At a recent CII summit, academia, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs discussed the need for synergy to explore potential India-Israel partnerships.
Skill development features as one of the top agendas of the Central Government’s plans for the country. But in order to ensure skill development, it is imperative to be globally connected and have productive collaborations between academia and industry. Over the years, Israel has managed to achieve this synergy and global outreach when it comes to certain crucial areas for national development including defence, telecom and engineering. Thus, the India-Israel Innovation Colloquium was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Atlanta Centre and Tel Aviv University (TAU) to discuss what Israel has done differently and explore opportunities to collaborate with them on an academic as well as business level.
The broad focus of the seminar was to discuss the structure, importance as well as development of an innovative ecosystem involving universities and industries. “In Israel, there is an academic structure with linkages to technology transfer offices, strong venture capital communities and a supportive government which backs young entrepreneurs,” said Aaron Mankovski, managing partner, Pitango Venture Capital, Israel adding that while there is a share of local funds, most of it is coming from all over the world. “Today if you’re an entrepreneur and if your want to start a company, there is no problem to go all the way and make it a multibillion dollar company,” he said.
Academia certainly plays its part in creating this ecosystem of innovation. As Joseph Klafter, president, TAU mentioned during the panel discussion, “Israel and India both suffer from brain drain. So we put a lot of emphasis on recruitment to hire the best talent,” he said.
From India’s point of view, BVR Mohan Reddy, chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Hyderabad emphasised on the need for Indian academia to promote a culture wherein students can apply themselves. “Students are taught, they listen, learn things verbatim and repeat what they are taught,” he said while adding that they need to question whatever is happening instead of being passive observers. According to Reddy, an effort is being made to promote ideation through a number of incubation centres. “Each state is participating in this process and the ‘Kochi Start Up’ village in Kerela has perhaps been the most successful,” he added.
As far as India-Israel collaborations on an academic level are concerned, both parties agree that while there is progress, it is slow. “We have around 40-50 Indian students; many of them in the electrical engineering degree programme. However, the number is far too low for my liking and there is much scope for improvement,” said Klafter. Also, the student exchange is highly skewered in favour of Israel. According to Klafter, the traditional comfort level of the American and European academic world is one reason for this imbalance towards India and China, both of which are relatively new.
While the diplomatic and industry channels must be pursued with greater urgency, there are some Indian students who study in Israel because of relationships that already exists between researchers of both countries. “We must ensure meetings between researchers of both countries. Once researchers meet, they know how to move forward and not much intervention is required,” signs off Klafter.