The Roadmap for Enhancing University–Industry Research Collaboration in India

Date01 June 2017
Published date01 June 2017
AuthorPrateek Kumar,Roopali Gupta
Subject MatterArticles
Indian Journal of Public
63(2) 196–227
© 2017 IIPA
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0019556117699735
1 Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, India.
2 Advocate, Delhi High Court, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Prateek Kumar, J 1201, Amrapali Sapphire, Sector 45, Noida (Gautam Buddha Nagar), Uttar Pradesh
201303, India.
The Roadmap for
Enhancing University–
Industry Research
Collaboration in India
Prateek Kumar1
Roopali Gupta2
In this age of technology-led development and stiff international competition
over Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), developing countries, with their limited
financial capabilities, face the challenge of creating appropriate environment that
could facilitate the creation and commercialisation of technologies. The recogni-
tion of poor scientific outputs as a hindrance to the growth of domestic industry
has brought research on the development agenda.
This article focuses on university–industry research collaborations as one of
the ways to kick-start innovation-led economic growth in India. It explores the
evolution of relevant policy paradigm in India and presents the relevant highlights
of National IPR Policy 2016. It identifies the impediments in the way of creative
university–industry collaborations and offers solutions to attain optimum syn-
ergy between the academia and industry.
University–industry research collaboration, transfer of technology, national IPR
policy, innovation-led growth
The most noticeable global agenda and biggest takeaway from the year 2016
Davos meet of World Economic Forum (WEF) was the advent of the Fourth
Industrial Revolution. In the prophetic words of WEF Founder and Executive
Kumar and Gupta 197
Chairman, Klaus Schwab, it will ‘fundamentally alter the way we live, work and
relate to one another and the transformation, in its scale, scope and complexity,
will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before’ (Schwab, 2015).
History is full of narratives that prove the importance of science and technology
not only as the wheels but also as the steering wheel of national economies.
Hence, at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is no surprise that the
economies that lead the world trade also have command over the latest techno-
logical breakthroughs and continue to invest heavily on research and development
(R&D). Lester Thurow, a long-time advocate of the ‘third way’ philosophy,
observed in 2003 that ‘the world is moving from an industrial era based on natural
resources into a knowledge-based era based on skill, education and R&D’
(Thurow, 2003, pp. 38–39). Today, it is an imperative reality rather than a predic-
tion that governments around the world ought to incrementally invest on these
subjects to ensure that they have a fair share in the global prosperity pie in the
future. For nations that have suffered through colonialism, it is a moment of
truth—they can either use the opportunity to build a future that is not shackled by
the chains of technological rent-seeking neo-colonialism or give in again to
competition with machines with low wages and poor conditions of life.
When India woke up from the thralls of British Rule in 1947, it was fortunate
to have a visionary leader like Nehru who initiated the task of building institu-
tions. He fondly called the centres of higher education and research institutes as
‘Temples of Modern India’ to mark a shift in India’s tryst with modern sciences.
However, after more than half a century since the coinage of this term, most of our
higher education centres have remained as ‘temples’—away from the trends of
the streets, needs of the society and demands of the market.1 The stagnation in our
curriculum, training methodology, etc., has turned privileged university graduates
into low-skilled labour instead of turning them into entrepreneurs or high-skilled
human resource. The fact that since 1930 and till date, C.V. Raman stands as the
only Indian scientist to have worked in India and won the Nobel Prize in a field of
science is a telltale about the level of research activities being undertaken in India.
The absence of Indian universities (except IISc, Bangalore; and IIT Bombay and
Delhi) from the list of world’s top 500 Universities is another such fact. This
has had a severe impact on the global competitiveness of Indian industry. The
NITI Aayog recognises this issue and has made many sound recommendations to
solve the problem (NITI Aayog, 2015, p. 20). Increasing the university–industry
research collaboration is one of them. As this article argues later, increasing uni-
versity–industry research collaboration is the best possible solution to meet our
R&D requirements, make Indian industries globally competitive, enhance skills
of Indian labour and also improve the standards of our universities. This article is
an attempt to find road-blocks and propose solutions to reach the ultimate synergy
between university and industry.
There are three ways in which the industrial sector can take part in coopera-
tive research with universities: joint research, commissioned research or grants and
donations.2 All these cases involve the process of transferring scientific findings of
industrial use from one organisation to another so as to enable its further develop-
ment, industrial utilisation or commercialisation, that is, Technology Transfer (TT).
198 Indian Journal of Public Administration 63(2)
The TT generally refers to the phenomenon of transferring proprietary rights
or rights of use and advancement on protected Intellectual Property (IP) by an
exclusive/non-exclusive license. The process typically involves identification of
technologies, protecting technologies through patents and copyrights, and trans-
ferring these rights for commercial and other uses (Figure 1). The TT is a term
of common usage for developed countries which account for 98 per cent of the
world’s advanced technology output (Brister, 1981, p. 2). However, in a develop-
ing country like India, it is a term whose dynamics are understood by a mere few.
Innovation, supported and made profitable by Intellectual Property Rights
(IPR), is seen as the key to economic progress, rather than imitation, the antith-
esis of IP (Macqueen, 2010, p. 58). The TT, as per Janet Brown,3 is not merely
about commercialising existing university research or basic science, but rather
more about ‘allowing an additional amount of research to be undertaken and to
pull all those pieces of research together so that a company can use the research’
(Scottish Parliament Official Report, 2003). The United Nations Conference on
Trade and Development defines TT as, ‘the transfer of systematic knowledge for
the manufacture of a product, for the application of a process or for the render-
ing of a service and does not extend to the transactions involving the mere scale or
mere lease of goods’ (UNCTAD, 1985, 1.2). These definitions make it abundantly
clear that the focus in not on the end product or service but on the transfer of
the body of comprehensive, technical and systematic knowledge that enables not
just the production of some intended output, but also creates an opportunity to
explore the potential for further innovation (Suraj, 2012).
The Need for University–Industry Research Collaboration
The Indian industry is often seen expressing concern over the availability of limited
nances for R&D at their disposal in comparison with its global competitors as a
Figure 1. The Technology Transfer Flowchart
Source: WIPO (2012).

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