Innovative collaboration in India

During a delegation trip to India, I encountered a multifaceted and massive country facing multiple challenges. However, I also saw a country that is investing heavily in higher education and research that KTH can learn a lot from.

India is one of the countries where KTH has been engaged in a number of different partnerships within education and research for many years. India is a large country that has shown very strong growth in recent years. In fact, the majority of new international students in the 2019 autumn term at KTH came from India.

Last week, the President of IIT Madras and I signed an agreement that meant that university would become our sixth global strategic university partner. India is educating many engineers within all areas and performing research that is of interest to KTH. On the innovation side, India has expressed interest in accessing the successes Sweden has had and as a country has proved to be good at innovation.

India is a multifaceted country with 22 official languages, for instance. It is a country where, on the one hand, many people enjoy tremendous welfare while on the other hand, many people endure extremely difficult conditions. During the trip that was made in parallel with an official Swedish state visit, I gained a glimpse of the enormous challenges India has to deal with.

Addressing sustainable development is naturally a prioritised area in India. Air pollution is bad in many big cities, to the extent that, for example, schools in New Delhi had to be closed a few weeks ago. That the air quality is so poor is due to a combination of outdated methods such as burning vegetable waste directly in the fields, the use of coal plus all the car and moped traffic.

I saw a campaign to increase female participation in the workplace. Waste management offers big development potential, around two thirds of all plastics waste that drifts around the oceans of the world come from various big rivers in Indian and China. Resolving numerous complex problems; from poverty, lack of equality and diversity to transport and waste is a comprehensive task.

Here, KTH can both contribute and learn lessons via our many Indian partners. It’s not simply a case of KTH having the solutions that we can then implement in India. Instead, it will be about the mutual exchange of thoughts and ideas where those of us from KTH and Sweden can gain insight into new ways of thinking and the opportunity to reflect over which issues should be prioritised in the long list of things India wants to change.

Certain of KTH’s global relationships are part of our wish to have close links with top ranking universities in the world, other relationships concern being able to play a part and contribute to the journey a university or country is making. Both types of relationships are important and this concerns everything from student exchanges and research partnerships to industrial cooperation and innovations.

India offers both types of relationships; the country has made tremendous advances within certain research areas and has many successful students. At the same time, there is an enormous need to develop new solutions and find answers to complicated questions. This offers KTH good opportunities to continue to build closer relationships with India in general and IIT Madras in particular.