November 30, 2004 6:00 PM PT
Redmond - Microsoft Research announced plans to establish a new research lab in Bangalore, India in January 2005. The lab, which will be led by Dr. P. Anandan, a former research manager in Redmond, will initially focus on five areas of research - multilingual systems, technologies for emerging markets, geographical information systems, and sensor networks. The new lab will help forge collaborations that Anandan initially helped to foster with India academics. These collaborations were further strengthened through the University Relations program in India, which was initiated by Microsoft in 2001, and is currently being managed by Mythreyee Ganapathy.
The relationship between Indian academics and various groups at Microsoft has been successful from the beginning. An example was the establishment of a Microsoft Lab through the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in 2001. Since then, the lab at IIT Kharagpur has hosted about 40 projects involving more than 60 students. Their projects include a communication device for cerebral palsy patients, content development for high school level social studies, and multiple projects that will support mobile frameworks. Mobile devices are important in India, because the infrastructure to support a wired environment doesn't exist and the cost to establish one is prohibitive. In addition, local power sources aren't ready to support a wired network throughout India.
"One of the unique aspects of Indian researchers is that they are tremendously concerned about the practical and social implications of their work. They're trying to solve immediate problems facing Indian society today. What is interesting is that some of these problems are universal and solutions developed by these researchers will be applicable in many other developing countries such as Brazil and Russia." said Ganapathy.
She wants the University Relations program in India to support Indian researchers and students through three major goals.
"One, we'd like to help collaborations between Microsoft Research and Indian researchers happen in a more concrete way. We build these connections through widely circulated Requests for Proposals (RFPs) which call for research in areas we feel integrate with our research labs worldwide.
"In many instances, we provide support that doesn't involve funding. We might be able to help them achieve their goals with software, or through connections with one of the researchers in our labs. Sometimes faculty members want to continue leveraging something that we funded earlier on, and it no longer needs funding, but just needs our support," said Ganapathy.
"Our second goal is to help grow the PhD student pipeline in India. This is very important to many academics in India. We will try our best to help them achieve this goal through various programs we plan to initiate for PhD students in conjunction with Microsoft Research lab in India."
The last major goal Ganapathy has is to work with universities to upgrade their curriculum and pedagogies. University Relations in India would like to help faculty members teach the state-of-the-art in computer science. In November, to support this effort, Ganapathy hosted a research seminar on the Shared Source CLI from Microsoft in Hyderabad. The seminar had guest speakers from the US, Australia and New Zealand with attendees from 25 universities in India who had an interest in compiler research.
"There hasn't been this kind of engagement before with faculty in India, it's fairly new. But it's a key goal, because we think this will help Indian students gain exposure to the latest in technology and research in computing," said Ganapathy.
" The new lab at Bangalore will help the University Relations program in India to focus on issues that are India specific, thus strengthening our ability to collaborate with the Indian researchers and to build programs that reach out to more students," concluded Ganapathy.