Alden Do Rosario
The long-term impact of a research college on the economy plus some short-term gains makes an IIT in Goa a no-brainer. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are a group of twenty-three public engineering and management institutions located across India. They are considered to be among the most prestigious institutions in India for engineering and technology education and research. The IITs have been known to produce some of the best engineers in the country who go on to work in top companies and make significant contributions to the economy.
In 2014, a central government-funded IIT was allocated to Goa and began operating from a temporary campus in Farmagudi. Eight years later, Goa still struggles with creating a permanent campus, which would allow the IIT to begin operations in earnest and start flourishing.
Part of the problem is the lack of understanding about what a top research college brings to a state economy. With that in mind, let us take a look at some of the long-term and short-term effects of an IIT on the state economy.
This analysis is based on not just other colleges in India but also the top colleges in the US (having seen this effect first-hand)
The biggest long-term benefits are the effects a top college can have on the knowledge ecosystem of a state. To understand this, let us break this down into two parts:
Currently, Goa is mostly a tourism economy. With mining halted, it is safe to say Goa is all-in on the tourism front. If Goa hopes to have a chance to transform into a knowledge-based economy in the future (rather than a manufacturing-based one), a top research college is its best bet. The next 30 years are expected to be the Age of Biotech. If Goa is to have any biotech presence in the technology world, does Goa have the knowledge systems in place to be competitive in this field? For example, IIT Delhi has started investing in quantum computing. As this field takes off, will Delhi and the surrounding ecosystem benefit from it? What are Goa's investments in the technologies of the future – biotech, transportation and supercomputing?
A key aspect that is being ignored is how these colleges attract companies around them that want to collaborate. While this has started happening in India, I can see its full impact in the US where colleges like MIT and Harvard create huge collaborative ecosystems around them. Companies sprout outside these colleges, work with the research labs and go on to become multi-billion dollar enterprises (eg Moderna)
Goa just created its first biotech unicorn (aka billion-dollar company). If Goa is to create and attract more unicorns, where is the collaborative research ecosystem going to be if not at IIT Goa?
While I understand it is difficult for most people (especially politicians!) to see the forest for the trees, here are some short-term immediate benefits.
An IIT with its 5,000+ students and staff creates opportunities for locals. While these are mostly administrative jobs, it is nonetheless an opportunity that locals can compete for. In other IITs like IIT Madras, almost 60% of the administrative staff is local. If Goans compete for these jobs, similar numbers can be expected. As a side note: opportunity does not equal reservation. These are central government jobs that Goans have a unique advantage over but need to compete heavily to win job opportunities.
Anytime a college comes up, it results in inspiration for the locals. While there is no reservation for locals in an IIT, it certainly inspires students (especially female students) to strive for admission. This was clearly demonstrated at BITS Goa where the presence of Goan students in BITS increased dramatically after the institute was established in Goa. Goa used to send 1 student to BITS Pilani every 2 years in the 1990s. Now, Goa can proudly say that over 25+ students make it to the BITS system. That level of increase is unprecedented.
One can expect increased economic activity around the campus as 5,000+ students/staff will need goods and services from the local economy (eg fish, vegetables, repairmen, plumbers, etc)
With mining coming to an abrupt halt, Goans should take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a knowledge-based economy. Why now? Because if not now, then there is a real risk that Goa will transform into a manufacturing-based economy and will experience all the side effects that it entails (think coal power plants, chemical factories, etc).
(Alden Do Rosario is a Boston-based entrepreneur and investor and is currently the CEO of the user-testing platform Poll the People. Alden is the 2016 winner of the University of Massachusetts Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award from the College of Information and Computer Sciences. Alden is regularly featured as a guest speaker on entrepreneurship at the Isenberg School of Management.)