilitate entrepreneurship. It is heartening to note 81% of these incubators enjoy industry support, and benefiting from partnerships with players in the local ecosystem.
On an average, there were 9 start-ups incubated at T-Schools. The survey results further allude to the fact that T-Schools in Western India potentially benefit from the greater concentration of industries in the region, and have a higher share of start-ups (12 on average). Interestingly enough, the survey results point to Government T-Schools having a greater share of start-ups, compared to Private T-Schools.
Strong tailwinds for digital transformation
When it comes to the technology infrastructure at T-Schools, today’s T-Schools are facing strong tailwinds that are enabling foundational shifts in terms of both pedagogy as well as campus infrastructure.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets with leading specs at affordable price-points, there is a strong shift amongst students seeking to access and collaborate on learning content anytime, anywhere on campus and beyond. Alongside, there is a more stronger focus on bringing external subject matter experts into the classroom through videos.
By harnessing power of technology, T-Schools have the potential to transform existing pedagogical approaches, and impart more personalized learning through blended and virtual learning.
In the case of blended learning, T-Schools can provide access to students to technology-enabled learning spaces, wherein they benefit from collaborative and informal learning approaches. On the other hand, virtual learning spaces focus on blending digital and physical environments for continuous learning.
While T-School leaders have adopted some of these pedagogical approaches, many T-Schools are yet to fully leverage the power of digital. Without having access to high-speed bandwidth and device infrastructure, the full potential of these pedagogical approaches is far from realized.
In the absence of reliable network and speed, technology cannot be effectively leveraged in the classroom, and learning disruptions become common, potentially impacting future technology usage. For technology-based pedagogical approaches to be effective, adequate bandwidth alongwith suitable scalable infrastructure is essential.
— Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Research Group at CMR, with inputs from Satya Mohanty, Head-Industry Consulting Group at CMR.