SFU furthers ties with India

February 23, 2011

Simon Fraser University strengthened relationships and secured exciting new relationships with academic and business leaders during the City of Surrey’s recent mission to India.

Several key initiatives – two that build ties with business in India on clean energy fronts, the other, to collaborate with a new university in India – were among highlights as SFU played a prominent role in the visit.

SFU and the City of Surrey signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Luminous Power Technologies, one of India’s most advanced power companies, to support the company’s establishment of a research, development and manufacturing entity in Surrey.

It will also support a collaborative research program with SFU Surrey that will work towards developing a new generation of Luminous products, which support Surrey’s sustainability and clean energy initiatives.

At the heart of the research is technology developed by Erik Kjeang, an assistant professor in SFU’s Mechatronic Systems Engineering program in Surrey, who accompaniedNimal Rajapakse, SFU’s dean of applied science, on the trip.

Kjeang’s patented technology comprises a microfluidic fuel cell that also functions as a rechargeable battery. “This transformative technology can potentially provide clean power to millions of Indian households at relatively low cost,” he says.

The goal of the agreement is to promote a stronger sustainability sector for Surrey, particularly around clean energy.

Rakesh Malhotra, founder and CEO of Luminous, told the delegates he expects the collaborations will be an important step forward in the area of energy storage.

Rajapakse says Luminous presents a great opportunity for SFU, given their status as a leading company in India’s energy sector. He notes that the company is interested in the technology, including Kjeang’s, being developed at SFU Surrey and wants to help bring it to product development and commercialization stages.

Another agreement will see the city and SFU collaborate with Sutlej Motors, a leading Indian bus manufacturer, which also plans to establish itself in Surrey, on clean energy systems development and manufacturing. Similar ties involving research and education partnerships with SFU will also be pursued.

SFU also signed a letter of intent (LOI) with IIT Ropar, a new institution located in Punjab. The agreement will see students from the Indian institution undertake research at SFU’s Surrey campus in areas of clean energy, mechatronics and computer science.

Rajapakse says the discussions went even further, with the idea of a joint PhD program between the two institutions being raised. IIT Ropar is expected to grow to 2,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students over the next five years.

Rajapakse, who is still traveling in India with plans to visit other institutions and businesses, such as Infosys, and Kjeang, had opportunities to meet with representatives from other academic institutions, including IIT Bombay, where discussions centered on opportunities for teaching and research.

The results demonstrate the benefits of an effective partnership between a city and a research university, says SFU Surrey executive director Joanne Curry. “SFU's India Strategyas well as our Clean Energy Collaborative with the City and other local partners have advanced as a result of these agreements,” she says.

The SFU representatives on the 11-day mission were part of a contingent that included 32 delegates from 24 Surrey companies representing interests from clean energy and technology to entertainment and education.

Of further note – ties with the arts

"Each mission allows us to identify and pursue new opportunities for strategic research and educational collaborations," says Mario Pinto, vice-president, research, who has already visited India twice this year.

Joining the first leg of the mission, he pursued potential partnerships in Mumbai, dealing mainly with connections in film and performance.

He visited Whistling Woods International, the best known film and acting school in Asia that was established by renowned filmmaker Subhas Ghai, as well the film school Xavier Institute of Communications, to discuss possibilities for reciprocal student exchange.

He also met with film producer Arjun Sablok, who started his career after graduating from Langara College and is now with Yash Raj Films, one of India's top producers ofBollywood and other films. Sablok is interested in SFU's interactive media technologies and in potentially accepting SFU students for internships at film shoots in India or in BC.

Discussions were also held about setting up an acting school at SFU Surrey with the Anupam Kher Company, India's most sought-after acting school that is also home to theBollywood News Service and the Curtain Call Company, a producer of commercial films, TV serials, and documentaries.

Erik Kjeang, 778.782.8791; ekjeang@sfu.ca
Nimal Rajapaske (returns from India Feb. 28) 778.782.3826; rajapakse@sfu.ca
Joanne Curry (is away until mid-March) 778.782.7475; joannec@sfu.ca
Mario Pinto (also away until Feb. 28) 778.782.4152; bpinto@sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210; marianne_meadahl@sfu.ca

Story credit/SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations