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5 September, 2013 - 07:00 By Tony Quested

Cambridge-India alliance holds global payback

University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz. Image courtesy – Phil Mynott

An unprecedented collaboration between the University of Cambridge and influencers in India is likely to trigger the richest payback in research, science, technology and academic advances the UK has ever leveraged from the Asian tiger.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz is taking a magic circle of advisers to Delhi for a scene-setting summit on September 11.

There is likely to be a huge societal impact from the alliance as it unfolds: Sir Leszek says engagement with India is a strategic priority for the university in a partnership approach designed to tackle global challenges through research and education.

A select group of 24 senior Indian business leaders, government figures and academics has been created to guide and assist the extensive range of existing research collaborations between Cambridge and Indian academics, to foster the establishment of new ones, and to play an ambassadorial role in promoting the university in India.

Cambridge’s current collaborations with India cover a wide range of disciplines including biomedical sciences and public health, education and the social sciences, physical sciences, technology and business. These diverse interests are reflected in the backgrounds and expertise of the members of the circle of advisers.

The university is home to distinguished academics from India, including Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Economics), Professor Ashok Venkitaraman (Cancer Research), and Nobel laureate Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (Molecular Biology).

The University of Cambridge has more than 1300 active alumni in India, with particular concentrations in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, and there are nine active alumni groups and societies in India.

The Vice-Chancellor said: “I am thankful for the warm reception that Cambridge always receives in India: this will be my fifth visit since I was elected Vice-Chancellor in 2010.

“Our relationship is close and it is also very practical. There are many challenges that we can meet better together than separately. I am profoundly grateful to my new Circle of Advisors who are generously giving their time and expertise to ensure that our collaborations are as productive as possible for India and for Cambridge.

The members of the Vice-Chancellor’s Circle of Advisors, India, are:Professor Balram Bhargava, Department of Cardiology, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi; Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, Chairman, Cobra Beer Partnership Ltd; Professor Basudev Chatterji, Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research; Jitesh Gadhia, Senior Managing Director, Blackstone Advisory Partners; Dr Yusuf Hamied, Chairman, Cipla Ltd; Dr Ramesh Mashelkar, President, Global Research Alliance; Ranjit Mathrani, Chairman, MW Eat Ltd; Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon Ltd; Dr Arabinda Mitra, Head, International Cooperation Division, Dept of Science & Technology, Gov of India; Sunil Mittal, Chairman and Group CEO, Bharti Enterprises; Zia Mody, Senior Partner, AZB & Partners; Deepak Parekh, Chairman, Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd; Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations; Leo Puri, Senior Adviser, McKinsey & Co (India) Inc; Dr Baldev Raj, President, Indian National Academy of Engineering; Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad; Professor CNR Rao – Chair, Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India – Professor K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India; Alan Rosling, Chairman, Kiran Energy; Dr Ratan Tata Chairman, Tata Trusts; Ashok Thakur, Secretary, Dept of Higher Education, Government of India; Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman, Indian Council of Social Science Research; Lord (Rumi) Verjee, Chairman, Thomas Goode & Co: Professor K VijayRhaghavan, Secretary, Dept of Biotechnology, Government of India

For more than 150 years, the University of Cambridge has valued its close relationship with India. From the mid-nineteenth century, when the first students from India arrived in Cambridge, scholarship and lasting friendships have been the foundation of academic partnership. Among former students, three Indian Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, were educated at Cambridge.

There are already significant Cambridge-India partnerships in place. The Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics (CCBT) in Bangalore has been established with funding from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, as a partner to the Molecular Therapeutics Programme at Cambridge.

CCBT will target three areas of fundamental science: identifying the right targets for disease, extending the repertoire of drug ability, targeting the right patients. Academic leadership from Cambridge is working with an appointed Director and wider team in Bangalore. Future plans include academic exchange at doctoral and post-doctoral levels between Bangalore and Cambridge.

In April 2013, the Centre for International Manufacturing (CIM) at Cambridge was awarded a major UK-India Advanced Manufacturing Research Grant from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

A project led by Professors Mike Gregory (Cambridge), Harpreet Singh (IIT-Ropar) and Samir Srivastava (IIM Lucknow) will start in January 2014 investigating engineering-driven sustainable supply networks in four industries of national importance – aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical and food processing. Key industrial partners include the India and UK subsidiaries of Rolls-Royce and several Indian pharmaceutical companies.

The Bangalore-Cambridge Innovation Network (BCIN), launched in September 2012, is an association of innovators, researchers and businesses from Bangalore and Cambridge which aims to foster links between both cities, leveraging each other’s ecosystems for mutual benefit.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz. Image courtesy: Phil Mynott

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