India universities’ delegation experiences UK’s version of ‘Chai pe charcha’

Birmingham : A delegation from 13 Indian universities got an exposure to the United Kingdom’s own version of what can be called “Chai pe charcha” or how to transform a tea factory into an innovation hub for small and medium enterprises.

The delegation, selected by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, spent time this week in Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences, the International Office and the Department of Enterprise Innovation and Business Engagement here.

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The visitors visited a former tea factory, where a 14 million pound grant from the UK government is transforming it into an innovation centre for solving challenges facing micro, small and medium sized enterprises, known as the SteamHouse project.

The University is managing the project by linking academic research and the arts scene in the Birmingham area of Digbeth, hoping to develop a new supply chain across the region.

The project is expected to create up to 10,000 jobs in the area.

The steamHouse project aims to promote growth and job creation by forming clusters of businesses, academics, artists and local communities, similar to that seen in the successful Tech City in Shoreditch. However, steamHouse would focus on the creative arts — rather than science and technology alone — to lead the way in solving the problems facing small businesses.

The delegation is in the UK as part of a leadership and management training programme which is being facilitated by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, with teaching taking place both in New Delhi and in the UK, according to a release issued by the University..

The visit to Birmingham City University was part of a week-long tour of UK higher education institutions by 35 senior and middle-level academic and non-academic staff from Indian universities, plus participants from the Indian Ministry for Human Resource Development.

The course is being run in partnership with the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Starting in April 2006, UKIERI has the aim of enhancing educational links between India and the UK and to set an example of best practice in international cooperation, the release states.

Professor Julian Beer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, Enterprise and Business Engagement, Birmingham City University, said the visit provides an “opportunity to share knowledge and experience” and hoped that it would result in building further institutional links with the country.

Upam Makhecha, Associate Professor, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, Indian Institute of Management Tiruchirappalli said the visit to Birmingham City University “offered a fantastic perspective on how an institution can successfully open up to position itself globally, with strong and mutually beneficial partnerships.”

Birmingham City University has a history of engagement with India and has provided education to more than 1,000 Indian students across the institution’s four Faculties. Its alumni occupy senior positions in a wide range of organisations across India including AT&T, Barclays, BBC, IBM, Mitsubishi and Tata Elxsi.

The city of Birmingham is home to nearly 65,000 residents of Indian origin.