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Where businesses fund top researchers...
For decades, large private companies in the US have been funding specific research projects at universities. This welcome practice is spreading.

A typical example is Heinz, the large producer of tomato   sauce and ketchup, funding scientists at the Purdue University in USA with specific tasks: to increase the pulp content in tomatoes and the shelf life of tomatoes through genetic modifications.

It is therefore welcome news that  Asia should emerge at the top for such efforts. South Korean academics have been named as world’s most valuable to big businesses. The World Academic Summit Innovation Index has calculated that global businesses are investing about $ 100,000 on each Korean scholar to carry out work in innovation and research on their behalf.

The index, compiled by Times

Higher Education using the purchasing power parity to evaluate the research income that hundreds of world-class institutions across the globe are receiving from industry,  found five of the 10 leading countries in the index, hailing from Asia. This is a marked departure from the past where the US and the countries of western Europe topped this table.

The world’s top 30 countries have been ranked. Singapore comes in the second place, bringing in an average of $ 84,500 per academic, with Netherlands in third ($72,800) and South Africa in fourth ($64,400) positions. Taiwan is placed sixth ($53,900), China is seventh ($50,500) and our very own India ranks 10th ($36,900).

The report mentions that 15 European countries, along with the USA and Canada, are part of the 30 nation list. But, two-thirds (59 per cent) of Western institutions are featured in the bottom half of the list. The US is ranked 14th with $ 25,800 per researcher. UK is ranked 26th, fourth from bottom, attracting only $ 13,300 per researcher from industry.

The report mentions  the apparent lack of appetite for western investment by big businesses in contrast to the most significant developments in the past coming from the American and British institutions.

This funding is in line with the recession and slowdown experienced by western countries. With businesses recording low growth, understandably there is much less enthusiasm to sponsor research at higher educational institutions and research bodies. The report mentions  increasing enthusiasm for technological advancement and computer science that see big businesses shifting its attention eastward to Asia. This is also due to the strong manufacturing sector emerging in several Asian countries.

IE has been pointing to the lack of focus on industrial research and applied research by Indian institutions of higher learning. Traditionally, such research work has been done largely by the government institutions including defence,  ICAR, CSIR and several leading public sector undertakings. However, with the higher growth recorded by the Indian economy since 2003 and with increasing difficulty to get technology imported at modest costs, Indian companies have been stepping up their research efforts. In this, they find contracting research to higher institutions of technology worth the while. IIT-Madras has set up a research park to work closely with industry and this has received overwhelming response.

But Indian institutions getting sponsored research are still few and far between. Largely, the Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institutes of Technology and a few  institutions of higher learning, a few CSIR labs and pharmaceutical companies are attracting sponsored research. The report significantly points to the three Indian institutions featured in the ranks falling below the 226th position. 



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IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
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