On October 27th, 2012, the German and Indian research communities came together to inaugurate the German House for Research and Innovation, DWIH New Delhi (Deutsches Wissenschafts- und Innovationshaus-DWIH).
Several prominent names were present at the opening, including State Secretary of German Foreign Office Dr. Emily Haber, German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner, DFG President Prof Matthias Kleiner, Member of Upper House of Parliament and President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Dr. Karan Singh, and Secretary, Department of Science & Technology Dr. T. Ramasami.
The DWIH New Delhi brings 14 German institutions and organisations under one roof and will serve as a 'one-stop shop' for interested students, researchers and potential partner institutions, and disseminate information about the German higher education and research landscape and funding sources. The DWIH is being set up with a view to promote and facilitate bilateral projects in education, language, science, research and innovation.
On that occasion, the German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, stated: “Indo-German cooperation in science and technology is a defining pillar of our bilateral relationship. India and Germany maintain a highly dynamic academic exchange and a vast array of bilateral research projects to jointly develop the technologies of the future. The new German House for Research and Innovation will be a scientific hub for young talents and a landmark for innovation which benefits India as well as Germany.”
Addressing the audience, Prof. Kleiner said, “The German Research Community can be proud to have, from today, a House that will accommodate major players among the German academic, research and research funding organisations as well as representatives of a number of German universities.”
He added, “We, as the representatives of the German research community, are convinced – and here I know I speak on behalf of all 14 DWIH Consortium members – that our most important aim in the last years has been successfully achieved, namely to bring German institutions to India in order to support German researchers in collaborating with Indian colleagues.”
Outlining the importance of research and education ties between Germany and India, Dr. Emily Haber said, “In higher education and comprehensive scientific cooperation, Germany and India have developed a degree of interaction, second only to one – the U.S.
She added, "Germany is becoming one of the first ports of call for Indian students. The number of Indian students at German universities has more than tripled since 2001… Indian researchers make up the world’s third largest community of alumni of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. And the Indo-German Science and Technology Centre in Gurgaon has evolved into a robust, widely visible pillar of German-Indian research cooperation."
The German Government, with the support of the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to intensify international cooperation, has embarked to set up the DWIH in five countries around the world. Four of these have been established in Sao Paolo (Brazil), Moscow (Russia), New York (USA) and Tokyo (Japan). The fifth is the one inaugurated in New Delhi.
Marking the inauguration of the DWIH in India, the German Embassy New Delhi and the German Research Foundation (DFG) organised a Grand Science Slam on October 27th, 2012 at one of the highlights of the “German Year in India 2011-2012”, the Indo-German Urban Mela in New Delhi. Six finalists presented their slam topics at the Indraprastha "Millennium" Park, Sarai Kale Khan.
The young finalists who presented their research were - Ms. Japleen Kaur Pasricha (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Dr. Sajad H. Ahanger (Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad), Mr. Ahan Dalal (University of Hyderabad), Mr. Bidus Kanti Das (Indian Institute Of Technology Kharagpur), Mr. Vikas Shabadi (Technische Universität Darmstadt) and Mr. Debdoot Sheet (Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur). The topics they presented included Contemporary German Pop literature: Christian Krachts “Faserland”; Uniting Boundaries and Dividing the Empire; Can a Plant Biologist make a Farmer smile?; Don’t waste a ‘waste’; Nano-electronics, Spintronics, Multiferroics; and, Ultrasonic Histology, respectively.
The call for participation was made in early September and the response was fantastic with a total of 46 applications received from leading young researchers in top institutions all over India, including University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Patna, IIT Roorkee, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, Manipal University, Anna University Chennai, Bangalore University and University of Hyderabad, among others. The Grand Science Slam also received entries from Indian researchers of prominent universities abroad such as Technical University Darmstadt, University of Oxford, University of Hohenheim-Stuttgart, Rheinische Friedrich -Wilhelms -Universität Bonn and Cluster of Excellence-South Asia Institute Heidelberg.
Slammers were invited to submit their entries from medicine/physiology, “green” life sciences, physics/mathematics, geo sciences, chemistry and process engineering, informatics and social sciences. Out of these 46 entries, an eminent Jury in Germany shortlisted the best six that got to present at the Grand Science Slam. Each slammer got five minutes to present their research in a simple, fun and creative format, which was followed by a five minutes Q&A session with the jury and the audience.
Speaking on the selection process, Dr. Torsten Fischer, Director, German Research Foundation (DFG), the official coordinator of DWIH New Delhi, says, “The quality of applications we received for this Indo-German Grand Science Slam in India has been fantastic. It reflects the potential of India’s research community and the promising future of Indo-German research collaboration. The selection was based purely on quality and relevance to area of science selected.”
Vikas Shabadi from Technische Universität Darmstadt won the eminent Jury Award, while Japleen Kaur Pasricha of Jawaharlal Nehru University won the Audience Award. Both Vikas and Japleen were felicitated by Emily Haber, State Secretary at the Federal Foreign Office, along with Prof. Matthias Kleiner, President of DFG. Japleen received a fully paid learning opportunity to work for three months in the research group of an eminent researcher in Germany. Vikas was awarded conference participation opportunities worth a matching amount, since he is already part of a research group in Germany.
Debdoot Sheet from IIT Kharagpur bagged the Fraunhofer Application Award, which was given away by Ambassador Lambah, President of Federation of Indo- German Societies in India (FIGS). Prof. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, former President of the Fraunhofer Society, stated that Debdoot is invited to Germany on a week-long exposure visit to the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Erlangen in Bavaria. This is the institute that invented the MP3 audio format, based on which many more new technologies have been developed.
Lauding the winners, Ambassador Michael Steiner said, “The inauguration of the DWIH, the Grand Science Slam and the nine day ‘science menu’ at the Indo-German Urban Mela are the best ingredients for a prosperous Indo-German science cooperation. Research and innovation needs bright young minds and interaction beyond borders. That is exactly what the DWIH, the Science Slam and the Mela are about.”
While congratulating the winners, Dr. Torsten Fischer added, “It has been an absolute joy to see such an exciting and overwhelming response to the first ever Science Slam organised under the banner of DWIH New Delhi. Selecting the best six finalists out of the nearly 50 applications was not easy, and impressing our jury in Germany to make it to this Science Slam was in itself no mean feat, so congratulations to you all. While only three of you took away the prizes, it is, at the end, research and innovation that has really won, and that is the spirit we aspire to take further with the setting up on DWIH New Delhi. From now on, we will be organising many more such events round the year to encourage more such bright young minds.”
(With inputs from German Research Foundation - DFG & German Embassy)