media release

SFU aims to become Canada’s ‘bridge to India’

November 07, 2011

Andrew Petter and Mario Pinto are available for interviews as their travel schedules allow. To arrange an interview, please contact Dixon Tam, 778.782.8742, or Marianne Meadahl, 778.782.9017,

Backgrounder on SFU’s current India initiatives follows

Simon Fraser University wants to become Canada’s “bridge to India,” says President Andrew Petter, who is accompanying British Columbia Premier Christy Clark on a trade mission to South Asia, Nov. 8-18.

Petter will attend meetings in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chandigarh aimed at strengthening relationships with new and existing academic and industry partners in the areas of clean energy, public health, new media and business research.

“SFU has deep connections to India,” says Petter. “As Canada’s most engaged research university, we have actively sought guidance and expertise within our local South Asian community to help build a strong, scholarly bridge to India.

"We will reinforce our international network of academic and industry partners through important new collaborative research projects, co-op programs and field schools, and staff and student exchange initiatives.”

Currently six per cent of SFU’s international students are from India, and SFU students have completed 24 co-op work terms in India in the past year alone.

SFU researchers are active in a number of India-based projects, including development of a new treatment for bacteria-infected newborns and a campaign to address the critical state of cardiovascular health (see backgrounder for more).

While in India, SFU intends to sign memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with:

  • Indian Council for Cultural Relations (New Delhi): MOU provides funding for India-based professors to visit SFU and promote India-related awareness and appreciation of Indian culture. [Update: the signing of this agreement has been postponed indefinitely.]
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) IndoreFaculty at IIM and SFU currently collaborate in areas such as sustainable supply networks, market segmentation via remanufactured products and profitability of co-operatives in emerging markets. This MOU will allow the two institutions to explore additional research programs and exchanges and pursue consulting and project opportunities.
  • Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (Faridkot): Under this agreement, SFU will help expand Baba Farid’s health science programs. SFU will train faculty and offer curriculum advice to combat pressing public health issues faced by villages in northern India.
  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar: SFU and IIT are developing a joint graduate program in engineering and computing science, expected to support approximately 15 students.

Says Mario Pinto, vice-president, research at SFU: “India provides an unusual opportunity for research partnerships in the areas of clean-energy technologies, digital media and film, and bioinformatics and genomics research linked to public health. We look forward to the brain exchange between the two countries.”

Backgrounder: SFU’s India engagement

Simon Fraser University believes it is the first Canadian university with an integrated India Strategy.

Since 2006, the SFU-India Advisory Council – comprised mainly of members of British Columbia’s South Asian community – has supported a number of key initiatives, including an international cardiovascular conference and a South Asian cultural festival.

It also supports an SFU-India student mobility awards program, funded largely through an annual Diwali event hosted by SFU.

Student and faculty outreach and exchanges in India

Research knowledge mobilization in India

  • A trio of SFU graduate students is working with engineering professor Ash Parameswaran and a pair of institutes in India to create a faster way to determine the antibiotics needed to treat bacteria-infected newborns in rural India.
  • Engineering science researcher Erik Kjeang is collaborating with India’s Luminous Power Technologies to develop and commercialize products related to clean energy. Luminous, the City of Surrey and SFU agreed to the collaboration earlier this year. It will see India’s leading power-backup solutions provider set up shop in Canada.
  • Health sciences professor Scott Lear is working with educators in India and a pair of Canadian school districts to develop strategies for curbing childhood obesity in Canada and India.
  • Biomedical physiology and kinesiology professor Miriam Rosin and her research team are employing new technology tools to identify pre-cancerous mouth lesions. The condition in India is often attributed to the chewing of betel quid, a mixture of betel leaves and other ingredients. She is working to establish partnerships and funding to support a parallel program in India.
  • The SFU research group, Bioinformatics for Combating Infectious Diseases, is working with researchers in India to couple low-cost whole-genome sequencing with new genomic knowledge to speed up the development of many new, more effective antimocribial drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools.
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