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Bringing Back Alumni

Dr Rangan Banerjee, Dean of Research and Development, IIT-B tells EDU about the efforts his institute is making to bring back good Indian professors from foreign shores

By EDU

Added 19th April 2012

ranganbanerjee

EDU: IIT-B is among the few institutions in India making sustained efforts to bring back Indian professors from abroad. How does it go about doing so?

Dr Rangan: We have a global faculty alumni network, which is mainly a network of our alumni in faculty positions abroad, especially in the US. It helps us identify people considering returning to India. However, we are very careful while recruiting, as a lot of people who want to come back are not good enough. Just because somebody has a foreign degree does not automatically qualify them as good teachers and researchers.

We have an alumni meet in the US once a year where our administrators meet those who are desirous of returning, face to face. Interviews are also conducted through video-conferencing and appointment letters are given directly to the bright and deserving. Now nearly half of the people joining us as faculty have come from the US. We find that relocation is best done early on in ones career one or two years after PhD. Lateral entries are difficult as by then people usually have established an infrastructure for their work.

EDU: What is IIT-B doing to make its research environment, systems and processes more conducive to inspire Indian professors abroad to come back and work with it?

Dr Rangan: The research environment at IIT-B is very good for self-motivated people. As long as the faculty members fulfil their basic teaching responsibilities, they have the freedom and flexibility to decide on the areas they want to research in and carry on their work as they choose to. We also provide research staff to support the faculty. Further, they can have good quality PhD and masters students as assistants and an opportunity of interacting with bright young minds. We give Rs 10 lakh as seed grant, a start-up research grant given even before writing of the research proposal. In case the research involves buying equipment, the seed grant goes up to Rs 20 lakh.

Additionally, all the administrative and accounts support is provided online, in order to reduce doing things ad hoc. The institute also takes care of the patenting cost, thus providing protection of intellectual property (IP). Apart from generating funds from the government and the industry by enhancing industry links, the institute is also funding large research infrastructure. We are also trying to articulate a larger vision and organise faculty into groups working on themes like healthcare, climate, aerospace, etc., wherein their collective research will have greater impact on society. Being part of something like this is also very attractive for faculty wanting to join us.

EDU: How do you ensure that the monetary compensation is competitive?

Dr Rangan: We give joining bonuses, supported by our alumni, which is Rs 1 lakh per year for the first three years as a top-up to the salary. The salary itself can be considered double/treble of the actual cash in hand, considering the cost to the institute as the faculty gets free housing, schooling for their children and medical facilities. The quality of life on the campus is also very good. The institute has excellent international links, and the faculty often get stints in universities abroad. We have very liberal rules for consulting, whereby the faculty gets to keep 70 per cent of the money they generate from it. Similarly, inventors of products/processes which are commercialized get 70 per cent of the licensing revenue. In fact, the income of some of our faculty from consulting and licensing runs into several crores!

EDU: IIT-B is among the few institutions in India making sustained efforts to bring back Indian professors from abroad. How does it go about doing so?

Dr Rangan: We have a global faculty alumni network, which is mainly a network of our alumni in faculty positions abroad, especially in the US. It helps us identify people considering returning to India. However, we are very careful while recruiting, as a lot of people who want to come back are not good enough. Just because somebody has a foreign degree does not automatically qualify them as good teachers and researchers.

We have an alumni meet in the US once a year where our administrators meet those who are desirous of returning, face to face. Interviews are also conducted through video-conferencing and appointment letters are given directly to the bright and deserving. Now nearly half of the people joining us as faculty have come from the US. We find that relocation is best done early on in ones career one or two years after PhD. Lateral entries are difficult as by then people usually have established an infrastructure for their work.

EDU: What is IIT-B doing to make its research environment, systems and processes more conducive to inspire Indian professors abroad to come back and work with it?

Dr Rangan: The research environment at IIT-B is very good for self-motivated people. As long as the faculty members fulfil their basic teaching responsibilities, they have the freedom and flexibility to decide on the areas they want to research in and carry on their work as they choose to. We also provide research staff to support the faculty. Further, they can have good quality PhD and masters students as assistants and an opportunity of interacting with bright young minds. We give Rs 10 lakh as seed grant, a start-up research grant given even before writing of the research proposal. In case the research involves buying equipment, the seed grant goes up to Rs 20 lakh.

Additionally, all the administrative and accounts support is provided online, in order to reduce doing things ad hoc. The institute also takes care of the patenting cost, thus providing protection of intellectual property (IP). Apart from generating funds from the government and the industry by enhancing industry links, the institute is also funding large research infrastructure. We are also trying to articulate a larger vision and organise faculty into groups working on themes like healthcare, climate, aerospace, etc., wherein their collective research will have greater impact on society. Being part of something like this is also very attractive for faculty wanting to join us.

EDU: How do you ensure that the monetary compensation is competitive?

Dr Rangan: We give joining bonuses, supported by our alumni, which is Rs 1 lakh per year for the first three years as a top-up to the salary. The salary itself can be considered double/treble of the actual cash in hand, considering the cost to the institute as the faculty gets free housing, schooling for their children and medical facilities. The quality of life on the campus is also very good. The institute has excellent international links, and the faculty often get stints in universities abroad. We have very liberal rules for consulting, whereby the faculty gets to keep 70 per cent of the money they generate from it. Similarly, inventors of products/processes which are commercialized get 70 per cent of the licensing revenue. In fact, the income of some of our faculty from consulting and licensing runs into several crores!



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