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Research pays for Indian universities

IIT-Kharagpur

IIT-Kharagpur

World Academic Summit Innovation Index shows academics from South Korea are most commercially valuable

Asian universities may rank lower than western ones on many research-linked parameters in global listings but their researchers make more money when adjusting their earnings for a currency’s real purchasing power, also known as purchasing power parity (PPP).

These are the findings of the World Academic Summit Innovation Index, compiled for the first time by Times Higher Education ahead of its inaugural World Academic Summit in Singapore in October.

The results show academics from South Korea to be the most commercially valuable, with companies investing nearly $100,000 each in South Korean scholars to conduct research on their behalf.

Singapore came second, with researchers earning an average $84,500 each. The Netherlands was third ($72,800) and South Africa came fourth ($64,400).

Nine Asian countries feature in the table, with five of their institutions in the top 10—more than any other continent. Taiwan ranks sixth ($53,900), China is seventh ($50,500) and India ranks 10th ($36,900). In contrast, Canada ranks 13th, the US 14th and the UK 26th.

The index first converted all cash values into US dollars, then used PPP to factor in the cost of living in each country featured in the study, adjusting the value per researcher up or down to make it relative to a currency’s purchasing power.

Though India is ranked the fifth most commercially valuable country in Asia, and 10th globally, the three Indian institutions featured in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2013 survey—IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Roorkee—are all ranked below 226.

“While many Indian institutions struggle to perform strongly across all of our rankings indicators, which are dominated by research performance indicators, they do have a strong and proven track record of working successfully with industry,” Phil Baty, editor-at-large, Times Higher Education, said in an emailed reply.

“Indeed, this is one of their great strengths…on a more level-playing field (after PPP) with the developed world, India’s IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) do very well indeed,” Baty said.

“It would seem that in recent years, the world’s increasing enthusiasm for technological advancement and computer science has seen big business shift its attention eastward to Asia,” the report said.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), for instance, collaborated with Samsung Electronics Co. to develop the world’s first humanoid robot, Mahru-Z, which receives its intelligence from a wireless computer.

Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) showed off their so-called invisibility cloak by making a cat and a goldfish vanish.

Technology executives believe the US, China and India are the top three countries with the potential to drive technology breakthroughs in the next four years, according to the 2013 Global Technology Innovation survey released by consultancy KPMG Llp in July.

Moreover, India ranked second as an innovation centre, as the third most promising nation for disruptive breakthroughs, and the fourth friendliest technology innovation country.

Regardless, India has a long way to go. For one, India dropped two places to 66 this year on the Global Innovation Index 2013, released in July. The index ranks 142 countries on their innovation capacity and efficiency and is published by Cornell University, INSEAD, World Intellectual Property Organization and Confederation of Indian Industry.

Since 1947, India has achieved self-sufficiency in foodgrain production, launched a space programme that has enabled satellite launches and a moon mission; has an autonomic energy programme; indigenously developed missiles and aircraft; and exports biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and information-technology services.

Yet, India lags other key countries in research investment and output. Global investments in science, technology and innovation were estimated at $1.2 trillion as of 2009.

India’s spending on research and development (R&D) is less than 2.5% of this, and under 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The relatively low share of Indian papers in the top 1% of journals—one of the parameters used for assessing the global impact of a country’s science and technology system—has always been a concern. India ranks ninth in the number of scientific publications and 12th in the number of patents filed.

India requires, among many other policy-based actions, larger investments in R&D and more full-time equivalent R&D professionals, say experts.

China increased its share of researchers from 13.9% in 2002 (8.1 million researchers) to 19.7% by 2007 (14.25 million), while India’s share fell from 2.3% in 2002 (1.16 million) to 2.2% in 2007 (1.55 million), Thomson Reuters said.

To be sure, India has declared increasing its gross domestic expenditure on R&D to 2% of GDP as a national goal in the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013.

But to achieve this, the government will have to encourage more academia-research-industry partnerships, promote inter-disciplinary research and create a national scientific temper, say experts.

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