New La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor strengthens ties during India visit

Australia’s La Trobe University has identified key areas to further strengthen its longstanding commitment to Indian Research and Education partnerships during a visit by the University’s New Vice-Chancellor. Professor Theo Farrell, who began as Vice-Chancellor in February this year, has met with a range of Industry, Government and Trade Representatives during a five-day visit to the country.

La Trobe has a proud and successful history in India, partnering with tertiary institutions and organisations on projects that benefit both countries, and helping develop India’s brightest minds through joint education opportunities.

During his visit, Professor Farrell convened several Roundtable discussions with Partners, Industry and Government Representatives, on opportunities to collaborate on areas of mutual interest that address national priorities and that are important for Industry Innovation and Development.

Professor Farrell said there were several priority areas for La Trobe that presented opportunities for deepening relationships in India and developing new partnerships.

These include continuing to support and expand student exchanges in India and Australia; developing research focussed on digital technologies and skills innovations; research commercialisation opportunities, and linkages with industry partners. Deepening mutual industry partnerships play to La Trobe’s strengths in areas including smart cities, sustainable agriculture and food security, bio innovation, and in health and care innovation.

“Some of La Trobe’s most important university partners are in India, and we are building important partnerships with industry and businesses in India that leverage our significant expertise in areas including sustainable food and agriculture, health and wellbeing, technology and bio-innovation, “Professor Farrell said.

“Our expertise in bio-innovation has recently been recognised by BioNTech, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, who have chosen La Trobe’s Melbourne campus as the base for its new mRNA manufacturing facility to develop and test cancer treatments. “In addition, we’re committed to institutional cross-learning, joint intellectual programs and research, collaborative approaches that address industry challenges and joint educational partnerships that provide important valuable learning opportunities for students.”

Opportunities for further collaboration and engagement were also discussed at a Leadership Roundtable of all member Universities of the Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network (ASCRIN), which was founded by La Trobe University in 2019 and is now its Single Largest Research Internationalisation Initiative with joint investment of more than AUD $43 million (Rs 235 crores)

ASCRIN brings together a network of researchers, global industry partners, government collaborators and start-ups to advance research into smart city-related projects, helping to improve sustainability, liveability and efficiency of cities and towns in the region.

“The Network, with over 250 researchers, has already made significant strides in curating a strong portfolio of impact-based projects aimed at enhancing sustainability, liveability, and efficiency of cities and towns in the region. Our vision is now to build on this and accelerate engagement with industry and government to fast-track commercialisation and adoption pathways,” said Professor Aniruddha Desai, ASCRIN Founder and Co-Director of IIT Kanpur – La Trobe University Research Academy.

The Network has over 50 projects underway that will make a tangible difference in the lives of people in India, including:

* Data-driven decision making to improve Dairy supply chains.

* Re-using construction and demolition waste to reduce landfill.

* Intelligent planning of energy grids to optimise consumption and reduce costs.

* Using sensors to improve indoor growing conditions of medicinal crops.

* Real-time crash prediction in traffic on urban roads and intersections to increase safety of all road users.

The Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) last year joined other leading tertiary institutions, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT-K) and Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS-Pilani) as partners in the Network, which already includes more than 250 researchers and over 70 Joint-PhD projects.

Professor Farrell and Pro Vice Chancellor of TISS, Professor Shankar Das also announced a Joint- PhD program, which will support Indian students to conduct research addressing the growing challenges of urbanisation in Asia.

The La Trobe delegation will celebrate the finalists and winners of the Annual Technology Infusion Grand Challenge, which is designed to encourage undergraduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Business fields to be confident in their skills and knowledge to produce a solution and solve a concrete problem using next generation smart technologies.

Over 130 students in some 67 teams from 18 universities in the region submitted innovative entries.

Professor Farrell will also visit Mahindra University, where La Trobe has launched a joint Bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering.

The collaboration, initiated in 2023, aligns with India’s National Education Policy 2023 and Australia’s Education Strategy for India, offering a unique opportunity for students to pursue their Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with two years at Mahindra University and two years at La Trobe University. Students will receive a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from both Universities.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

La Trobe University and India

* La Trobe University is ranked in the top 1 per cent of Universities worldwide

* Times Higher Education (THE), 2021, World University Rankings 2022; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), 2021, Ranking Web of Universities.

* La Trobe has a proud record of educating students from India, with almost 11,000 people born in India amongst our alumni.

* Dignitaries La Trobe University has hosted from the Indian subcontinent include Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi, Kapil Dev, Malaika Arora Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi and, most recently, actor, producer and women’s equality advocate, Shah Rukh Khan.

* La Trobe offers the Shah Rukh Khan La Trobe University PhD Scholarship, providing a life-changing opportunity for an aspiring female researcher from India to make a meaningful impact in the world.

* La Trobe University is one of only two universities in Australia teaching Hindi, and the only Australian University to teach a subject on the history, music, and storytelling of popular Hindi cinema.

* La Trobe University is one of the founding members of the Australia India Institute.

* The IIT Kanpur – La Trobe Research Academy was established in 2020.

* La Trobe has several long-standing teaching partnerships, including with Lady Shri Ram College, which has been running for more than 25 years.

* The La Trobe Library collection houses more than 38,000 volumes of monographs, journals, magazines and government publications from India, one of the largest collections in Australia.

* La Trobe has been a proud sponsor of the Indian Film Festival in Melbourne since it began in 2010.

About Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai:

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is one of India’s top social science institutions to study non-engineering, technology disciplines that include post graduate degrees in Public Health, Labour, Development, Urban and Public Policy, Cities and Governance, Social Work, Climate Change, Media Studies, and Rural Development among others. Many of their graduates are first generation learners from less wealthy communities and have been active participants in revitalising local communities post disasters.

With TISS’ unique study offerings combined with their students’ lived experience of environmental and social issues in the region, this partnership will further contribute to La Trobe’s ASCRIN goals. La Trobe’s humanities and social sciences academics will now have connections to their counterpart researchers at TISS, with opportunities for collaboration with local government and industries in India and Sri Lanka.

Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network

ASCRIN, an initiative led by La Trobe, works with research focused groups, government, global industry partners and start-ups to develop solutions and evaluate implementation strategies, to improve the sustainability, liveability and efficiency of Asian regions. This also includes a dedicated IIT Kanpur-La Trobe University Research Academy (ASCRIN’s largest node in India).

The Network has more than 250 researchers from ASCRIN partner organisations, with more than 70 Joint-PhD projects approved and 45 students so far engaged in those projects, which are exploring issues like the socioeconomic costs of road crashes in India, and how to make data driven quality management accessible to small dairy cooperatives in India.

About La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor Theo Farrell

Professor Theo Farrell commenced as Vice-Chancellor and President of La Trobe University in February 2024. He brings a deep commitment to advancing academic excellence, building inclusive communities, forging external partnerships, and leading transformative change.

Website – www.latrobe.edu.au.

Media enquiries: Australia – Charisse Ede, M: +61 (0)404 030 698 or contact media@latrobe.edu.au India – Achal K Paul, achal@buzzcomm.in, M: +91 98101 62377