Monday, March 30, 2020

Role of Universities in Promoting Research, Innovation and Start-ups Ecosystem

For the past few years, a new trend can be observed within Indian Universities, where much buzz is going on to promote research, innovation, and start-ups. The government has made it mandatory for the Universities to work in this direction. All the major national ranking systems such as NIRF and ARIIA focuses on these areas for judging the Universities. There are two types of approaches where the government can play a role in promoting such activities. One is a top-down approach where the government acts as a planner and involves directly with innovative activities and helps in providing subsidies, funds, and promotes technology commercialization. In another approach, i.e., bottom-up approach government acts as a facilitator and helps in creating linkages and networks among universities, industries, entrepreneurs, accelerators, venture capital, large firms, etc. In the Indian education system where more than 70% of the sector is captured by private universities/educational institutes, the role of government is limited. However, in the case of public/government-funded educational institutes, the government plays a significant role in funding and technology transfer.

It becomes challenging for private universities to promote such activities on their own. Though some funds and schemes are available for the private sector, but the limited output is observed. To tackle such situations, universities are playing both roles of top-down and bottom-up approaches for creating the culture of research and innovations. Universities are providing funds to the faculties/research scholars and act as a facilitator in creating linkages and networks among peers, industries, entrepreneur, etc. At present, the innovation ecosystem for private universities can be related by Fig. 1, where 80% of the contribution is through university funding and their linkages and networks. Government agencies make about 20% of the contribution. For successful implementation of the research and innovation ecosystem in private universities, government roles and contributions have to improve and increase beyond 50%.

At The NorthCap University Gurugram, the contribution towards research and innovation ecosystem is supported through various schemes, and Vice-Chancellor Innovation Funding is one such platform. An annual amount of ₹ 10 Million is available for faculty and students to encourage innovative ideas and research. This scheme aims at encouraging innovative ideas amongst research workers, faculty members, and students to seed research activity. Further, to support research, The Master Jagannath Centre of Excellence & Incubation (MJCEI) at The NORTHCAP UNIVERSITY is established. The funding from the VC Innovation Fund acts as an initial grant to nurture ideas, passion & convert products into start-ups.

Fig.1: Role of various stakeholders in promoting research, innovation and innovation start-ups in private universities
The projects under VCIF are selected based on a few key elements, “FOCUSS” which are decided by university committee members and are presented in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2: Key elements “FOCUSS” required for projects under VCIF
These elements ensure the uniqueness of projects which are submitted under VCIF and also ensures the timely completion of projects. The completed projects which have chances of commercialization can further be transferred to The Master Jagannath Centre of Excellence & Incubation (MJCEI) of The NorthCap University for converting them into successful start-ups. Some of the projects sanctioned in the 2019-20 session are shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Granted projects under VCIF in 2019-20

S. No.
Project Title
Amount Granted
Smart Car Management System
Rs 68,000/-
Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) Disciplined Oscillator
Rs 2,70,000
Synthesis and electrochemical characterisation of NiCo2O4@MnO2/N-doped Graphene as composite electrode material for supercapacitor applications
Rs 1,99,090
Automatic domestic gas stove controller for boiling liquids
Rs 4,100
Rs 5,41,190/-

Some of the outputs of the VCIF sponsored projects are mentioned below:
      Recent Indian patent on Automatic universal LPG stove control device for boiling of liquids, Publication No.: 51/2019
       Research paper publications.
     Initial funding from VCIF and experimental results obtained help students to apply for funding under various government schemes.
       Placements on the basis of project work carried under VCIF.
       Won inter-university project competitions.
Further, it is noteworthy to mention that 55% of the faculty at NCU are female members who have fetch many Women Scientists Scheme (WOS) instituted by The Department of Science, Govt. of India and thus adding to the research culture of the University. University also focuses on interdepartmental research activities to utilize the full potential of work force. The continuous research/innovation activities carried out by faculty members are well appreciated as it forms an integral part of assessment and career advancement for them at NCU.
The aim of this article is to highlight the role of private universities in uplifting research and innovation activities. At least 10% of the annual budget should be allocated for research-based activities for enhancing research culture, where government funding is not available. Many Indian universities provide initial seed funds to their faculties for lab setups and to carry out research activities. Such funding not only attracts doctoral and post-doctoral students but also boost confidence in faculties to uplift their research career. The initial lab developments and research activities may further help in acquiring government-funded projects in the future.

By: Dr. Satnam Singh
       Assistant Professor,
       The NorthCap University, Gurugram.

No comments:

Post a Comment