Rice University and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on investing resources and research in the development of energy solutions, materials and sustainable technologies.
The agreement will enable collaborative research and residencies for faculty, staff and undergraduate and postgraduate students at both institutions.
“This is a key relationship in our new partnership strategy for international engagement and impact,” Rice President David Leebron said. “India is one of our top priorities, and IIT Kanpur is widely acknowledged as one of the best universities in India. We’re very excited about this pathbreaking collaboration to devise solutions to the energy and environmental challenges we face.”
“With the revolution in technological advances and the world developing at a rapid rate, energy needs are going to be a significant challenge in the future, said professor and IITK Director Abhay Karandikar. “IIT Kanpur and Rice University, being at the forefront of cutting-edge research in energy solutions, are in an excellent position to be steering the path for international collaborative research in this area.”
Representing Rice at the event in Kanpur were George R. Brown School of Engineering Dean Reginald DesRoches, who will become provost in July; Interim Provost and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Seiichi Matsuda; Vice President for Global and Digital Strategy Caroline Levander; Senior Fellow and Professor in the Practice Ed Emmett; Pulickel Ajayan, chair of the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering and the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering; and Satish Nagarajaiah, a professor of civil and mechanical engineering.
Elevating research achievement, building renowned graduate programs and extending Rice’s reach and impact are goals of the university’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade. The agreement with IITK is an important step in Rice’s global strategy as developed over the last year by a faculty international advisory committee led by Levander.
The center at IITK is expected to be a model for future collaborations and joins Rice Architecture Paris as part of the university’s long-term international presence. “Our goal is to develop deep and highly differentiated collaborations with a select group of international institutions, characterized by joint faculty research and student exchanges,” Levander said.
Rice and IITK hope to solve problems that require quick action for the sake of the planet, Ajayan said. Aside from the ambitious exchange, they plan to hold an annual research workshop at IITK to discuss progress on each front.
“It’s a binding force between the two institutions,” said Ajayan, who traveled to Kanpur with DesRoches last year to lay groundwork for the agreement. “IITK is a premier undergraduate institution in India and very similar to Rice in size. This is a golden opportunity, something that we’ve always wanted to do with a partner in India that seems synergistic in many ways.”
He said the agreement will establish the first collaboration of its kind in India with an American institution. “We want to have not only a physical presence but also a physical space for collaboration, including offices and laboratories,” he said.
Once the program is in place, Rice will appoint a faculty director to oversee the program and will hire local staff in India to help coordinate activities associated with the center.
Ajayan said IITK plans to develop a department focused on energy sciences. “Most of that is materials-driven,” he said. “That’s a strength at Rice, and we have counterparts working on photovoltaics, energy storage, water and other things related to energy. We think this will be a good place to start, and then we can expand collaboration to other areas.”
He noted exchanges will not be limited to science and engineering. “Students in humanities, social sciences, architecture and music would all benefit from the cultural connection,” he said. “We want to be as inclusive as possible.”