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Swarajya Magazine       Indian Express

SPARC website launched by IIT Kharagpur, which is the national coordinator for MHRD’s new initiative in higher education

The launch of the website of the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration or SPARC on September 28, 2018 marks the formal beginning of the latest higher education initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. IIT Kharagpur is the National Coordinating Institute of SPARC, a programme that seeks to improve the research ecosystem of India’s higher educational institutions by promoting academic and research collaboration between Indian institutions and best-in-class faculty and renowned research groups in foreign institutions. As many as 28 foreign countries are being targeted in the first phase of the scheme. The partner foreign institutes will be those that hold top QS World University Rankings.

The scheme proposes to support components considered critical to the production of impact-making research. It will fund visits and long-term stay of top international faculty or researchers in Indian institutions to pursue teaching and research. Not merely that, it will also fund visits of Indian students for training and experimentation in premier laboratories worldwide.

The scheme builds on the overwhelming success of the Global Initiative of Academic Networks or GIAN, also coordinated nationally by IIT Kharagpur. However, while GIAN promotes short courses and short-term stays of foreign faculty, SPARC intends to realise the maximum benefits of the research collaboration by exposing students to world class research facilities and equipment while supporting long-duration courses by visiting foreign faculty and also senior foreign students. The foreign faculty members can visit Indian partner institutions twice in two years for a period of 15 days to 4 months and teach 12-36 hours on a course topic.

Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Director of IIT Kharagpur, said, “SPARC funding will be primarily used for fundamental research areas, emerging areas of interest, convergence areas, action-oriented research, innovation-driven research. Areas of collaboration will include Science and Technology, Humanities, Social Sciences and so on.” Apart from providing international expertise to solve major national problems, SPARC is expected to lead to the production of jointly authored publications, research monographs, patents, demonstrable technologies and products, several workshops and two national conferences each year.

Proposals for a two year interaction can be submitted by all Indian institutes ranked in the overall top-100 or category-wise top-100 in the India Rankings (NIRF). The proposal should involve at least two international faculty, two Indian faculty and two PhD/Postdoctoral researchers.

The proposal portal of SPARC ( )will open on October 4 and remain open till November 15. Each Indian Institution can submit proposals with any of the 28 foreign countries. Evaluation will be done first by a sectional committee and the final evaluation will be done by an Apex Committee. Prof. Adrijit Goswami, joint coordinator of SPARC for IIT Kharagpur said, “We are expecting to approve around 600 proposals.”

As the national coordinator, IIT Kharagpur will be routing SPARC funds, manage the online portal, coordinate with the other nodal institutes of India, organize two annual SPARC conferences, liaise with MHRD and manage the intellectual output of SPARC.

By Chirosree Basu

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