Australia, India to collaborate on science and technology | Asia Pacific

Australia, India to collaborate on science and technology

Australia, India to collaborate on science and technology

Updated 27 November 2012, 22:27 AEST

India and Australia say they recognise that innovation in research and technology between the two countries is a critical driver of long-term economic growth.

Key figures from industry, universities and research bodies came together recently to push the process forward.

Correspondent: Murali Krishan

Speakers: Steve Waugh, former Australian cricketer; Thomas Kvan, Dean, University of Melbourne; Peter Hodgson, Director Institute for Fronter Materials; Amit Kumar, Director, The Energy and Research Institute; Dr Chetan Chitnis, scientist

KRISHNAN: Cricket has been a vital link for the way the recent relationship between the two countries has evolved in recent years. But in this new century, India and Australia are looking to further strengthen this bond and at greater collaborations in education, science and innovation.

Australia has a history of world leading innovations including Wi-Fi, Google Maps and more. For a country with one of the largest concentrations of scientists and engineers, India does poorly on conventional indicators for measuring the level of innovation.

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, a major bilateral initiative co-funded by both governments is now offering scientists collaboration opportunities.

Peter Hodgson of Deakin University explains some of these shared interests.

HODGSON: There is a lot of commonality between India and Australia. Science and technology is a natural progression, I think. I think there is a lot of interest in India in raw materials, mining and development and that is a big priority for Australia as well.

This jointly administered fund has supported more than 90 joint research projects, involving more than 100 leading Australian and Indian universities and research institutes since its inception in 2006.

Amit Kumar, an expert on energy-environment technology is looking forward to the partnership.

KUMAR: Many of the Australian universities are the pioneers in innovative research. And the technologies that have been developed there especially in solar and smart grids is what we are looking forward to. So I think this kind of interaction will try to bridge those gaps that are there.

In the context of Australia-India collaboration, there is need for analysis and evaluation of the outcomes of collaborative projects. Some of the areas include planning of cities, biotechnology, energy and mining

Professor Thomas Kvan of the University of Melbourne says Australia is alive to these possibilities.

KVAN: We are looking at growing cities again not on the scale you are looking here. But at the strategies we reduce and we are interested in are many of the strategies you are interested here. For example the Delhi metro system… the installation of infrastructure is a key issue and Melbourne is having a discussion about how to develop the transportation system and the choices we have. So while the contexts are not identical, we can learn from the decisions that are made, the strategies being followed and the implementation and from that we can learn from each other.

The pace of research activity in India has picked up, with emerging leadership in several research areas, especially chemistry and, to a lesser extent, engineering, biology and biotechnology.

While much of India's Research & Development is for products serving the global market, there is also a growing branch of innovation focused on modifying global research to Indian conditions.

Dr Chetan Chitnis, who has has 3 patents pertaining to malaria vaccines is the principal investigator at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology explains.

CHITNIS: I work in the area of biotechnology. There are some big challenges we have to address in the areas of health and agriculture and the more minds we get together and the more resources and expertise we can get to apply on problems… huge problems like malaria, dengue in India and other problems in other parts of the world… I think the two countries together can make a huge contribution.

Currently two-way trade is over US $ 21 billion and it is hoped that will double by 2016. Innovations from small purposeful research centres, institutions and think tanks may well help in adding to trade apart from strengthen the linkages between the two countries.

Former cricket captain Steve Waugh who dons another role as a businessman has the last word.

WAUGH: I have been involved sports, philanthropy and business and you have to be innovative to stay ahead of the rest of the group. In fund raising in Australia, you have got have different ways to raise funds, different revenue streams and different ideas. I think it is the same in business, if you stay still for too long and pat yourself too often you are going to fall asleep. You have to be ready to do things differently and think outside the box.

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