TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto will be establishing a research centre in India to study cities as part of an international partnership with Indian philanthropic organization Tata Trusts.

The research centre is part of a School of Cities Alliance in India, which seeks to solve urban issues by bringing together scholars and experts from both countries. An entrepreneurship centre will also be created in India as part of the alliance.

The partnership was announced on September 4 at an Invest India conference in Toronto by U of T President Meric Gertler and Manoj Kumar, Tata Trusts’ Head of Institutions, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

During the announcement, Gertler said that the partnership “will bring together leading experts from both countries to address some of India’s most pressing economic and social development challenges.”

The School of Cities was launched on July 1 with the purpose of tackling urban issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

In an interview with The Varsity, Ted Sargent, U of T Vice-President International, said that the partnership was a “perfect alignment” between India’s smart city priorities and U of T’s “thought-leadership” at the School of Cities.

Sargent hopes that by reaching out strategically to global partners, students, researchers, and staff can have more impact in the work they do.

“U of T decided to partner with Tata Trusts because U of T has a real priority to increase its global partnerships,” said Sargent. “Tata Trusts had the same view, and so they were a great partner to join forces with.”

Sargent explained that the long-term goal for the partnership is for research to effectively translate into real-life applications, and the centre hopes to engage and collaborate with policymakers, leaders in India’s business community, and the public to apply research solutions.

According to Sargent, the decision to partner with Tata Trusts came from a variety of different university stakeholders. Sargent’s office of VP International played a role, alongside “other people involved from the central leadership of the university” and various faculties involved with the School of Cities.

U of T has a history of working with Tata Trusts. The organization funded an initiative from U of T engineering Professor Emeritus Levente Diosady, which helped assist people with anemia by creating an iron- and iodine-enriched salt.

Additionally, in 2017, Tata Trusts co-hosted a Smart Cities Workshop with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, led by U of T urban systems engineering professor Mark Fox.

The research centre will be located in either Mumbai or Bengaluru and is scheduled to open in 2019. U of T undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members will have the opportunity to spend time at the centre to experience “real local engagement and activity.”

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