A university delegation has recently returned from a trip to India which sought to open up research and funding opportunities with some of the country’s biggest companies, as well as to assist in the foundation of a new medical school.
The group, comprised of academics representing a range of departments from medicine to environmental sciences, travelled to the state of West Bengal in the east of the country, where plans are underway to build a new school and training facilities for doctors.
The head of the delegation, Professor Stephen Flint, described the purpose of meetings with officials and staff at the forthcoming medical facilities as “helping them to fast-track the complex challenge of setting up a medical school from scratch”.
Academics including Professor Douglas Corfield of Manchester’s Division of Medical Education helped familiarise the staff with medical training techniques such as problem-based learning.
Professor Flint, Manchester’s Associate Vice President for Internationalisation, identified the shortage of hospitals in West Bengal as the driving factor behind the need for new medical training facilities. West Bengal’s population far surpasses that of the UK with over 90 million people resident there. The new hospital is to be situated at Kharagpur, an industrial city three hours’ drive from West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata.
Links with the region were established through the Tata Medical Centre where another Manchester researcher, Professor Vaskar Saha, works six months out of the year at the Tata Translational Cancer Research Centre.
According to Professor Flint, the trip could create more links with Manchester and opportunities for students in the future.
“We have signed an agreement with the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT KGP) to collaborate across a range of research areas, and we hope this will lead initially to jointly supervised PhD students who spend time in both institutions.” he explained. He added that this could eventually enable students to travel to Kharagpur as a study abroad destination.
Established in 1951, IIT KGP is the oldest such institution in India, and its headquarters are based on the site of a former detention camp for Indian freedom fighters, dating back to the British colonial era. During the trip, plans were confirmed for the development of a world-class programme in health informatics run jointly with Manchester, a commitment to which had already been made with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions during a visit from Manchester representatives this June.
Professor Siddhartha Mukhopadhyay, IIT KGP’s Dean of Alumni Affairs and International Relations spoke of the collaboration’s great potential to develop research programmes with global impact and create world-class training schemes, as well as joint research projects in areas including Smart Textiles, Earth-Environment-Water-Sciences, Advanced Materials and Biomedical Informatics.
During the trip, the delegation also met with representatives from some of the region’s most significant academic and research institutions, such as the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Indian Statistical Institute, and the Universities of Jadavpur and Kolkata, to discuss new possibilities in research and funding.
Spanning fields of engineering and biomedical sciences, conversations were held with such giant companies as Graphite India and Tata Steel, the owners of the UK’s largest steelworks and employers of almost 8,000 here, concerning material science research.
“Tata Steel have recently opened a biomaterials division, and we presented the cutting edge research on biomedical ‘smart’ materials being undertaken in the School of Materials,” Professor Flint explained, adding that this could open up the possibility of receiving research funding from Tata.