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Indo-Finnish research partnerships bloom

By Fran Weaver, June 2011

Photo: Institute on Membrane Technology (ITM-CNR)
Indian doctoral researcher Prem Kumar Seelam, currently based at the University of Oulu, is a key member of a ground-breaking green chemistry research project funded by the Academy of Finland and India's Department of Science and Technology.

The Academy of Finland is increasingly backing scientific research partnerships involving expert Finnish and Indian researchers in fields including green chemistry and biotechnology.

“We’ve been involved in active collaboration with Indian research funding organisations since 2005, and India is one of our key research partner countries,” says Jaana Roos, senior science adviser at the Academy of Finland. “There are ongoing projects, particularly in the fields of biotechnology and green chemistry, and we’ve recently called for research proposals in food biotech and nanomaterials.”

To initiate collaborative projects, researchers from Finnish and Indian universities and institutes jointly propose research topics for approval by the Academy of Finland and its Indian cofunders the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology.

To initiate collaborative projects, researchers from Finnish and Indian universities and institutes jointly propose research topics for approval by the Academy of Finland and its Indian cofunders the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology.

Roos emphasises that the Academy is keen to back longer-term projects that combine complementary know-how from the two countries. “India has excellent expertise on tropical diseases, for instance, which we can pair up with high-level Finnish expertise on diagnostics to create biotechnology research projects with great potential,” she explains.

“India is a very big country seeking to build up knowledge in many areas. Even though Finland is comparatively small, our Indian partners are very interested in what we have to offer,” says Roos. “From our side, we want to give Finnish researchers opportunities to collaborate with the world’s best researchers wherever they are, and India is a rapidly emerging country in terms of research expertise.”

As collaboration intensifies, researchers will increasingly be moving in both directions between the two countries. Many Finnish universities additionally have their own bilateral exchange programmes, and provide practical orientation services to help foreign researchers settle in quickly.

New uses for carbon dioxide

Photo: Vesa-Matti VääräClick to enlarge the picture
The main fields for Indian-Finnish research collaboration include biotechnology and green chemistry.

One ongoing Indo-Finnish research project, in the field of green chemistry and jointly funded by the Academy of Finland and India’s Department of Science and Technology, revolves around devising new ways to utilise carbon dioxide in novel catalytic processes to synthesise valuable carbon-based chemicals for use as fuels or in other chemical and industrial applications.

The project’s co-leader, Professor Riitta Keiski from the University of Oulu, stresses that environmental and economic sustainability are crucial to the project. “The project matches India’s expertise in material science and the development of catalysts with Finland’s desire to help industrial companies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and related costs by using carbon dioxide to create useful products,” she says.

“Collaboration with our partners from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai on drafting our joint research plan went very smoothly, and joint research has started well with responsibilities shared effectively,” explains Keiski. “To promote the exchange of technical expertise we aim to have several researchers moving each way during the three-year project. Though they may be daunted by the need to cope with great differences in culture – and weather – young researchers from both Finland and India are keen to gain experience of working together in each other’s countries.”

“Such collaboration opens up gates to the world for Finnish research, and our industrial partners with their own units in India are also very interested in these connections,” Keiski adds.

Interest in Finnish water expertise

Photo: Tekes
Click to enlarge
Indo-Finnish cooperation is bringing together research expertise and laboratory facilities from two countries whose strengths are often complementary.

Another vital area where the Academy of Finland wants to support Indo-Finnish research networking is water technologies. “Finland especially has expertise on drinking water purification and wastewater treatment, and there is huge demand for such knowledge in India,” explains Roos. “India’s science and technology policy aims to increase India’s knowledge base in such key areas by enabling Indian research talents to collaborate with researchers from countries like Finland.”

The Academy of Finland is one of several Finnish organisations involved in a major EU campaign touring 27 Indian cities during June 2011 to promote international collaborative research.

Links:

Research collaboration with India at the Academy of Finland
EU research collaboration campaign roadshow in India, June 2011

 

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