Automotive Forum in Pune sees lively debate on industry-academia collaboration

by Shourya Harwani , 02 Dec 2015

The Indian automotive landscape is evolving and with the growing stature of the industry, better resources in the form of skilled employees, is the need of the hour. According to the Automotive Mission Plan 2026, the Indian auto industry will be among the top three in the world in terms of engineering, manufacturing and export of vehicles as well as auto components. This will be in line with global standards growing in value to over 12 percent of India’s GDP and generating an additional 65 million jobs.

However, even as the population of engineering graduates multiplies every year, given the mushrooming of technical institutes throughout the country, the automotive industry faces a major challenge of finding employable resources.

The issue of quality versus quantity haunts the Indian automotive industry and while a lot has to be done by academic institutes to improve quality of students graduating every year, the industry too needs to interact more with the academia in order to groom students as prospective employees. 

Highlighting this need for better collaboration between the automotive industry and academic institutions, Autocar Professional, in collaboration with the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and sponsored by the Varroc Group, organised a day-long seminar on the theme of 'Industry-Academia Collaboration and India's Growth' on Tuesday.

Held at the ARAI Campus in Pune, the Automotive Forum 2015 brought together various stakeholders such as representatives from the auto industry, academic institutions and students to discuss the key issues and challenges that lie ahead.

The seminar was kicked off with an insightful presentation by Dr KC Vora, senior director and head, ARAI Academy, who spoke about the need to bridge the gap between industry and academia. Dr Vora urged academic institutes to focus on improving the quality of their faculty through training programs in order to improve the quality of students graduating every year. Alongside suggestions for academia, he also discussed ways to improve interaction with industry in order to bring the two together.

Representing the industry at the automotive forum was Dr Ravi Damodaran, president - technology and strategy, Varroc Engineering, who highlighted the need for investing in innovation, infrastructure and ‘Make in India’, but with an emphasis on quality, in order to achieve the objectives of the AMP 2026.

Dr Damodaran also urged academic institutes to focus on applied research, rather than experimental research, in order to develop technologies that are relevant in a market like India.

An example of what can be achieved through industry-academia collaboration was highlighted in the presentation by Vishal Pillai, senior scientist at KPIT Technologies, who shared the company’s academia collaboration initiatives.

With an aim to foster a culture of innovation and critical thinking under its Sparkle programme, KPIT Technologies invites engineering and science students across Indian colleges every year to come up with ground-breaking solutions on themes relevant to the automotive industry.

The presentations were then followed by an interactive panel discussion among the key representatives along with enthusiastic participation from the audience. Students, which formed a key part of the audience, brought forth the challenges faced by them in connecting with the industry. The panellists also discussed the government’s role in skill development and appreciated its efforts in focusing on the agenda.

In an ever-competitive environment where automobile companies are ramping up efforts to manufacture and market their products better, along with growing competition, pressure on costs is also increasing as product life cycles are shrinking. While there are concerns about quality, a lot of academic institutions, are also witnessing a growing number of professors, students who are conceptualising and developing new ideas for the mobility industry.

While, it is common to see strong industry-academia collaboration in the West, it is time now that India as an emerging automotive market also realises the potential of collaboration and leverages her strengths to rise in the global arena.