Expanding Purdue's Research Network in India

In February 2007, a Purdue delegation joined with Indian dignitaries in signing a memorandum of understanding that will lead to research collaborations between India and the University, including exchanges of researchers, students, and faculty among Purdue and Indian universities.

Purdue president Martin C. Jischke described the initiative as "sowing seeds that...may blossom into new partnerships for businesses in Indiana and other parts of America, and new markets for our products to India's growing middle class that already numbers more than 300 million people."

Led by Discovery Park, the University's hub for interdisciplinary research, Purdue has a number of additional memoranda of understanding in the works with governmental, academic, and commercial institutions in India. Potential areas of research include biofuels, energy, agriculture, IT, and healthcare engineering. Says Discovery Park assistant director Pankaj Sharma, "We want to make Purdue a preferred U.S. institution for research collaboration with India."

Jay Gore, the College of Engineering's associate dean for research and the interim director of Discovery Park's Energy Center, attended the February 4 signing in New Delhi. He talks below about the memorandum of understanding and what it means for the College of Engineering.

How do Purdue Engineering researchers and students benefit?

It's the foundation for developing cooperation between the government of India and Purdue University in the areas of science, engineering, and technology. Engineering is a very strong piece of the cooperation. Our engineering research program has received unprecedented access to potential multidisciplinary mega-projects in the rapidly developing Indian economy. We have received many partners for the global elements of our proposals for funding to the federal government. Our students have received access to rapidly developing multinationals and national laboratories in India for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF), internships, co-ops, and even permanent jobs.

What does India gain?

Through this cooperation, India gains a multidisciplinary research philosophy and an understanding of methods for conducting multidisciplinary research. The model for academic institutions being engines of direct economic development is new to the Indian scenario, where academic institutions have focused mainly on the educational mission. Purdue know-how in deploying multidisciplinary research for economic development is valuable.

What else is significant about the agreement?

Purdue has a great brand identity in India, and our alumni have impacted the country in very real ways. The current science advisor to the prime minister, Dr. C.N.R. Rao, is a Purdue chemistry alumnus and the first Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology in the central government of India. Dr. Arcot Ramachandran, a Purdue mechanical engineering alumnus, is still actively working as the chairman of The Energy Research Institute (TERI). India's economy has been growing at 8 percent a year since 1991, and many Fortune 100 corporations are establishing large research and development centers in India. Many large corporations such as Cummins Inc. are also sponsoring research in Indian academic institutions. Just as Indian software programmers have been competing on the strength of cost and quality, Indian researchers are poised to compete on cost and innovation. Purdue Engineering research will need to collaborate with global researchers including those from India. The MOU that our delegation signed provides the framework for collaboration.

—Interview by Lisa Hunt Tally