A day-long conference explored the possibilities of collaboration between India and Israel in innovation, entrepreneurship, media, communication and academia
India has been on the map for a while now, and one of the points in the agenda of the growth of the country is to improve bilateral relations with other countries across the globe. In this respect, with growing relations with Israel, the University of Mumbai and Tel Aviv University, Israel hosted a one-day conference at the University’s Kalina Campus last week. The day-long conference, aptly called ‘Conference on Scope for India-Israel Collaboration in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Media & Communications and Role of Academia saw speakers from all kinds of academic institutions as well as the industry. They spoke of the current scenario, the challenges that lay ahead and the ideas which can be explored to strengthen existing ties and establish new ones between the two countries.
“Five years ago we had only two post-doctoral fellows at our university from India. Over the years we developed an agreement with the UGC, and now we have 65 fellows. It is not just a quantitative change, but a qualitative leap”– Prof. Raanan Rein, Vice President, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Raanan Rein, Vice President, Tel-Aviv University, in his opening remarks at the inaugural session mentioned that this year was the 25th anniversary of the full diplomatic relations between the two countries. “At Tel Aviv University, we consciously decided to invest time, effort and energy with Indian universities and looking into many possibilities like joint study programmes. This also includes the presence of Indian students there. For instance, five years ago we had only two post-doctoral fellows at our university from India. Over the years we developed an agreement with the UGC, and now we have 65 fellows. It is not just a quantitative change, but a qualitative leap,” he said. He added that there were many differences between India and Israel, including the size of the nations, but there were also many similarities as well, which could form the basis of the collaboration.
Looking into innovations, Prof. G. D. Yadav, Vice Chancellor, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, listed the various challenges that India faced as a country in the global situation and how academic innovation could look for and provide a few solutions to face these challenges. “In today’s world, there is a new trinity – change, challenge and opportunity. Today, every second something happens unexpectedly. We have issues of population and growing material and energy needs, among many others,” he said. He mentioned exploring the idea of smart villages and colonies and that they should be self sustaining. He said that academia could contribute by looking at each problem as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. He offered several examples from the US, and said, “Behind every innovation hub lies a great university. They have a role in nation building, and thus universities should be made into hubs of knowledge. The government should change the policies to unleash academic entrepreneurs to foster creation of new businesses.” He said that entrepreneurship should be introduced as a concept at the universities to all stakeholders, including students, alumni, faculty, and also the non-teaching staff.
Taking the conference ahead, David Akov, Consul General of Israel in Mumbai, in his inaugural session mentioned that India is one of the largest growing economies today, and there is great potential for collaboration between the two countries. “It is a great advantage that India, today, gets the very clear attention from the world, and we should use it in the India-Israel context.” He offered two examples – that of Marathi being taught as a language by Mumbai University at Tel Aviv University and of yoga booming as a start-up idea in Tel Aviv. He mentioned that there is a huge interest in Israel in Indian cultural philosophy. He mentioned that the multiplier factor could also play a huge role in these collaborations since one person knows many others and thus experiences shared can reach many people.
Taking over from there, Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh, Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai, talked of the various innovations that have been introduced in the university over the last two years, and talked of how the newly launched programmes have taken off. He touched upon the topic of research, and how innovation and research go hand in hand. He also talked of the need for innovation in subjects beyond science and technology, even by the faculty members. “I also feel that unless innovation sees light of day in practical application, it just remains on paper,” he said, adding that innovation is also needed at the policy level. He then went on to present the blue print of the master plan that he and his team have been developing to fund the infrastructural expansion of Mumbai University’s facilities, and how he already had a few commitments from different sources.
His vision is to expand the current constructed area of the University from 1.5 million square feet to at least 10 to 12 million square feet, yet keeping intact 67% of the land as open or green spaces. Apart from providing a much wider range of academic facilities for the students, this expansion will provide for residential facilities for about 10,000 students (as against the current 1200), and 1200 faculty plus 500 non teaching staff members.
This was followed by three interactive sessions looking into the collaborations between the countries. In each session, there was one speaker representing each university and a third speaker from the industry or outside the realm of academics.
The first session was on ‘Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Need for India-Israel Connect’ where entrepreneurship options were considered in the interesting areas of perfumery and in small post harvest sectors. The speakers included Dr. Siddhivinayak Barve, KET’s Scientific Research Centre, University of Mumbai; Prof. Yair Beery, School of Electrical Engineering, Tel-Aviv University and Ambarish Datta, Managing Director, BSE Institute.
‘Communications in the Digital Age’ was the consideration of the second session where the speakers were Prof. Sanjay Ranade, Department of Communication & Journalism, University of Mumbai; Prof. Nitzan Ben Shaul, School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University and Ramesh Sippy, Co-Chair, Media & Entertainment Division, FICCI.
This session looked into how media in India is increasingly becoming user-centric, and how it changes several dynamics including revenue and cost models. Ideas of looking at interactive cinema, where cinema becomes choice-based and the viewer can even change the narrative, and how it can be achieved, exploring game theory. Exchange programmes were also looked into, and logistics of sending students from Mumbai University’s Department of Communication & Journalism for the Tel Aviv International Youth Film Festival are being initiated.
The third and final session touched upon the ‘Role of Academia in Shaping India-Israel Relations’ with Prof. Uttara Sahasrabuddhe, Department of Political Science, University of Mumbai; Prof. Ronie Parciack, East Asia Studies Department, Tel Aviv University and Prof. Rashmi Bhure, Vice Principal, S.I.E.S. College, Mumbai, as speakers.
Ideas explored included how to create India-centric think tanks on foreign policy, which don’t always look at research from the perspective of the Centre, since Delhi does not represent the entire nation. Looking at the fact that India has a long standing connect with Israel, the idea needed to be explored further in terms
of proposed Israel-India Centre at the Mumbai University.