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Creating a Strategic Research Partnership with India

AAU is proud to lead a task force to look at ways to expand critical research partnerships with India’s leading universities.

AAU has long advocated for – and the United States has benefited from – broad international collaboration in advancing scientific research and discovery. Top students and researchers from around the globe have come to the United States for decades to study and work; many choose to stay and contribute to our economy, our national security, and our culture after they complete their studies. At the same time, American scientists have gone to other countries to conduct groundbreaking research. As new nations begin to emerge as potential scientific powerhouses, it behooves us to find mutually beneficial ways to partner – and that is why AAU is proud to lead an effort to deepen research ties with India.

We recently announced the members and co-chairs for the new AAU-led Task Force on Expanding United States-India University Partnerships. The panel is being co-chaired by Pennsylvania State University President Neeli Bendapudi, University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign Chancellor Robert J. Jones, University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi, University of California San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, and current Johns Hopkins University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar (who will become president of Tufts University on July 1). We have established the body in collaboration with the Biden administration’s U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), which seeks to grow technological and industrial collaboration between the two nations.

Our task force is meeting monthly to determine key focus areas for bilateral research and education cooperation, to identify existing programs that could provide blueprints for future partnerships, and to formulate strategies on how best to move forward. We will release an interim report soon and will ultimately collaborate with a corresponding panel of university leaders in India.

The time is ripe to do this. According to recent United Nations estimates, India will surpass China as the world's most populous nation by the middle of this year. It is also one of the world’s fastest growing economies, recently surpassing France and the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest economy ranked by nominal GDP. The United States and India share opportunities to strengthen our economies by enhancing educational attainment and investing more in research and development. Our two countries also share a commitment to democracy, and our institutions of higher education share a commitment to values including academic freedom and scholarly excellence.

Perhaps in recognition of these new possibilities, Indian leaders recently opened the door for foreign collaborations with its universities and set up a new science-funding agency. Just within the past month, the Indian cabinet also granted approval to fund a National Quantum Mission. More intentional cooperation between America’s leading research universities and their Indian counterparts can bolster these initiatives, helping India continue to grow its scientific and educational enterprise in ways that benefit both nations.

AAU’s task force is also focused on making U.S.-India collaboration in higher education a true two-way exchange by boosting the numbers of American students and researchers who travel to India. Many AAU institutions already have decades-long partnerships with Indian universities; for example, The Ohio State University has longstanding agricultural research ties with India, and in 1962 Purdue University and several other AAU institutions began a collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur that eventually led to ongoing collaborations with other campuses in the Indian Institute of Technology system. And new collaborations between AAU member universities and leading Indian research universities continue to be launched. As I talk to both AAU leaders and their counterparts in India today, I see a tremendous interest in deepening and expanding such research and educational collaborations. AAU’s task force will bring a renewed focus on fields of critical and emerging technologies, energy and the environment, and public health and biotechnology, ultimately leading to long-term benefits for our nations’ shared future.

Collaboration across all international borders is crucial to scientific advancement, and AAU will continue to advocate for openness to scholars from across the globe coupled with reasonable measures to ensure the security of sensitive research data and information. But developing closer partnerships with Indian universities provides a unique and timely opportunity for both countries to strengthen their research and education sectors – and AAU is proud to lead this effort.