Representatives of the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS), MIT-India, and the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar (IIT Ropar) gathered recently for a signing ceremony to formally launch a new faculty seed fund. The seed fund will help initiate new water- and food systems-related research collaborations between faculty and research scientists from MIT and IIT Ropar. Through it, MIT will provide grants for early-stage research projects on topics primarily related to water, food, and agriculture.
“Our goal is to establish a pathway for research collaboration with IIT Ropar’s faculty and students on the world’s pressing challenges around water supply and food security. The interchange will provide MIT researchers with a direct window into the agricultural and water resources environment of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in India,” says John Lienhard, J-WAFS director and Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water at MIT.
J-WAFS promotes and supports research at MIT, with a mission to make meaningful contributions to solving the diverse challenges surrounding the world’s food and water needs. Through research funding and other activities, they support the development and deployment of effective technologies, programs and policies to address concerns stemming from population growth, climate change, urbanization, and development.
“IIT Ropar is a fast-rising research institution, already highly-ranked for research citations in India," says Lienhard. “IIT Ropar lies in one of India’s most important agricultural regions and will be an excellent partner for research around water and food.” IIT Ropar is one of eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) set up by the government of India to expand the reach and enhance the quality of technical education in India. The IITs emphasize research as a primary focus of the institution.
Director of IIT Ropar Professor Sarit K. Das, who has also served as a visiting professor at MIT in 2007 and 2011, spoke at the ceremony about the need for research to address these critical issues. “We are one of the new generation IITs, and we want a very large focus on research,” he says. “There are large problems with agriculture, with water resources, and we want this as one of our focus areas. This is where J-WAFS comes in; we decided that we must join hands together to do something.”
To provide these opportunities for joint research, J-WAFS and IIT Ropar will work with MIT-India, part of MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), to expand the outreach to MIT’s research community. “This is a natural partnership for us,” says Renee Robins, executive director of J-WAFS. “Most faculty members are aware of MISTI Global Seed Funds, and the MIT-India program has a long track record of successful international collaborations, with established infrastructure for program management and proposal review.”
“We are committed to working with our MIT colleagues through these interdisciplinary initiatives to address the research interests of our MIT community and our Indian colleagues,” says Mala Ghosh, managing director of MIT-India. “This new seed fund will create a cross-fertilization of ideas in critical areas, generate student involvement, and link the overlapping networks of J-WAFS, MIT-India, and IIT, thereby launching an even more robust and effective research environment.”
The MIT-IIT Ropar Seed Fund will become a part of the MISTI Global Seed Funds. Open to faculty and researchers from MIT and IIT Ropar who are pursuing water- and food-related research, MISTI Global Seed Funds create opportunities for international cooperation by funding early-stage collaboration between MIT researchers and their counterparts around the world. The call for proposals will open in May with a deadline in September.