IIIT Delhi, Delhi's premier research university raises Rs 15 crore for research, Delhi Government to match funds
Matching funds for a good cause: Why IIIT Delhi could become the gold standard for research funding for Indian universities
IIIT Delhi, Delhi's premier research university, has raised Rs. 15 crore for research in computer science, information technology and several new-age interdisciplinary courses. This money has come from various large technology corporations like the Infosys Foundation, Intel, Microsoft and Google as part of the "matching fund" scheme that is being piloted by the Delhi Government at IIIT Delhi. The money raised by IIIT Delhi will be used for research in computer science, electronics and communication and information technology. As part of this scheme, the same amount will be matched by the Delhi Government to bolster research and give incentive to corporations to invest in technology research.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has established an innovative and novel method for IIIT-Delhi. For supporting research, the Government has approved the Director of IIIT Delhi, Professor Pankaj Jalote’s proposal that it will provide a matching grant each year to the Institute for the funds it raises from funding agencies and corporations. This led to several renowned corporations and technology companies as well as Indian research institutions to invest in IIIT Delhi's research since they knew that their contribution would be matched by the government. In the last year, Rs. 15 crore has been raised with Rs. 9.2 crore from corporate sponsors like IBM, Google, TCS, Adobe, VMWare with the largest donation coming from Infosys foundation.
On the success of the pilot scheme, the Deputy Chief Minister has directed the Department of Education to make it an incentive scheme for all state Universities in Delhi with different terms for grant in aid and non-grant in aid institutions because of their differing financial structure. This would bolster research in different fields like the humanities, arts, business, finance, natural sciences and technology.
Research is expensive and so research universities, which have strong emphasis on research along with teaching programs, need strong financial support to engage in research. It is also true that to be globally reputed (or ranked), a university must have a strong research profile - no ‘only’ teaching-focused university/college can hope to be ranked globally. Therefore, to have globally respected universities, funding for research has to be provided.
Delhi Government wishes to highlight the critical yet underappreciated, and thus underfunded, role of research in higher education in India. This gains importance as Indian students continue to leave the country to study abroad and Indian institutions still do not feature in global rankings.
Across the world, a common approach for funding research in universities is to provide research grants through various funding agencies. Professor Jitendra Malik, University of California, Berkeley, highlights that it is also broadly accepted that the best investment for research is to support research in universities. There are agencies in India to provide funding for research projects but the amount of funds available is not as high as it should be.
Additionally, executing a research project, even if the direct costs of equipment and research staff is met by the project itself, requires the university to provide support for space, infrastructure, administration, and other costs associated with projects. Agencies are supposed to provide overheads to cover these costs to support the execution of the project.
However, In India the budgetary allocation to overheads is very small - typically 15% or lesser as compared to US where it is about 50%. This overhead barely covers the cost of space, electricity, A/C, security, etc. It does not cover the critical and significant cost of R&D establishment that a university has to provide to support projects, or the cost of faculty time spent on research, or other indirect costs. Thus, these costs have are typically borne by the University. In centrally funded institutions, these costs are all borne through the annual budget provided by the Government. So they don't have an issue.
For state universities, this topic has not received significant attention because of their focus on teaching but there are some state universities that have built strong research capabilities. Jadavpur University and IIIT-Delhi are examples of such institutions. IIIT-D, though recently established, has a strong emphasis on research and is already well respected in academic circles. IIIT-Delhi's funding model is that while the Government provides support for development, it is to become self-sustaining in due course. But the question of research funding remained unanswered.
Such state universities need support from the State government - not direct grants for research projects, but support to be able to take and execute projects sponsored by various agencies and companies. Unfortunately, states, as their focus is mostly on education, will generally not have systems or agencies to support for research. So, how does a state Government support its research universities, if it has any.
Delhi provides an answer with the matching fund scheme at IIIT Delhi
For research, the Deputy Chief Minister has established an innovative and novel method for IIIT-Delhi. For supporting research, the Government has approved the Director of IIIT Delhi, Professor Pankaj Jalote’s proposal that it will provide a matching grant each year to the Institute for the funds it raises from funding agencies and corporations. Department of Education has been directed to make it an incentive scheme for all state Universities in Delhi with different terms for grant in aid and non-grant in aid institutions because of their differing financial structure.
This move if replicated allows state governments to support their research-focused universities, without having to build elaborate ecosystems needed to support research directly. The matching grant can be made to vary as per the prevailing budgetary support that these institutions might already have from state governments. This approach not only covers the cost of doing research, but motivates institutions to seek funding from agencies and corporations, making them more competitive nationally and globally. State universities need support from the State government to be able to take and execute projects sponsored by various agencies and companies. Unfortunately this has not been focused on by state governments due to their focus on only education.
This is a simple and brilliant model for States to support their research-focused universities, without having to build elaborate ecosystems needed to support research directly. The matching grant can be 100% or even more for those universities which receive little budgetary support from the State, and can be lesser for those universities that get good annual budgetary support. This approach will not only cover the cost of doing research, but will motivate the State university to seek funding from agencies and corporations, making them more competitive nationally and globally.