Columns @IndiaBioscience

Furthering research dialogue between Europe and India

Nandini Rajamani

Shahid Jameel speaks at the Opportunities in India session
Shahid Jameel speaks at the Opportunities in India session    (Photo: Samuel Caddick)

The EMBO Meeting 2015, one of the largest meetings for the life sciences in Europe, was held in Birmingham, UK, between 5-8 September 2015. Over the three days of the meeting, there were over 60 talks, including some by prominent scientists from all over the world. Apart from the scientific sessions, there were lively interactions between researchers, enterprenuers and companies in the poster and exhibit area. A contingent of scientists, funding agencies and administrators from India attended the meeting, bringing attention to the research and funding scenario in India and the current trajectory of growth.

Opportunities in life science research in India were highlighted in a 90-minute session as well as at a booth in the exhibit area; both were joint initiatives of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance and IndiaBioscience. The Indian contingent comprised of representatives from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, IISER Pune, inStem, NCBS, C-CAMP and IndiaBioscience. Funding to organise these initiatives was provided by DBT, Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, EyeStem Research Private Limited and Institute of Life Sciences, Ahmedabad University.

The Opportunities session was attended by postdoctoral scholars and PhD students of Indian origin from various parts of the UK. Most of them had left India for studies at least 5 or 10 years back, and were keen to know the current scenario of research and funding. Questions at the meeting varied from the general job application process for persons wishing to establish careers to the specifics of fellowships offered by DBT, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance.

DBT’s Meenakshi Munshi spoke about the Ramalingaswamy fellowship at the session and interacted further with potential applicants at the booth during the meeting. 80% of the applicants to the fellowship are from the USA, and only 4% are from the UK. “Maybe events like this will increase the number of applicants from UK and Europe”, she said. Suman Govil, Advisor, Human Resources, DBT, added “40% of the Indian scientific workforce is currently working outside India, and if we are able to attract even a small number of them back to India the quality of our science will improve. “

Also highlighted at the session were the impending India-Europe collaborative intiatives and greater inclusion of India in the future activities of EMBO. Anne-Marie Glynn, Head of Global Activities at EMBO, spoke about the current opportunities applicable to Indians, and the likely changes to this next year. Also present at the meeting were the EMBO Director, Maria Leptin and Deputy Director, Gerlind Wallon, who expressed enthusiasm about the proposed increase in India-Europe research exchanges and collaborations.

To facilitate greater visibility of Indian science in the international mileu, the Wellcome Trust DBT/India Alliance provided ten travel awards to researchers from India to attend the EMBO Meeting this year. The grantees included young investigators and PhD students from universities and research institutes across India. It is hoped that such targeted efforts of both Indian and European agencies will result in productive collaborations and bilateral scientific progress in the immediate future.