Making inroads in India

New partnerships result from McGill’s participation in Premier’s trade mission

By Pascal Zamprelli

When Quebec Premier Jean Charest decided to put together a large delegation for a trade mission to India, he knew just where to look. In fact, McGill had more representatives on the delegation of 130 than any other university, and by all accounts the trip was a resounding success.

The delegation, made up of representatives of the worlds of business, education and research, joined the Premier in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Dehli from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, in an effort to build or consolidate ties with Indian partners in sectors such as aerospace, the environment and information technology.

Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Denis Thérien came away with four memorandums of understanding with Indian partners, including one with TERI University in New Delhi that focuses on promoting cutting-edge research concerning climate change adaptation and mitigation, urban transportation and governance, and biofuels and bioresources.

The other memorandums were signed with some of India’s leading research institutions: the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharward, the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, and the National Centre for Biological Sciences. Beyond research collaborations, all the agreements provide for regular student exchanges and workshops.

“The mission to India produced partnerships of great importance for McGill, and indeed for the future of Quebec,” Munroe-Blum said.

“These agreements represent incredible opportunities for collaboration between McGill and some of the leading institutes and universities in India, but more than that, they pave the way for international cooperation of the most pressing issues we face as a global society, such as climate change and environmental sustainability.”

“Aside from the formal agreements we have signed, many McGill researchers were able to connect with their Indian colleagues and expand on lines of communication that will undoubtedly lead to fruitful collaboration in the months and years ahead,” added the Principal.

Dr. Gail Chmura, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Director of the Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (GEC3), was among the researchers who made up the rest of the McGill contingent, invited because of her expertise in two of the trip’s primary themes:  climate change and environmental sustainability.

Because there was much to do in little time, her meetings with her counterparts were brief – she describes the experience as “speed dating with Indian scientists” – but they were also very productive.

“I now understand more about India, Indian science and institutions,” Chmura  said. “So if I go to make collaborations or seek someone out I have a sense of what to expect, and if students come here, we have a sense of the quality of institution and the kind of training they received.”

Chmura wants to establish links between her Centre and Indian partners, which could result in dialogues amongst graduate students, as well as joint teaching, training, or research programs.

“The more links we have with India, the stronger we will be in terms of collaborative science,” Chmura said.