India collaborations need to address ‘practical barriers’

Work between the UK research councils, Indian government and business can be improved by fixing practical barriers to collaboration, a report says.

August 17, 2013


Since 2008, Research Councils UK and the government of India have together invested over £100 million in joint research programmes.

Overall the report finds that researchers are positive about their experiences of research collaboration with each other and with their non-academic partners.

But the research, which draws on interviews with researchers and programme directors as well as publicly available data, finds that about half of the projects undertaken through the partnership had experienced serious issues with access to data or access to people.

Examples included visa problems, change of personnel in key positions or delays in hiring postdoctoral researchers.

The report recommends that provision for researcher exchange and industry partnership (such as visa permissions for PhD student visits to industry laboratories) be arranged at the outset of programmes and that allocation and release of funds be done in parallel in the UK and India to allow research to start on time.

A “major obstacle” also identified is negotiations over access to data and agreement on terms of data use, particularly in projects funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Indian Ministry of Environment and Earth Sciences, says the report.

However conflict of interest and problems with sharing of intellectual property were not generally identified as barriers to research progress, it adds.

Enhancing collaboration between research and industry was produced by independent researcher Sally Daultrey on behalf of Research Councils UK India, which represents the seven UK Research Councils, and is based at the British High Commission in New Delhi.

The report also recommends further investigation of how and why business and industry benefit from partnerships and that joint UK-India research programmes should be linked to industry and government “technology roadmaps”, such as in nuclear energy or digital economy, to enhance collaboration.

The report also highlights the importance of sustained research partnerships, which require establishing long-term relationships through direct interaction, including informal meetings.

Half the respondents surveyed for the report said that their research collaboration began through an informal connection (eight had very long-standing research relationships in India that were leveraged to respond calls) while half of the projects were paired at RCUK–Government of India workshops.

RCUK-Government of India collaborations cover seven themes: nuclear energy and engineering, water and climate, chronic disease, renewable energy, sustainable crop production, materials science and fuel cells and next-generation networks.

As of January 2013, the partnership supported more than 283 principal and co-investigators working with more than 60 businesses and industry groups, the report says.

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