Where are the PhDs? Private sector must hire top maths & science talent   Leave a comment

Over the last 20 years, India has steadily lost quality mathematicians working in the country. In the last two years, the Infosys Science Foundation has not been able to present its annual mathematics prize to an Indian working in India: in both years, the awardees are people who work in the US.

Over the last 10 years, India ranks 14th in terms of producing research papers globally. It falls to 22nd place in terms of the number of citations in peer-reviewed journals and to 67th rank in terms of citations per paper. Unsurprisingly, America tops the tables in two out of the three rankings.

There can be many reasons for this, including the shoddy way the subject is taught in schools, but one big reason, surely, is the unwillingness of Indian employers to hire quality PhDs in maths and the sciences. So, bright kids leave India after graduation, complete their doctorates in US universities, and without much chance of getting academic jobs in India, stay on to work in American companies or campuses. This has to change.

The government can start new colleges and universities to accommodate returning PhDs, but the main effort has to come from the private sector. Since Independence, industry has relied on protection to get by. Over the last 20 years, as entry barriers fell but the government capped foreign direct investment in many sectors, Indian companies formed joint ventures with foreign companies.

This gave them access to some new technology, others were purchased off the shelf, with no thought given to original research. Now, companies need to see beyond their noses and think of long-term growth. Despite its recent problems, America continues to lead the world in generating intellectual capital and deploying it wisely.

Government organisations like Nasa in US create breakthroughs that are adopted by private companies. The private sector invests hugely in R&D. It is time for Indian companies to go this way, too. People with management degrees will only get companies so far; boffins in lab coats will help build tomorrow’s breakthrough products.


Posted February 7, 2012 by avinash2060 in Innovation

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