Opportunities for Europe and India at the level of research and innovation: A feedback note at the occasion of the high-level roundtable on India and the EU innovating together (in health, water and energy)

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Indo-European Partnership in R&I roundtable – Feedback from the India Platform

An extract – Different cultural contexts:

“Historically, India and Europe have had very different traditions of systematic knowledge development and entrepreneurship. Europe has a centuries-old tradition of (1) building research teams and research culture and (2) transferring results from academic research to the world of business and industry. This is what is called the ‘valorisation’ of research or ‘technology transfer’.
Research in Europe is most often done at the universities. As a consequence, it is embedded in the context of higher education. On the one hand, the European link between scientific research and higher education allows students to benefit directly from new research results and insights. On the other hand, it stimulates researchers to remain involved in educational activities. The result is the strong and extremely important European tradition of research-based education that lives on today. This is very different from the US, where research is often done at research institutes, which are separated from higher education institutions. Research and teaching are connected to each other only in the so-called ‘research universities’ in the US (a bizarre term in Europe where any university is a ‘research university’).
A major consequence of this connection between research and education in Europe is the emergence of a stable research culture. Typical for this research culture are its research groups or teams, where PhD postdoctoral researchers and professors work closely together on related questions. Master’s students are taught by PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and professors. They are often introduced into research questions at this early stage. In this way, research groups are formed where these different researchers and students work together to monitor the ongoing research.
Another typical aspect of a scientific research culture is the evidence-based approach to the valorisation of research results. Valorisation and innovation are embedded in the standards and processes of scientific research. Before results are transformed into products and thus reach the market and customers, they are tested and re-tested by different research teams. They have to live up to certain standards of evidence. This is the case in fields from bio-medical technology through the pharmaceutical sciences to civil engineering. This is one of the dimensions that make Europe’s research culture unique. In other words, in Europe, technology transfer is an intrinsic part of a general research culture that feeds and shapes scientific research in all domains of study.
In India, however, this type of scientific research culture is largely absent. There is hardly any link between research and higher education. The teaching faculty at the elite engineering colleges does not do research. Research groups of the kind described above are extremely rare. This is one of the reasons why fundamental scientific breakthroughs generally still come from the West and not from India. As a consequence of the absence of research culture, India also lacks a tradition of relating fundamental scientific research to industry and innovation. Valorisation of research results is not embedded in evidence-based approaches. This is not to deny that India has developed indigenous research traditions. However, currently, our knowledge and understanding of these research traditions is extremely limited.
To summarise: Thinking productively about the question of the relation between research results, on the one hand, and industry and innovation, on the other hand, we have to take into account both the nature of the European research culture and the absence of a similar research culture in India.”

Publisher:India Platform
Publication Category:Notes, Notes and publications Concerning policy and vision about India-Europe relations
Publication Date/Year:2014-05-01
Focus Domain:School education, Social sciences and humanities, Higher Education
Author Name:Sarika Rao, Nele De Gersem, Jakob De Roover, Marianne Keppens
Keywords:Higher education, Research