Collaborations with India
Inria commits itself to a joint digital science and technology research programme with India
© Inria / Photo A.Eidelman
At the India-France Technology Summit in New Delhi, Inria will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Indian government's science and technology department (DST) to strengthen its joint programmes with local names from the digital world. Hélène Kirchner, Director of International Relations at Inria, explains the importance of these Franco-Indian programmes.
How would you describe the programmes that involve Inria and Indian researchers?
Inria undertakes research with numerous Indian partners. Since 2003, India, a country with over one billion inhabitants, has enjoyed dynamic economic growth (more than 8% per year) and embraced new forms of information and communication technology. This country is full of promise for Inria! Especially on a scientific level, if it has a long tradition of collaboration with the United States, it is recently more closer to Europe.
The programmes we have established are fruitful and sustainable but they now have to be strengthened and structured around scientific challenges and goals. We have an opportunity to shed more light on these programmes and increase their impact on science and industry.
More than 30 Inria teams have undertaken or are undertaking projects with Indian colleagues. Today, there are other opportunities that have to be seized.
For several years, a number of researchers have carried out research with Indian colleagues from the best Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Occasionally, some of these joint projects even lead to the recruitment of Indian scientists in France.
Every year since 2002, Indian interns have joined Inria project teams under the Internships programme. This programme, instigated by Gérard Huet, the Director of International Relations at the time, began by welcoming mostly Indian students, particularly those from the country's prestigious IITs, which select the best students. Today, most internships involve Asia, although India remains the most common country of origin for interns. In 2012, 23 Indian students were given a place on an Inria project team. Nevertheless, only a very small number of these interns undertake a thesis which is presented in France.
Long-term bilateral programmes involving Indian and French researchers have been created. Associate teams (five since 2006), the Indo-French Centre for Applied Mathematics, a CNRS international joint research unit, which Inria joined in 2002, and the CNRS International Associate Laboratory, known as Indo-French Formal Method Lab (Informel), are just some of these programmes.
In total, more than 30 Inria teams have undertaken or are undertaking projects with Indian colleagues. But that is not enough.
Today, there are other opportunities that have to be seized. There is France's stake in IIT Jodhpur, which will favour research-lecturer and student exchanges, and, above all, the implementation this year of the Joint Targeted Program in Information and Communication Science & Technology, created by Inria, CNRS and the DST (the Indian government's science and technology department) and placed under the aegis of CEFIPRA (Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research).
What does the memorandum of understanding signed with the Indian government's science and technology department represent? What are your expectations?
The Joint Targeted Program in Information and Communication Science & Technology will strengthen programmes that currently exist between the two countries and support new projects and the exchange of the researchers and students involved. These joint programmes will let us build the loyalty of students and foster exchanges through the joint supervision of theses, for example.
With regards to research, French and Indian researchers want to tackle the big challenges posed by the digital world together. In the first call for projects, three areas were prioritised during a seminar organised with CEFIPRA on 4 and 5 April 2013 at IIT Delhi and called, 'Challenges in overcoming complexity: from Big Data to Cyber-Physical Systems' (of which embedded systems and high-performance computing are a part).
This programme is an important step towards structuring and strengthening long-term Franco-Indian scientific relations.