Innovation is about building an entire society, says expert

Now is the time to take advantage of India’s unique position

March 25, 2023 12:56 am | Updated 12:56 am IST - CHENNAI

Soumitra Dutta

Soumitra Dutta | Photo Credit: S.R. RAGHUNATHAN

The changing geopolitical space and mindsets of the youth, who are not risk averse, could catapult India to a higher growth trajectory, says Soumitra Dutta, Peter Moores Dean, Saïd Business School, in the University of Oxford.

“People think highly of India today. India is seen as a potential growth market. There is an opportunity right here and we have to make it happen. It includes having a global faculty, global students and corporate connections. Investing in research is very important,” Mr. Dutta said.

“A society builds on the abilities of its people. If you want India to progress, you want to have as many people as possible educated. Innovation is more about how we can build an entire society, how we can create talent who are then prepared to create value economically and do good things socially,” he said.

It is necessary to start early to build a talent pool, Mr. Dutta opined, giving example of Germany. “The students get hired in their 12th class and they keep alternating for three months in industry, university and in company. They all get paid like the employees. It builds tremendous connections between what they are doing in the university and in the industry,” he said.

This way companies make a commitment early and work with the University more deeply and build loyalty, he pointed out.

Focus must also be on teachers as well, he said. University faculty must be given time off to work in industry while holding their position in the University. This way they also get research support. “The more money you get from the industry it looks good on your CV. These are simple issues of how you value the industry collaboration and that is important for the professor and for society,” he said.

India should make a conscious effort to build top class institutions by engaging in student internships at different levels; offering research grants for faculty; and developing a strong alumni connect to help institutions grow, Mr. Dutta said.

“The alumni who are in corporations are intimately engaged in the governance of the school (institution). They are engaged and give money. The trustees of the University are its alumni, not dignitary or politician. Alumni give money, and they can control and are influencers,” he narrated of his experiences in the US and the UK.

Such institutions also had complete freedom to hire talent. “As Dean of Cornell, I hired 150 faculty and only twice was there a discussion on the salaries. We had freedom to adopt market salaries. It is very important to have the same kind of flexibility to compete for talent,” said Mr. Dutta, who has taken over as advisor of private edtech firm Veranda Learning Solutions.

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