Bengaluru lives

At the Humboldt Colloquium in the Indian city of Bengaluru researchers from India and Germany discussed academic exchange between the two countries. 

Bengaluru is the Silicon Valley of India. The metropolis used to be famous as a garden city thanks to its many parks and the trees that shot up all over the place. Then the IT firms and aeronautics research arrived. Today, the eight-million megacity, the third largest in India, is plagued by environmental problems despite its many parks – a fact known to anyone who researches the destination online for a trip to Bengaluru from Germany. The well-known German news magazine Der Spiegel, for instance, has a report on “Bangalore’s apocalyptic attraction”, the Bellandur Lake. According to the magazine, the city’s largest lake is so filthy and polluted with chemicals that it doesn’t just stink to high heaven, it also produces toxic foam and self-ignites. Researchers warn, the magazine continues, “that in a few years, India’s Silicon Valley could become uninhabitable.”

Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in India
In November, more than 200 of the Foundation’s alumni from India met up with researchers from Germany and junior researchers from India.
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion
Humboldt Kolloquium 2017 in Indien
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/@Factory Events & Promotion

Knowledge exchange about energy and environmental engineering

At the Humboldt Foundation’s colloquium in Bengaluru in November, more than 200 of the Foundation’s alumni from India met up with researchers from Germany and junior researchers from the subcontinent to discuss academic exchange between India and Germany as well as the most diverse scientific topics. Energy and environmental engineering were amongst them. India is facing the enormous challenge of continuing its development into a modern industrial nation on a large scale whilst some rural areas are still waiting to receive their first stable electricity supply. Just under 80 percent of India’s energy needs are currently covered by coal. In order to meet the increasing appetite for energy, it is estimated that in the coming years an additional 15 gigawatts of electricity will have to be generated annually. How is this supposed to happen without falling short of the Paris climate targets? Srikumar Banerjee from the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Mumbai is relaxed about it: You have to utilise a mixture of atomic energy, coal and renewables like solar and wind power until the technology makes sufficient progress and facilitates new solutions. 

Great potential for joint research

Indeed, prognoses like those of the Climate Action Tracker – joint climate assessments published by an alliance of consultancies and NGOs – consider India, together with China, to be well on the way to actually outstripping their climate targets by 2030 and leaving the Europeans, for example, well behind them. India could become a leading market and developer of solar energy. The consultancy Ernst & Young already trades it as one of the top countries for investment in renewables. So, there is also great potential for joint research with German partners who are valued for their expertise in the energy sector – including, incidentally, in nuclear energy research, despite Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear energy. Whether this will really persist after the “Energiewende” – a German term which could experience a similar fate to the internationally familiar “waldsterben” – remained an open question at the colloquium. From the perspective of Indian scientists at least, Germany is currently attractive right across the disciplines as is demonstrated by the huge demand registered at the Humboldt Foundation.

Most applications come from India

After the United States and China, India ranks third for the number of research fellowships granted each year. In terms of the number of applications, the country even comes in first place ahead of China. The fact that Chinese applicants tend to be more successful on average than their Indian colleagues is, however, no surprise to anyone at this meeting. By comparison with their Indian counterparts, postdocs from China received much more training in presenting themselves in their best light and polishing their applications accordingly. Everyone was agreed that India had some catching up to do in this respect.

Steps to more top-level research

Another reason is the Indian research landscape: the spectrum, ranging from excellent, internationally-competitive research and training on the one hand, to rather average institutions geared to academic education for the masses on the other, is huge. Of the approximately 25 million students in India, only 500,000 are enrolled in Master’s courses. Even at the internationally-renowned Indian Institutes of Technology it is reported that by far the majority of graduates leave after their first degree, thus deciding against a career in research. Better training and more top-level research have therefore become a goal. Newly-established innovation centres and the excellence-oriented Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) are steps along this path. As one of the plenary lectures pointed out, however, one of the strengths of Indian research was its creativity under less than ideal economic and scientific conditions which produced so-called frugal innovations – a big return on a small investment.

Increase awareness in Germany

Whilst there was considerable interest in India in studying or conducting research in Germany, too few Germans came to India, the colloquium participants felt. More marketing to increase awareness in Germany was needed in order to promote German-Indian collaboration and cross-fertilisation in this direction, too. Bengaluru was not only a potential destination for German scientists due to its strong research infrastructure, which has attracted firms like Bosch, Daimler and Microsoft; the Indian participants from Mumbai and Delhi were also enthusiastic about its green environment and smog-free air.

And what about the burning lake which nearly everyone in the German delegation had read about before their arrival? Yes, that was a problem. But it was getting better and would definitely be sorted out, claimed one Bengaluru researcher asked about the subject. Whether the German news magazine had got the wrong end of the stick and India’s Silicon Valley would continue to be habitable in future? Yes, he was sure of that, he said, and laughed about the Germans who were always so concerned about everything.

 
 

Contact

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Press, Communications and Marketing
Tel: +49 228 833-144
Fax:+49 228 833-441
presse(at)avh.de

Further Information