In the post-COVID-19 world, the idea of sustainable development has become more relevant to us to envisage a meaningful future for the Earth. Outlined by the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework aims to ensure economic development, better living conditions, and protection of the environment. Education, research, innovation, and infrastructural development for learning appear to be strategic components for a better living standard. Many universities worldwide came forward with their key contributions to achieving the goals.
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Sustainable Development of the United Nations summarises the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 as – “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” In short, it emphasizes developing accessible infrastructure which fosters innovation and innovations which pave the way for sustainable industrialization. The balanced dynamics of these three will further the overall vision for sustainable development.
Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), one of the leading universities in India, promotes sustainable infrastructure throughout its campus, with a strong emphasis on innovation. One of the notable features of MAHE’s innovation policy is its promotion of university ‘spin-offs.’ ‘Spin-offs’ are defined as registered ventures set up to exploit intellectual property that has originated from within the institution. These are active enterprises and were established at least three years ago. There are two types of Spin-offs, one with some institution ownership, and others are not owned by the university (or no longer owned by the university). As of now, there are 12 (twelve) such spin-offs registered with the university.
How are the MAHE spin-offs contributing to the SDG impact? Working within a university ambiance that promotes SDG goals creates a sustainable practice of innovation and infrastructural development. Further, this also sets examples for a number of new ventures in how they can implement the SDGs in their respective corporate environment. MAHE spin-offs help understand and increase knowledge and action regarding the SDGs in the corporate sector.
A viable practice of responsible research and innovation is another key to achieving sustainable development goals. MAHE’s research policy and guidelines encourage innovation and play a vital role in meeting the target set for SDG 9 to increase the number of research and development workers. The Research Income of MAHE works as an indicator here, as it signifies the number of research works sponsored and hosted by the university. The data shows considerable development in this regard.
MAHE defines its Research Income (RI) as funds from industry or other commercial bodies (not government agencies). It can come as short-term contracts or longer-term research units. These are largely outcomes of externally sponsored research. The total RI at MAHE during 2019-20 stood at INR 60,60,25,273.00 (sixty crores sixty lakhs twenty-five thousand two hundred and seventy-three). Out of the gross RI, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and management) subject areas yielded almost one-third of the total income: INR 20,17,31,229.00 (twenty crores seventeen lakhs thirty-one thousand two hundred
twenty-nine). The rest of the RI came from medicine (INR 40,42,94,044.00) and arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Along with these significant achievements, MAHE’s education and research activities support various aspects of SDG 9. Economic growth and the continued provision of health, education, and decent living standards rely on a foundation of infrastructure. The initiatives of MAHE in the fields of innovation, science, and technology are proven to be crucial to developing sustainable infrastructure and the environment.