SEOYEON LEE/THE VARSITY

U of T continues to facilitate research efforts and collaborations in India. It has announced details of its partner Tata Trust’s investment for its research centre in Mumbai, and an entrepreneurship program at a leading academic institution in the country.

In 2018, the university announced plans to establish the centre as part of the School of Cities Alliance in India.

During the February 3 Business Board meeting, Ted Sargent, U of T’s Vice-President International, provided updates on the centre, including a six-year $14 million grant from Tata Trusts, one of India’s oldest philanthropic organizations and U of T’s partner in the venture.

The centre will aim to develop new ways to solve urban problems, with an India-specific focus, and while it does not yet have a physical space, it is expected that one will be open and functional later this year, Sargent explained in an interview with The Varsity. Likewise, hiring for the centre is expected to take place over the next few months.

On March 12, U of T announced that it would be developing an entrepreneurship program with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB).

Centre could open up research, corporate partnerships

The centre is affiliated with U of T’s School of Cities, which aims to find innovative ways of approaching urban issues. In addition to its affiliations with the School of Cities and its partnership with Tata Trusts, it hopes to continue to expand its collaborations over time.

Beyond the Tata Trusts grant, the centre will sustain itself through philanthropic support from future partnerships.

“Tata Trusts is a wonderful partner,” said Sargent. “And so the hope is that when U of T… really [has] an impact on the Indian ecosystem of research, of urban innovation, entrepreneurship, over the first six years, that there’ll be the potential to partner further with Tata Trusts.”

He also highlighted the number of innovative corporations in India, and the opportunities for potential partnerships on that front.

Sargent noted that actively working in India means that there will “be opportunities to increase the amount of corporate engagement between U of T, the U of T centre in Mumbai, and Indian corporate partners.”

Research partnership with Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Sargent also spoke of the partnership between the U of T centre in Mumbai and IITB.

The university recently announced the establishment of an entrepreneurship program as part of the partnership between IITB and the new U of T centre.

The program will include an exchange program for “budding entrepreneurs,” as well as conferences, workshops, and startup competitions. Furthermore, the partnership hopes to provide students with opportunities to work at select Indian corporations.

The goal of the new program is to “support research collaborations and develop a strong, two-way innovation talent pipeline,” according to U of T News.

Sargent highlighted the development of smart cities in India as one particular area of interest for this collaboration.

“So India… has undertaken to upgrade a whole list of some of its major population centres to become the smart cities in the future,” said Sargent “And the School of Cities and their partners at IITB will be working with specific cities in India to develop their plans, and to eventually roll [them] out.”

Plans for expansion

Beyond the centre itself, Sargent noted that U of T hopes to figure out how the work of staff and students can have a “translational impact” across different parts of the globe. He highlighted that the model for the Mumbai centre is dependent on both its location and the partnership with Tata Trusts.

“It has a very clearly defined rule that all of its funds need to be spent in India and they need to benefit the Indians directly,” said Sargent. “So we’re building the centre out on that principle.”

He also commented that the model is “India-specific” and any similar centres in the future would depend upon a number of variables, including partnerships and location.

Sargent noted that U of T is pleased with the model that it’s established for the Mumbai centre. “We think it’s a very exciting model and we’re excited to see it play out in the partnership with Tata Trusts.”

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