Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Indian GIS Industry and University Collaboration

Last few weeks were extremely hectic (on AUGTICS front).Travelled to Mumbai (several times), Pune, Bhuvneswar, Puri and Konark and made new associates & friends with diverse backgrounds, in addition to exploring diversity of India. It was truly a very rich and rewarding experience on business and personal front. However, with all the activities, I could not keep pace with blogging. I hope I will be able to find more time in the coming days..

I mentioned in last post that I am very impressed with the quality of remote sensing research work that is bring carried out by IIT-R. Few months back, at at conference at Chennai, I got a preview of the exemplary work that is being carried out by Centre of Remote Sensing at Bharathidasan University, in the field of natural disaster mapping & mitigation (Seismicities, Landslides, Tsunamis, Flood etc). I also saw a discussion list on Yahoo Group (GIS India) where someone is collecting names of institutes offering GIS course and I noticed that the list contains names of over 60 institutes (on last count) and almost each of the top university in India now runs a GIS department. I do not know (comprehensively and fully) details of the research work that is being carried out in these labs, but one can safely assume that significant quality thinking is going on in the labs.

One reason for arriving at the assumption is the learning from interviewing the graduates from many of these universities - one point is loud & clear that the quality of education and research focus in the institutes is relatively good. Yet another point that stands out clearly is that when many of these students graduate and seek jobs in Indian GIS industry, they do not get the jobs that are challenging enough – or get into jobs where skills are underutilized.

So what are the reasons for this problem?

During my discussion with professors at some of these institutes & universities, one point came out very clearly - there is very less or minimal interaction between the Indian GIS industry & these institutes. Several great ideas evolves in these labs that can be monetized by the GIS industry, if there is appropriate collaboration. Also, there are several India specific GIS problems, faced by the the GIS industry, that can be tacked by these labs (due to availability of quality resources and R&D focus).

Adena Schutzberg posted a blog, last month, at allpointsblog - Consortium of Ohio Universities on Navigation and Timekeeping ( The Consortium of Ohio Universities on Navigation and Timekeeping, COUNT, includes experts from Miami, Ohio and Ohio State universities and the Air Force Institute of Technology, and will provide expertise to industry professionals and other scientists in those areas. According to Maimi of Ohio officials, COUNT has 40 faculty members, more than 100 students and more than $10 million in annual research funding).

I wish to see such an initiative between Indian GIS industry and the universities!!!

Based on the above points, I am sure that you will agree with me (fully in this case) that there is a need for increasing collaboration between Indian GIS industry and the educational institutes offering GIS courses and carrying out GIS research & development.

How do we increase industry-academia interaction? Give me your thoughts and suggestions and also stay tuned to hear my different view. This time definitely very soon!!

Manoj Misra

6 comments:

Bpenstemon said...

Mr. Manoj,
Its really a nice thought, I think the Industry should be advised by the Universities in creating challenges and giving ideas on how GIS can be used and where. I think Universities should take the step in creating, organizing and streamlining the collaborative process. From what I understand great work is being done in the GIS industry in India, but 90% of the work benefits world outside India, I would say, rather than reinventing the wheel start the discussions and the collaborative efforts in unviersities on the projects that have already been done by bringing the industry leaders to the table and churn new thoughts and uses from them too.Industry might have great ideas they just dont do it because theres is no money in it, may be Universities can pick these projects. And also correct me if I am wrong most of the GIS work in Indian industry comprises or data creation or application-development for third party vendors, the usage is almost negligible.This is where these colloborative efforts shoudlfocus their energy on. these are just my ideas, and I would love to hear other points of views also

Kapil Chhabra said...

Hello Manoj:

I read with interest the continuing blogs from you, and as per usual for you, these are impressive and thought provoking.

To add my two bits to it:

While in USA and western world, the business has gained significantly from the University and Defense research in their respective countries.

There have been limited instances of such collaborations in the Indian context; though I do recall few such instances in 80s and 90s. IIT Madras did have few industry programs which got to the production stage. E.g I recall Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala being quite active on collaborative projects at IIT Madras at that time.

I believe there is a significant merit in bringing industry and university together, as mission of the decade. Few ways to go:

1. Collaborate with the Industry bodies like FICCI and CII to take this as a national cause.

2. Create a campaign to draw attention to this issue through frequent ‘letters to editors’, in various news papers. Let us see if like minded people can join into the cause.

3. Probably, a governmental intervention in the form of mandatory obligation on the industry to collaborate (with universities agreeing to be more accountable), and fixing norms for the same.

4. Finally, spreading knowledge about the benefits of Intellectual Property Rights and Knowledge Capital and easier ways to get patents, as a commercial outcome of research may draw more focus from the business houses.

5. Another beginning can be made by devoting a sort of periodical – monthly (??) or quarterly (??). If some sponsors can be found – this can be printed on paper and distributed. The articles could be collected through a dedicated web portal. The periodical can cover items 1 to 4 above and more especially the topics related to the Geospatial as an integrated component of the Decision Support System framework and a key component of the Information Technology and Systems.

My appreciations, to you, for raising a good issue and best wishes for enabling you to do some for this great cause.

Best regards,

Kapil

Manoj Misra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manoj Misra said...

Hello Bpenstemon:

Great points and, to a large extent, you are correct about your assesment of Indian GIS industry.

Manoj

Manoj Misra said...

Hello Kapil:

Great points. Hope this discussion results in some positive actions as well!

Manoj

Akshay..Adroit said...

Dear sir,
I have recently shifted my domain from Project Engineer in some big firm to a GIS Engineer in small firm.....and sir i should say i am highly impressed by ur articles.....Even though Right now money is not flowing as it should be in GIS...but in future it will.....Recently many new software companies like CSC are getting them selves ready to pump money in this field......more over from goverment side well i never expect much....they left behind by 4 million in bidding for asian games then how can we expect funds from them its all on younger generation to get the revolution...

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