Partnership with prospects

Science needs business, just as much as business needs science. India’s example shows once again that economic success relies, above all, on investment in education and research.

November 24, 2012

One of the world’s booming growth markets, India, is currently experiencing an economic miracle. As India’s most important trading partner, Germany has a very special role in the European Union, underpinned by the close relationship that has endured between Germany and India for over sixty years. Environmental and climate protection, combating international terrorism, global trade and energy security, the sub-continent plays a key role in all of these. And yet too few people benefit from its flourishing economy: disease, hunger, the clear divide between town and country, rich and poor combine to hamper growth prospects.

The most pressing challenges of the 21st century can only be overcome through close cooperation between business, science and politics. Siemens and the Max Planck Society have therefore joined forces to organise a high-level conference in New Delhi entitled “Future Dialogue”, which will bring together business leaders, top politicians and scientists from all over the world. The conference will also mark the commencement of Germany Year in India. The theme of the conference, “Megacities”, directly references the impact of rapidly increasing urbanisation and migration in India.

Initially, people may be surprised to see a global business group like Siemens and an internationally networked organisation for fundamental research like the Max Planck Society coming together to analyse the mega-issues of our times. But in our high-tech world, which grows more complex by the day, it is only by combining basic research and industrial application that we can protect the wellbeing of humankind long-term and provide answers to pressing global problems. Driven by curiosity, basic researchers push the boundaries of our current knowledge - the only way to open up completely new, undreamt of applications for industry. However, only industry can apply this groundbreaking knowledge derived from basic research. It is precisely this symbiotic partnership with clearly defined roles that produces the necessary technological push and opens the way for breakthrough innovations.

Science needs business, just as much as business needs science. India’s example shows once again that economic success relies, above all, on investment in education and research. The Indian government has set itself the goal of raising the quota of students to global level. By 2020 there will be seventy new universities in India. The Max Planck Society has firsthand experience of the pioneering spirit and thirst for knowledge of India’s junior scientists: Indians now form the second largest group of foreign doctoral students at the Max Planck Society. Just a few years ago, young Indians were trailing behind the UK and the US.

This trend reversal comes on the back of strengthened scientific ties between the two countries; on 6 October 2004 they signed a Memorandum of Understanding on future collaboration in the presence of the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the Indian Minister for Science and Technology, M. Kapil Sibal. Since then, collaboration with India has progressed in leaps and bounds, as far as the Max Planck Society is concerned. Not only have over 700 junior researchers and guest scientists come from India to Max Planck institutes in the past year, a rise of more than 80 per cent in the last six years. We also have a very strong presence in India itself: 18 Max Planck partner groups are currently working in India, more than in any other country.

For example, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry is working with an Indian partner group at the Indian Institute of Technology on the issue of air pollution in megacities. Among other things, the scientists have jointly developed a mathematical model for predicting risks to health in cities. The data shows that the health risk caused by air pollution in megacities in emerging and developing countries is significantly greater than in those of the industrial nations. This type of data can provide a springboard for guidelines on pollution control.

Following the opening of the second Max Planck Center, the Max Planck Society is expanding its collaboration with India still further. In February 2010, the then German President Horst Köhler and Indian Research Minister Prithviraj Chavan opened the Indo-German Max Planck Center for Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. The Max Planck Institutes for Informatics and Software Systems in Saarbrücken and Kaiserslautern are stakeholders in this new Center. Ahead of the Future Dialogue conference, the Indo-German Max Planck Center for Lipid Research in Bangalore is set to open a cooperation platform between the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden and the National Center for Biological Sciences.

As India’s status as an internationally important research location continues to grow, so too will collaboration become more intensive between the Max Planck Society and top Indian establishments, such as the National Center for Biological Sciences, the Indian Institute for Science and research institutes in aspiring scientific locations, such as Pune and Hyderabad.

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