Prof Pankaj Chandra, Vice-Chancellor, Ahmedabad University
“Today, most local problems have global solutions and vice-versa”
Recently, Ahmedabad University in partnership with University of California San Diego launched Global Executive MBA program for pharmaceutical industry professionals. With this regards, BioSpectrum talks to Prof. Pankaj Chandra, Vice Chancellor, Ahmedabad University. He was a member of two Steering Committees constituted by the Planning Commission of India for 12th Plan Development, one on higher and technical education and the other on industry. He has been involved in several startups and has also been a consultant to large Indian and multi-national firms. He also serves on the Boards of several firms and institutions. Edited experts;
Can you please throw some light on the strategic collaboration?
Ahmedabad and San Diego are both very strong centers of life sciences and pharmaceutical innovation and production. Ahmedabad University is building strong research and teaching programmes around the sector that allows interdisciplinary enquiry – one that can happen only at a multi-disciplinary university. The University of California San Diego is one of the prominent centres of research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. The Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego has exceptional examples of developing ethical and entrepreneurial leaders and enhancing qualities that demonstrate inspirational leadership. Moreover, there is a need in the pharmaceutical industry to skill employees to become innovative leaders in this very rapidly changing industry. At Ahmedabad University, we are focused on integrated problem solving and innovative leadership by strategically bringing together disciplines of management, engineering, pharmaceutics, and arts & sciences on to a singular learning platform. On the other hand, UC San Diego brings in intellectual depth by harnessing high quality education and interdisciplinary research. The partnership between Ahmedabad University and University of California San Diego is a natural collaboration of capabilities and expertise that complement each other to cater to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry, not just in India, but across the globe.
What are the fees of this program and how will this course help working professionals?
The programme will enhance the leadership skills of the working professionals, against the backdrop of changing regulatory landscape and emerging global trends in innovation and drug delivery. The programme will be led by distinguished faculty from India and abroad, who have deep understanding and expertise in leadership and management, digital and medical technology, biological and life sciences, and the pharma quality and audit systems. The programme will also help students develop excellence in strategy and leadership; align R&D and technology with commercial operations; build organizational agility; and achieve competitive advantage through sustainable growth. Most important, the programme is modular in design and professionals can continue to work and still complete the degree.
The fees for the programme is Rs 4.5 lakhs per year, inclusive of hotel stay during the residency period but exclusive of cost to travel to Ahmedabad for various residencies of the programme. To encourage more women to enhance their leadership capabilities in the sector, we provide a discount of 10% on the total fees.
What is your opinion on the industry-academia gap in the life sciences sector and what should be done to reduce it?
There are two things to be kept in mind. One, degree programmes must build on new theory while teaching how to apply. And industry must take advantage of this critical thinking approach that universities build. The problem is that there are too many poor academic institutions that do not do their teaching-learning
well and too many companies that do not use the capabilities of their academically better trained employees. And second, problems in industry or society do not often come defined as disciplinary problems – solving problems requires multiple disciplinary skills and multiple perspectives as well as experiences. Unfortunately, academia is built around silos which does not help. Ahmedabad University, for instance, has built relationships with a few select firms in the sector to engage with them when thinking about curriculum and its review, to develop programmes for working professionals, to get students to do small projects, for industry professionals to undertake masters and doctoral degrees while they are working, conduct joint research projects etc. These help academia to understand industry issues and problems more deeply and for industry to upgrade the capabilities and retain their talent. This could be a good model. One must remember that relationships are built over time by taking many small steps.
In your opinion do corporate supporting academic institutions help in students’ skill development?
Definitely. As I mentioned, engaging with corporates at the stage of curriculum design, bringing them to class, getting students to do projects, internships etc., all make students aware of the real issues, understand the processes and tools & techniques used – all of which enhances capabilities and hence employability. Internships that allow students to use state-of-art equipment also help build enduring skills.
How collaborating with a foreign university is advantageous?
Today, most local problems have global solutions and vice-versa. Moreover, as India becomes a stronger partner in global supply chains, both global companies as well as local companies will seek skills and perspectives that help them navigate the requirements of the world. This requires creating a mindset amongst students, faculty, and administrators which says that my local solutions can have global impact and that there are global best practices that can help me do things better and more
effectively or simply allow me to do more. For educational institutions, collaborations with universities abroad allow building of such mindsets. It creates diversity amongst student population which has tremendous benefits. It leads to sharing of knowledge and doing things that each individual institution would find difficult to do. It teaches new things and builds new perspectives that will help students navigate their careers better. It also allows institutions to explore, jointly, frontiers of research and solve knotty problems pooling of intellectual resources.
Many students are moving to management after studying pharmacy. In your opinion, are management professionals required more compared to technically sound people?
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is very vibrant but is also facing strong headwinds from regulatory and insurance industry globally. Moreover, the pool of drugs coming out of patent is slowly declining in the medium term. At the same time, new technologies are starting to address areas that were intractable and through different mechanisms. This calls for a different kind of strategy at the organisational level. Firms in India will have to invest more in R&D, partner more with academic institutions for early stage research and startups for quick translation while managing risks and markets globally. This requires a very different set of competencies. Domain knowledge in life sciences including mathematics & pharmaceutics when combined with managerial skills form a potent mix of abilities that will help a young manager contribute to the industry. Having said that, in a knowledge industry like pharma, highly skilled technical experts who are MD or PhD or both will be most valued as they can pick up managerial skills on the job and through various executive programmes and lead the industry.
Is Ahmedabad University in plans with collaborations with other firms or institutions apart from this?
Ahmedabad University has developed a partnership with some of the finest pharmaceutical firms in India for advancing knowledge creation especially in STEM. The Executive Global MBA in Pharmaceutical Management, is guided by an Advisory Board that comprises senior leaders from industry and academia. The initial industry members of the Board are from Torrent, Biocon, Zydus, DRL, Sanofi, Lupin, and SciVista IP. We have also developed a Pharma Collaboratory that will drive our research agenda, our programmes, and our engagement in the sector for the benefit of all firms in the industry.