Industry-Academia Interactions

R S Gaud,  Dean, School of Pharmacy & Technology Management SVKM\'s Nursee Monji Institute of Management Studies University India.

In the Indian scenario, teachers are overburdened and are involved in too many non-academic activities resulting in poor research output. There are only a handful of universities and institutions with a serious focus on research.

How different are the industry-academia relations in India compared with the US and European countries?

In India, industry-academia interrelations are not very strong. Both industry and academia are not taking necessary initiatives to strengthen the relations as they do not consider this as a priority issue. On the contrary, in the US and European countries there is a strong bond between industry and academia with industry sponsoring many projects in universities and reputed institutions. Many universities have undertaken pioneering research projects and also established research companies on a commercial basis. They have identified faculty exclusively to carry out such research activities with few academic commitments.
In the Indian scenario, teachers are overburdened and are involved in too many non-academic activities resulting in poor research output. There are only a handful of universities and institutions with a serious focus on research. Moreover, the industries here are very conservative and do not encourage funding for research activities carried out in institutions.

Indian pharma companies are shifting from generic-based business model to that of an innovation-based business model. How do you see the industry-academia interactions in light of these developments?

In post-GATT era with product patents in place, the Indian pharma companies have to come up with their own drug molecules and formulations which need innovative research. Academic institutions and universities can carry out basic research to achieve these targets. Industry with the institutional involvement will be able to accelerate their New Chemical Entities projects and other research activities using younger scientists and faculty from the institutions. They can as well use the infrastructure and human resources provided by these institutions in other priority areas. Academia has more vision and expertise in developing newer technology which is essential for innovative research. Academia also has enough database for such research approaches due to continuous education programmes. Many educational centres have not commercialised their research activities and limited research to academic purposes. With industry involvement, these ideas can be brought to reality for the benefit of the society. Thus, industry can also benefit provided they encourage tie-ups with academia.

Academia in the US holds more patents than its counterparts elsewhere in the world. What are the factors that hinder the Indian academia to actively participate in the drug R&D?

In India, research is not a priority and wherever research is carried out is not focussed and is of purely academic interest. Academia and industry lack the patent awareness and are mostly dependant on research that is done abroad.

Secondly, there is lack of infrastructure and motivation for innovative research. Even if research facilities are available, more often they are not accessible to young scientists. The availability and operation of research grants for academia from government bodies involves a lot of formalities due to which the academia stay away from utilising these facilities.

Can you suggest ways to overcome these hurdles?

We must encourage younger faculty to engage themselves in research activities by providing more grants and opportunities to interact with pharma companies and by arranging awareness workshops on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Incentives should be given to faculty engaged in research activities.

All postgraduate and doctoral research should be focussed on industrial needs and should not be only of academic value. Workshops on newer research approaches must be conducted regularly. Faculty / student exchange programmes at national / international levels must be encouraged.

Government funding procedures must be time-bound and simple in operation. Faculty with research inclination should be identified and encouraged to carry out research activities.

Recruiting right talent is very crucial for the success of the industry. In what ways can the academia help the industry in this direction?

Academia should interact with companies of repute to provide training to their students. They should also look into the critical evaluation and suggestions made by the industry to improve their curriculum. All the changes made to the curriculum must be acknowledged by the industry experts. Industry experts should voluntarily interact with university academia for making curriculum more relevant to the end-user i.e. the industry as it is meant for their own survival. The changes thus made to curriculum should reflect the respective changes in the industry. Unfortunately, industry experts take it as a burden and quite often they remain absent on such occasions. I have experienced this many times in my 30 years of academic experience. While suggesting change in the syllabus, industry should also provide a framework for "train the trainer" approaches. The industry should consider it as a long-term investment.

What is the role of government in promoting the relationship between industry and the academia?

The Government of India through its various agencies provides huge funds for such interactions. However, there is lack of awareness about such facilities and lack of commitment amongst the faculty. Also, institutions are not encouraging such activities as faculty members are already overburdened. They have limited time for academic delivery and most of the managements are casual in their approach to strengthen industry-institute interaction. All India Council for Technical Education, Department of Science and Technology, Universal Grants Commission, Indian Council of Medical Research are a few bodies that look towards participating actively in such interactions. But response from majority of the academia is far from satisfactory. Also, these grants are given mainly to the limited government / government-aided institutions. Unfortunately, these grants are not given to the capable investigators from private sector which constitutes a major chunk of the education system.

What are the benefits that the industry and academia can derive from each other in the long run?

The interaction would result in developing faculty and providing necessary human resources to the industry. Faculty members have to update their knowledge bank and industry must get workforce of the quality they look for. This is possible only through this interaction. The industry, by using the innovative approaches of the younger generation, can face the global competition effectively.

The benefits that industry can derive from the interaction with academia are many.

Firstly, the industry will save many precious man hours in training their employees at its own cost. They can get the human resources of acceptable quality right at the entry point. They can also develop their Intellectual Property and improve their research potential. They will also have an opportunity to improve and economise their products and activities. There will be a fresh flow of information to increase their data bank. Such efforts may lead the industry to new discoveries.

Academic institutions can redesign their courses, teaching, learning methodologies and research activities as per the needs of the industry. This will facilitate students' placement and will improve the quality of the curriculum. Institutions can develop themselves as focussed and need-based research centres by utilising opportunities from both government agencies and the industry.

Author BIO

R S Gaud is a senior academician in Pharma Sciences since the last 30 years and is responsible for shaping the Pharmacy division at NMIMS University. He also has worked as an advisor at All India Council Technical Education for five years. He is also a member of CII National Committee of Drugs & Pharmaceuticals. He has presented and published more than 150 research papers. He has authored nine pharmacy books and has two patents under process.

Author Bio

R S Gaud