Can we dream of an Indian MIT?

February 19, 2021, The Liberacy:- MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) founders understood the importance of practical applications on the lines, that any scientific or technological discipline is often regarded as less valuable if it fails to showcase its practical usability in due course of time.
The MIT motto is mens et manus, Latin for the simple phrase mind and hand. According to the MIT think tank, the perfect combination of ground-breaking thought processes and subsequent practical actions are sufficient to solve current and future problems.

MIT was established in 1861. Over a century and six decades later, MIT has become the forefront mecca of the world of innovation. Some of the mind-boggling inventions coming out of MIT that changed the world are listed below.

  • Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, an MIT based Professor invented the World wide web in 1989. 
  • In 1940, MIT perfected radar technology to save lives during WWII. 
  • In 1979, the first human cancer gene was identified at MIT.
  • Salvador Edward Luria is the father of modern biology. He did pioneering work onthe replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses. 

Daniel Mark Lewinco-founded the internet company Akamai Technologies- which today controls nearly 30% of the world’s web-content traffic. 

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MIT funding distribution for FY 2019
MIT funding distribution for FY 2019

The list goes on and on. To summarize the achievements of MIT alumni, students, professors, 150 most significant innovations or ideas have been exhibited in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011.

Comparing MIT with Indian scenario:

In the Indian context, one might wonder how we can set up an iconic global institute like MIT. We indeed have our fair share of premier institutes like IITs, IIITs, NITs, IISER, IISc, IIMs, AIIMS, etc. But comparing the global rankings of Indian institutions with their international counterparts, anybody will come to an unbiased opinion that we are lagging in terms of innovation, patents, quality education, employment, and developing an entrepreneurship mindset.

MIT promotes, aspirants and researchers who can coordinate with aces at institute globally, with support from international research funding. Through various fellowships, grants, seed funds, and other measures MIT research is funded. Take the example of the J-WAFS solutions funding. This seed funding focuses on improving food supplies, meeting the needs for clean water, and to identify & move those associated technologies into commercialization.  In the fiscal year 2019 only, MIT campus research expenditures were around 773,901 thousand dollars.

In India, various fellowships, grants, schemes exist that fund the research activities. Few notable schemes supporting research are listed below.

  • Nano Mission- For research in the field of Nanoscience
  • Tata Innovation Fellowship- It offers employment at a research institute for researchers aged less than 60 years.
  • Project Grant- It offers grants for regular PhDs in a research institute.
  • CSIR research grant

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), UGC, Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Ministry of Defence are principal organizations granting funds to researchers.

India spends 4.6 percent of its total GDP on education according to the FYI 2019-20. The Gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) in India is Rs. 1,13,825.03 crore in 2017-18. 

National S&T survey report shows that India is at the 3rd position in terms of publications as per the NSF database,3rd in the number of Ph.D. in science & engineering. The number of researchers per million population has doubled since 2000.

According to the latest data compiled by the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Huawei, Mitsubishi Electric, Samsung, and Qualcomm filed more international Patent applications each than the whole of India in 2019. India filed only 2,053 patent applications in 2019. As per as applying for trademarks is concerned, India did poorly with only 0.7% of global filings in 2019. India had filed for only 3 industrial designs in the same year.

Whereas at MIT 439 new US patents were filed, 383 US patents issued, 143 licenses and options executed in 2019. The industrial acceptance of the patents has been superb so far.

Indian premier institutions and research facilities have a long way to go if they want to catch up with MIT standards.

NEP bill salient features:

The recently approved National Educational policy 2020 tends to overcome the shortcomings of the current educational set up and bring forth new reforms. The unique aspects of the bill concerning higher education are as follows.

  • All higher education institutions (HEIs) will aim to be multidisciplinary by 2040· 
  • Premier Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries. Similarly, selected universities from the top 100 universities globally will be allowed to operate in India.
  • A National Research Foundation will set up to facilitate merit-based research funding.
  • The center and states will work together to increase public investment in education to 6 percent of the GDP, from the current 4.43 percent.

According to the new education policy, the likes of MIT, Stanford, Oxford can set up their academic institutions in India. However, the future will reveal how convincingly the proposed policy reforms will be implemented in real-time. 

Steps to boost up the environment required to set up the next Indian “MIT”:

Apart from the policy reforms, several steps should be taken care of from now onwards if we ever dream of having an institution like MIT in India. 

  • From the grass-root level, public and private investments in innovation should be promoted. MIT model focuses on private grants and funding to many extents.
  • Lucrative career options based on the research in every discipline should be created locally and at the government level. A proper rational mindset should be cultivated in today’s youth by teachers, guides, and industry leaders.
  • Charity begins at home. Questioning and re-examining facts to reach the ultimate knowledge is the key to innovation. Indian parents should give more flexibility as far as exposure to ideas is concerned.
  • Very little or almost zero political interference should be allowed in the functioning of the premier institutes.
  • The Indian academia, veteran industry partners, and angel investors should promote more tech-savvy entrepreneurship.

A positive, vibrant democracy with a positive rational mindset and inclination towards research is the need of the hour to become the next knowledge superpower. Execution of the policy reforms alongside grass-root level temperament fostering is the principal factor to be taken care of if we want to realize the Indian MIT building dream. Optimistically, we can have our top 100 global inventions to showcase in the coming years. 

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