Campus & Community

Harvard establishes research alliance with Tata companies

4 min read

Six-year agreement to focus first on robotics, wearable technologies, and ‘Internet of things’

Harvard University has established a six-year, $8.4 million research alliance with a group of Tata companies including Tata Sons, Tata Communications, Tata Steel, and Jaguar Land Rover. Building on close connections between Harvard’s engineering and business Schools, the first-of-its-kind initiative adds a new leadership-development component to the University’s research partnerships.

Under an agreement coordinated by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), the collaboration will support cutting-edge research in labs across the University, while also providing professional development programs to visiting technology business leaders. The unique combination of research funding and executive education is designed to help position Harvard’s research innovations to bring the greatest benefit to the public worldwide.

“This initiative will harness the power of research that crosses traditional academic boundaries, leading to more rapid discovery and the development of new products and services that address real-world problems,” said Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber.

To accelerate the development of novel technologies and create a future generation of entrepreneurial leaders, the agreement establishes a Tata Fellowship Program at Harvard Business School (HBS). For each research project funded under the alliance, an experienced Tata employee will have the opportunity to spend up to a year in residency at Harvard in the HBS Executive Education Program. Nominated by the Tata senior leadership and subject to Executive Education admissions standards, Tata Fellows will benefit from the insight and guidance of an assigned HBS faculty mentor and gain the educational foundation to foster “intrapreneurship” within the Tata companies. They will also each collaborate with a Harvard research team to develop a commercialization plan for technologies that may arise from the funded projects.

“Harvard has highly productive strategic alliances with several industry partners that support research on campus, in disciplines such as biomedical science, materials science, and chemistry. This initiative brings a new dimension that will include new links with Harvard Business School,” Garber said. “With its strengths in both science and business, Harvard is well positioned to succeed with this creative and integrated program.”

The initial focus of the research alliance will be on robotics, wearable technologies, and the “Internet of things” (IoT), tapping into recent strides in the field of advanced materials. Over time, the scope could broaden to encompass new research areas of mutual interest. The arrangement with Tata is expected to stimulate a global exchange of ideas.

“Non-U.S. executives account for close to two-thirds of the senior business leaders in our open-enrollment programs held in our classrooms in Boston, Shanghai, and Mumbai,” said Das Narayandas, senior associate dean for HBS external relations and publishing and Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration. “Harvard Business School faculty routinely develop and lead custom programs for marquee global clients around the world, introducing business leaders to the newest innovations and research in the areas of strategic thinking, change management, and leadership, among others.”

Gopichand Katragadda, group chief technology officer for Tata Sons, said, “We are excited about forming this research collaboration between Tata and Harvard that will uniquely encompass engineering, management, and other disciplines to produce market outcomes. The Tata Group companies have pioneered products and services in diverse areas, including materials, automotive, telecommunications, and information technology. The Tata Fellows will bring deep market understanding in these areas for successful deployment of the advanced research at Harvard.”

The funded projects, which have yet to be selected, will advance scientific research in labs across the University, including at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A joint steering committee will guide the overall direction of the research alliance and approve funding for the proposed projects.

“In many ways this exciting alliance foreshadows the type of close interactions we anticipate between HBS, Harvard Paulson School, and our corporate partners as the much-anticipated Science and Engineering Complex and the enterprise research campus take shape in Allston,” said Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard’s senior associate provost and chief technology development officer. “We’re glad to be expanding Harvard’s range of corporate partnerships and eager to welcome the Tata Fellows into the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem of Cambridge and Boston.”