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October 11, 2018
The Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), which was accorded 'Institute of Eminence' tag by MHRD recently, is bracing towards achieving its academic goals through research. It is one of the six education institutions in the country to get the coveted tag. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with TOI, Dr H Vinod Bhat, vice-chancellor of MAHE, speaks on how the deemed university is now concentrating on researches, and how it is critical for any university to grow in a holistic manner.
Why research is important for MAHE, and how does it help for the holistic growth of the institution?
In addition to routine teaching, degrees, programmes and certificates, another important aspect for any institution to grow is research. Both transitional research and basic sciences research is critical for universities, including MAHE. Incidentally, university rankings are based on research. MAHE has been seriously into research since 2000. Now, we are becoming smarter in terms of different aspects of publishing - where to publish and how to collaborate nationally and internationally.
Which areas are under MAHE's focus?
MAHE is known for health sciences, and it is natural for it to focus more in this field. We are good at medical sciences, pharmacy, molecular medicine, diagnostic medicine, nursing and such other aspects of health sciences. By this, I'm not saying that we are the best. Even in engineering, we are slowly catching up in areas like aeronautics, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
There are complains, especially in India, that after a research is done and published in journal, it goes to library shelf - they are not made to benefit society. How will this be addressed by a private university?
Research follows two inter-connected cycles. Firstly, idea is converted into research. Secondly, what you do that research output, is entirely left to researcher and the institution that supports it. Individual is free to publish. If the research is unique and has commercial value, it has to be patented before being published. Having a patent or copyright is not just enough. It is the role of the varsity to take it further for commercialization. To address this, MAHE has created incubators, where people can come up with new ideas, or look at the existing ideas to sell, which is called technology transfer. We have created about 27 companies so far. We are planning to set up such companies from original ideas.
Which are the unique companies MAHE is looking to set up in future?
We are looking for three definite areas: biomedical devices, molecular diagnosis and drug discovery. We have some ongoing project with Indian, European and Australian universities.
Indian university research collaboration with industries is less compared to those abroad. Why so?
Traditionally, industrial support to universities in India in terms of research is limited compared to the west. In foreign countries, corporate spending and government grant is almost the same. But in India, we need to depend on government fundings entirely. The huge gap is because Indian universities have to grow to a stature that industries can trust them. It's a win-win situation in the west, unlike in India. In the west, best of ideas come from universities and best commercialization happens in industry. Take Blackberry, Research In Motion (RIM), for example - it is a product of an alumni of the University of Waterloo. To bridge the gap, there needs to be trust building between university and industry. One thing we have to fastrack is patenting of innovation, which takes about 84 months in India. It is just three years or less in other countries.
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