The Wellcome Trust/ DBT India Alliance, funded by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, celebrated a decade of growth across an unmatched portfolio of globally competitive fellows and biomedical research projects, 12—14 November 2018.
The launch of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, 10 years ago, was a novel experiment in funding and engagement in India—one that aimed to identify the best researchers; nurture them as future leaders; and thus build excellence in biomedical research. Tracing the ten-year journey of India Alliance, shows how it has grown into a leader of science funding in India by anchoring a generous and flexible fellowship programme that supports researchers at different career levels under the tracks of basic biomedical and clinical and public health research. The scope of the fellowships offered by India Alliance ranges from high-quality basic science to clinical research and public health interventions with far-reaching translational impacts.
Over the years, the role of India Alliance has evolved from that of a funder to an influencer working towards establishing a research ecosystem of international standards in India. Its sphere of action, in addition to research funding, now includes capacity building for researchers through workshops, training researchers for leadership roles, informing science and health policy, facilitating international and interdisciplinary collaborations, improving research assessment policies, making science accessible, and bridging the gap between science and society through public engagement. This span of ten years can rightly be called a decade of discovery—discovery of the role that India Alliance will play in the Indian research enterprise in its next phase.
India Alliance celebrated this milestone year by hosting a three-day event, which was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, in the presence of the Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan, at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on 12th November 2018. The Hon’ble President of India acknowledged the pan-India reach of the fellowships supporting researchers in 93 institutions across 34 Indian cities. The Hon’ble President of India said he was happy to know that the India Alliance has designed interventions to help women researchers in science. He added that the 10th year celebration is an opportune moment for India Alliance to reflect on its achievements and draft its priorities for the future.
Dr Harsh Vardhan congratulated the partnership of the Department of Biotechnology and the Wellcome Trust for creating opportunities for clinicians of the country to participate and contribute to biomedical research.
To commemorate the tenth year, the India Alliance launched a public science talk series—The Explorer Series—that saw the participation of approximately 500 college students at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 12th November 2018. This series has been specially designed to expose and inspire the young to the excitement and value of science and will move nation-wide this year to celebrate science.
On 13th and 14th November, the India Alliance hosted an array of science talks and panel discussions on cutting-edge research and research needs in India, which featured India Alliance fellows, other experts, and representatives of both national and international organizations. The panel discussion dealt on some very pertinent topics with respect to the Indian research ecosystem: breaking boundaries between clinical and basic research, developing future leaders in Indian science, creating robust ecosystems in India, and the value of international collaborations. Dr. Mohan Agashe, actor and psychiatrist, joined in the celebrations with Ms Subhra Priyadarshini, Editor Nature India, to discuss the role of entertainment in educating the society about mental health.
Additionally, in line with the efforts of the India Alliance to empower its Fellows to make their science more accessible, a science image competition/exhibition called Stories of Science was also organized. This exhibition proved that science often generates breath-taking beauty and captivating stories.
“Since our inception, India Alliance has adapted to the needs of emerging scientific challenges. Our endeavour to establish a globally recognised research ecosystem in India uses a comprehensive approach, which includes finding the best people and empowering them with support that is flexible, generous and timely. We step into our next phase with grants that will enable large-scale, inter-disciplinary and collaborative team science projects and help establish clinical research centres—both focused on addressing India’s health challenges”, said Dr Shahid Jameel, CEO, India Alliance.
A decade is a significant milestone to have passed, and India Alliance looks forward to helping Indian science reach greater heights over the next decade and beyond.