University – Industry Interface: An Overview

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Higher education serves several important functions in the society, the most important being production of knowledgeable individuals who will contribute to the society. However, many of the Indian universities do not fulfill this purpose. The demands of skilled and specialised manpower from the industry are not being met as majority of graduates lack the necessary skill sets required by the industry.

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In recent years, a major concern of higher education planners and academics, the world over, has been linking universities and other research institutions with industries. Universities can enhance the value of products in the form of knowledge; industry can augment the university's value in the form of funds. In India, way back in 1986, the National Policy on Education (NPE) highlighted the need for university-industry interaction. However, despite efforts on the part of the Centre and State governments, university-industry interaction has not shown a significant improvement till date. It still remains marginal and largely confined to a few institutions such as the IITs, IIMs, IIITs, NITs, etc.

Each year over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, of these only 25% of technical graduates and 10-15% of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITES (IT enabled services) segments

Need for university-industry interaction

Universities are an important storehouse of up-to-date and advanced levels of knowledge in different fields. In a knowledge society, industries are the main users and beneficiaries of such knowledge.

According to NASSCOM, each year over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, of these only 25% of technical graduates and 10-15% of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITES (IT enabled services) segments. Hence, what we have today is a growing skills gap reflecting the slim availability of high-quality college education in India and the galloping pace of the country's service-driven economy, which is growing faster than most of the countries in the world.

A university-industry interaction is mutually benefitting as it provides industry an opportunity to grow its business by using the results of academic research. At the same time, university is in need of a partner that can take its discoveries/research findings to the market place.

The interaction can also earn additional resources of R&D, secure training and final placements for students based on the respect earned from the relationship established with industry.

The academic knowledge base can also help in reducing industrial cost, improving quality and competitive dimensions in products, reducing dependence on foreign know-how and expenditure on internal R&D. It can also assets the industry in upgrading the knowledge base of industry professionals through management development programmes.

Possible areas of interaction

The university and industry can establish interface at varying levels with different degrees. This can range from simple consultations or visits to in-depth researches.

Factors which hinder interaction

In the backdrop of the above facts, there are some factors which hinder university-industry interaction. From university's side, some of the inhibiting factors are: lack of initiative amongst faculty towards applied research, lack of incentive to faculty, lack of experts and specialised technical infrastructure, bureaucratic hurdles in utilising consultancy funds, etc.

Whereas from industry's side, these factors include: insensitivity to or lack of awareness of the resource potential of the academia; a blind, herd-like obsession with expensive, high-profile professional consultants; easy availability of foreign know-how; bad experience of earlier interactions with academia, etc. Further, absence of a full time/exclusive university-industry interaction cells in both the university and industry is also an important inhibiting factor.

Following are some of the areas in which university-industry interface can take place:

  • Industry support to basic research
  • Industry participation in technology development
  •  involving some exploratory work
  •  Collaborative R&D activities
  •  Industry experts/representatives involved in
  •  Academic Bodies Academic intervention in solving specific industry problems
  •  Laboratory utilisation by industry Continuing education programme
  •  Student Placement

How the interaction can be achieved?

For achieving a mutually beneficial relationship, there is a need for
change in the approach of both the university and industry. To promote university-industry interaction, following steps can be undertaken:

  • Establishment of university-industry partnership/interaction cell.
  • Organising workshops, conferences & symposia with joint participation
  • Participation of experts from industry in curriculum development.
  • Professional consultancy by the faculty to industries.
  • Visits of industry executives to the university and deliver lectures on industrial practices, trends and experiences.
  • Joint research programmes
  • R&D laboratories sponsored by industries at the university.
  • Scholarships/fellowships instituted by industries for students.
  • Practical training of students in industries.

Apart from industry associations, the universities should also establish linkages with government agencies which are engaged in industrial development activities.  

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