The Ministry of Education has released a grant for the amount of ₹ 80 crores to IIT Kharagpur towards the second phase of the Scheme for Promotion of Academic & Research Collaboration (SPARC) Programme.
In 2019-20, more than 300 international experts visited Indian institutions registered under SPARC for various projects and workshops. Close to 400 research proposals have been approved for funding to date. Over 26% of the R&D proposals and international outreach are focused on Emergent Areas of Impact which included areas such as Advanced Electronics and Communication, Advanced Functional and Meta Materials, Structural Genomics and Evolutionary Biology, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, Infectious Disease & Clinical Research. This segment was followed by Action-Oriented Research with a 24% accepted proposals in areas including Future of Earth: Green and Renewable Technologies, River, Ocean, Aviation and Space Management Technology, Technology Enhanced Education and Learning, including Assistive Technologies, Agricultural and Food Sustainability, Technologies for Rural and Women Empowerment, Law and Society. Convergence areas of research is another significant segment with 22% proposals in areas covering Transportation and Smart Infrastructure, Affordable Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing, Science and Heritage, Energy and Water Sustainability.
“The data indicates a clear shift towards transdisciplinary research addressing global challenges and cutting-edge research. The insights will further boost international collaboration opportunities for science and technology institutes in India by aligning their thrust areas with global trends,” remarked Prof. Virendra K Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur who is the national coordinator for the SPARC programme.
The participation from USA, Australia and UK witnessed highest visits covering close to 65% of the international faculty visitors in 2019-20. The slump in 2020 though was expected, work was carried out through online conferences. Talking about the road ahead, Prof. Adrijit Goswami from IIT Kharagpur who is heading the Pan India coordination of the programme said, “Going online is the new normal roadmap at least for programmes like SPARC and GIAN. While online mode has its drawbacks, on the brighter side it may swell the opportunities especially for those who otherwise find such collaborative work arduous due to extended physical visits.” In one such initiative, IIT Kharagpur organized the International Conference on ‘Emerging Trends in Healthcare Technology in Post-COVID-19 Era’ with expert participation from USA, UK, Australia, Sweden, South Africa, The Netherlands, India and Shri Amit Khare, Secretary, Dept. of Higher Education, Govt. of India. “With phase two funding of ₹ 80 crores and the structured format of e-workshops, webinars, online classes and even research in virtual mode, the scope for productive academic collaborations at the SPARC-approved collaborating Institutes look promising,” he added.