New partnership to advance smart-city research

A new partnership between La Trobe University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) will see TISS join two prestigious Indian universities to advance research into smart city-related projects, as part of the Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network (ASCRIN).

Founded by La Trobe University in 2019, ASCRIN brings together a network of researchers, global industry partners, government collaborators and start-ups to conduct research to solve real world problems – aiming to improve sustainability, livability and efficiency of cities and towns in the region.

TISS is joining two other prestigious Indian-based academic partners in ASCRIN – the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT-K), and Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani).

ASCRIN conducts impactful research and collaborates with industry partners on issues of global significance – including infrastructure and technology; economic development; mobility and transport; health and well-being; education; urban planning; governance and engagement; security and safety; culture and heritage; and energy, water and waste.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar AO, is in Delhi this week to host a major roundtable of industry and government stakeholders, and partner universities to discuss ASCRIN.

Professor Dewar said he was delighted that TISS would be partnering with La Trobe and other high-profile organisations in India to help solve global issues.

“Being one of India’s top institutions to study non-engineering, technology disciplines makes TISS a strong partner of choice for the ASCRIN – perfectly complementing the focus and expertise of our two other academic partners in India,” Professor Dewar said.

“Like La Trobe, TISS has a deep commitment to creating research impact, as well as social justice and inclusion, and we look forward to working together to make a difference to communities across the world.”

Mr Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary and Mission Director (Smart Cities Mission) at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India has been a supporter of ASCRIN since its launch in 2019.

“ASCRIN is an exemplary initiative that brings together top researchers, industry and government together to solve some of the most pressing challenges of urbanisation,” Mr Kumar said.

“The Government of India’s Smart City Mission is one of the largest initiatives of its kind, aiming to transform 100 diverse cities across the country – however, we cannot do this alone.

“Initiatives such as ASCRIN can bring novel solutions with the potential to impact community and industry problems in the context of rapid urbanisation,” Mr Kumar said.

Professor Shalini Bharat, Director and Vice-Chancellor at TISS, said TISS is committed to fostering partnerships aimed at meeting educational goals of a diverse set of students and supporting social research and extension work with potential to benefit people across the globe.

“This agreement with La Trobe will create new international education opportunities, as well as bridge both our organisations’ connection to global research and strengthen industry collaborations,” Professor Bharat said.

Last month, Professor Dewar met with Australian Education Minister, The Hon. Jason Clare MP, in New Delhi to cement strategically important partnerships with universities and research centres in India.

La Trobe has a long and proud history of close ties with many of India’s leading research, educational and cultural institutions – including Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre, Lady Shri Ram College, and Jindal Global Law School.

About Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is one of India’s top social science institutions to study non-engineering, technology disciplines that include post graduate degrees in Public Health, Labour, Development, Urban and Public Policy, Cities and Governance, Social Work, Climate Change, Media Studies, and Rural Development among others. Many of their graduates are first generation learners from less wealthy communities and have been active participants in revitalising local communities post disasters.

With TISS’ unique study offerings combined with their students’ lived experience of environmental and social issues in the region, this partnership will further contribute to La Trobe’s ASCRIN goals. La Trobe’s humanities and social sciences academics will now have connections to their counterpart researchers at TISS, with opportunities for collaboration with local government and industries in India and Sri Lanka.

Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network

ASCRIN, an initiative led by La Trobe, works with research focused groups, government, global industry partners and start-ups to develop solutions and evaluate implementation strategies, to improve the sustainability, livability and efficiency of Asian regions. This also includes a dedicated IIT Kanpur-La Trobe University Research Academy (ASCRIN’s node in India).

The Network currently has over 230 individual members, around 95 of which are involved in the joint research projects and supervision of PhD students across the institutions. There are 70 plus Joint PhD scholarships under ASCRIN and several externally funded research collaborations between the institutions, exploring issues like the socio-economic costs of road crashes in India, and how to make data driven quality management accessible to small dairy cooperatives in India.

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