Industry-Academia Partnership

Education has continued to evolve, expand and widen its reach and coverage since the dawn of human history. Every country develops its system of education to express and promote its unique socio-cultural identity and also to meet the challenge of the times. There are moments in history when a new direction has to be given to the age-old processes. That moment has come now. The challenges we are facing today are concerned with making the educational system more need based and effective, more dynamic and responsive to the changes taking place in the industrial world. The country has reached a stage in its economic and technical development when a major effort must be made to derive maximum benefit from the assets already created and to ensure that the fruits of development reach all sections. This has become more vital as the Industry is facing global competition under new policy of liberalization and privatization. The interaction between industry/employer and Academic Institutions is increasingly recognized as the basis for the development of market responsive, demand driven institutional programmes aims at providing a competitive edge to industry.

The healthy future of our industry requires greater interaction with technical/professional institutions at all levels.

Current Scenario
In the 59 years of Independence, a large number of universities and institutions of higher learning have been established and similarly, a number of industrial establishments have been set up in the form of private, public and multinational companies (MNCs).

Industries have always been stating that fresh graduates who join them require six months to 2 years as gestation period to show their contribution and, many a time, they leave the organisation before they start showing results. They say that this is due to the gap between theory and practice. The university/institution's curricula are often outdated and the component of practice is minimum. The universities, on the other hand, feel that industries are not contributing in the academic entities. Research and Development (R&D) institutions like CSIR labs, Indian Council for Agricultural Research etc. have remained as ivory towers of research in product development design, transfer of technology and other areas. Neither the academic institutions have benefited nor the industries have access to these researches.

Similarly, there are National institutions like IISc, IlTs, NITs, lIMs etc., which have produced excellent manpower. However, most of the students choose to serve developed countries. The interaction of these institutions with industries is limited to consultation work, that too, at a minimum level and interaction with the universities is even less.

Research and Development is key to economic growth. Government has instituted funding institutions like Department of Science and Technology (DST), Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), DOE, DBT etc. to support R & D projects of universities and institutions of higher learning. Apart from this, there are financial institutions like IDBI, IFCI, SIDBI, NSIC, etc. who provide financial assistance for technology development, transfer of technology etc. Obviously, universities, academic institutes of higher learning, Industries' R&D institutions and funding agencies have been growing parallel with a common goal, complementing each other, but only to a minimum extent.

Recent surveys have also shown the big gap between industry expectations and B - school delivery. Many in Industry feel that B-school products are too raw and lack the soft skills needed in current business environment. In fact many recruiters interviewed admit that they go to IIMs because they are assured of quality of intake more than the value-addition to the existing skills and knowledge of the students. The premier institutes need to focus more on research in pedagogy, curriculum and industry interaction.

Department of Biotechnology (DBTs) national strategy draft raises concern about the inconsistent quality of students entering the workforce. The DBT suggests a comprehensive review and improvement of curricula in consultation with the industry and government-funded research institutes. A CII survey points out that 54 percent of the firms covered feel that there is lack of trained professionals in the market and 31 per cent feel that the supply is not able to match demand both in terms of skills and numbers. This study demonstrated the gap between what the industry needed and what institutions of higher learning were producing.

Synergy and Partnership
Looking at the whole scenario, there is a need for interaction between universities, academic institutions of higher learning, industry, R&D institutions and funding agencies. This could be achieved by a synergy process wherein they will be partners in various activities, complementing each other in reaching their visions, objectives and goals. Generally, this is perceived as an activity for interaction but there is need to re-look in order to develop such a process wherein there will be more than interaction. This could be achieved by PARTNERSHIP. A few of the interventions are as follows:

a. Develop a data-base of facilities available in the university/Institutions of higher learning, industry and R&D institutions.
b. Involvement of industry in the curriculum development and also implementation of the curriculum. (The main grouse of Indian industry, the real sufferer of the shortage of quality manpower, is that the curricula are just not geared to meeting its new and changing requirements)
c. Faculty exchange and participation in industry and vice-versa in university and specialised institutions.
d. Participation of executives who have Ph.D., involve them in research and development both in industry as well as universities.
e. The industry should utilize the human resource and infrastructure available in the universities for problem solving, testing, certification etc.
f. Conducting advanced programmes in technical, management and other need-based areas, tackling contemporary issues of mutually beneficial nature.
g. Setting up a business development cell on partnership.
h. Promote entrepreneurship in education system.

"There are many lessons to be learnt from the developed countries. For instance, it is quite common for leading US research laboratories to optimize productivity in R & D by linking up with the industry. Such partnerships have yielded sustained innovations and the industry has benefited from academic research. According to US Patent and Trademark Office estimate, about 40 percent of the industrial patents in the US universities are attributed to private-funded research. Obviously, India Inc, can't stay complacent". (HT, Sep 19, 2005).

The universities need to rise to the occasion but the India Inc. should come forward to bridge the need gap just as their counterparts do in the developed countries. For justifiable reasons, many universities and lower run engineering colleges blame the poor quality of education on the lack of equipment, quality labs and trained faculties. It is estimated that barring IITs, NITs and some other renowned institutions, the task of enhancing quality of education and purchase of equipment would require over Rs 50,000 per student every 5 years and as much for faculty improvement, according to an IIT Kanpur study.

Another Rs 15-17 crore would be required for increasing the number of engineering graduated by about 500 every year. The resource requirement is indeed modest for Indian's Rs 100,000 crore-and growing -IT industry. Clearly, the Industry needs to pitch for its own good.

Most of the innovations originate from the minds of the scholars when backed by the industry professionals. The Toyota production System (TPS) stands in evidence for the Industry-academic network. The networking with related industrial establishments could lead to a mutual give-and-take processes. The Ford - MIT Alliance is a model for productive exchange - the automaker benefits from research insights, and the MIT faculty and students plung directly into auto industry realities. Working on the project faculty and students have access to resources beyond any university's scope such as, propriety information, company personnel, and facilities ranging from wind tunnels to test tracks. The exchange of information between the institutions and industries help broaden the academic insight and establish an ideal relationship between the two.

Some of the important initiatives may be :

· Curriculum and Training (Academic institutions of higher learning should make use of the experiences and narrow the gap between theory and practice. )
· Advanced Technical and Management Development Programmes (Universities and academic institutions could conduct short-term courses for individuals in the industry on contemporary issues)
· Industrial Visits (The University must collaborate with the industries and arrange for frequent scheduled visits of students and staff so that they will be able to link themselves with curriculum and the best practices in industry)
· Human Resource Development (Institution-Industry participation can systematically plan to meet the human resource requirement)
· Research and Development. (The industry and institution must promote identification of research areas of mutual interest and undertake R&D activities)
· Consultancy (Faculty to be encouraged to undertake consultancy with identified need-based industries and share experience with other colleagues and students).
· Calibration, Testing, Characterization and Service (The academic institutions have some facilities for calibration, testing, characterization and service and these need to be strengthened)
· Entrepreneurship Development (The academic institutions have a mandate to help students to become self- sufficient. This could be achieved either by placing them in a job or by helping them in new enterprise creation)
· Business Development Cell (Institutions must set up such Cell, with a focus to market their programmes, activities and services to industry, research institutions and funding institutions.

Hence Industry-Academia has to be a joint venture between educators and employers to raise the aspirations and achievements of individual learners, to allow them to maximize their potential and to enable them to become part of a skilled and adaptable work force. Its distinctive feature needs a commitment of the partners to work together to improve education and employment opportunities. Higher education should serve as a powerful tool for development. Universities and institutions are centres for human resource development. The industry, R&D labs., who absorb the human resources developed in the Universities and Institutions should become partners with the centres of higher learning. In this way, need-based practical human resources could be developed. Partnership will give an opportunity for industry and R&D institutions to contribute in developing the centres of higher learning. Thus, there is need for evolving a synergy between centres of higher education, industry, R&D institutions and funding agencies in the form of partnership, which will act as a powerful tool in economic growth and overall development of the country. The Industry interface, the buzzword in many academic institutions of contemporary times, needs to be achieved in true spirit.