Exeter's Impact in India

Faculty at Exeter work with counterparts around the world on some of the major challenges facing the international community today, advising policy makers and helping devise strategies to meet these issues head on.  Many of these projects are undertaken with Indian faculty, or they have particular relevance for India.

Predicting the India Monsoon

The Indian summer monsoon provides about 80% of annual rainfall to around a billion people in South Asia, yet variations in its timing, intensity and duration have a dramatic impact on societies.  A team of UK and Indian scientists, led by Professor Matthew Collins in Exeter's College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, are investigating new methods to predict monsoon rains across the region.

The project, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), brings together scientists from Exeter, the UK Met Office and the University of Reading, and counterparts in India from IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IITM-Pune, IMD Delhi, the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting and the Indian Centre for Climate and Societal Impacts Research in Gujarat.

The climate in the South Asian region is influenced by the weather in the Indian and remote ocean basins, via what are known as teleconnections (remote connections).  Teleconnections emerge from phenomena such as El Nino - a kind of gigantic ocean weather system that occurs every 2-8 years in the tropical Pacific.  Tiny aerosol particles are also key components of the South Asian atmosphere due to the prevalence of cooking fires over the Indo-Gangetic Plain and dust blown from local and remote deserts.

Matthew says, 'It remains a considerable challenge to predict seasonal, decadal and longer-term changes in the South Asian monsoon.  This research brings together UK and Indian scientists to make progress in understanding what affects the South Asian monsoon on different time scales.  Key tools are new climate models that simulate the interactions between the different teleconnections and aerosols and new observations, especially those from satellites.  The ultimate goal of the project is to improve predictive capability and to therefore potentially improve the lives of those people affected by monsoon rains.'

Advising the Indian Government on Climate Change

University of Exeter geographer Dr Stephan Harrison has been advising the Indian government on the links between climate change and national security.  Stephan visited Delhi last year to present a paper entitled Climate Change: Implications for Future Security to India's leading military think-tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.  The audience included the Heads of the Indian Army and Air Force, the Indian Defence Minister and military experts from China, Japan, Pakistan, Australia, Poland and the United States.

According to Stephen: 'The impact of climate change on India may well be felt by increased variability in the monsoon and by changes in runoff from the Himalaya and Tibet.  These will affect millions of people on the sub-continent and provide the impetus for future conflict and social instability'.

Mitigating Food Price Inflation in India

Professor Steve McCorriston of the University of Exeter Business School has been working with researchers and policy makers in India for the last three years on food pricing issues and market reforms.  The project involves a tri-partite arrangement between Exeter, academics from Australia (the universities of Melbourne and Monash), and the National Centre for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) based in New Delhi.  The project has received over AS$500,000 worth of funding from the Australian government.

The project focused on market reforms in the food sector with particular emphasis on the role played by the Food Corporation of India, the central state agency responsible for promoting food security and managing trade throughout India.  The research takes novel approaches to dealing with deregulation issues and is targeted at senior policy makers in the Indian government with a view to providing an in-depth analysis of the options for reform in the Indian agricultural sector.

Steve says: 'With food price inflation recently running at high levels, with millions of the poor and most vulnerable being food insecure, where the costs to the Indian government having increased substantially in recent years and the ineffectiveness of current policy interventions all too transparent, providing appropriate analysis that addresses the real politik of policy reform and deregulation in Indian agriculture, is a challenging task for economists to address and where the research directly matters to policy makers.'

The Origins of Iron and Steel in India

A team of Exeter staff and students, led by Dr Gill Juleff of the Department of Archaeology, are part of a project to study the origins of high carbon steel-making in the southern Indian sub-continent.  Funded by the prestigious and highly competitive UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), the 'Pioneering Metallurgy' project is a joint venture between Exeter and scientists at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore.

Criss-crossing the arid landscape of Northern Telangana, the team has explored and recorded archaeological sites where iron and steel were produced over the last two millennia.  The area is renowned for the specialised production of crucible steel, sometimes called wootz, a material used in the manufacture of the fabled swords of Damascus.  Islamic merchants and European travellers of the 18th and 19th century describe the area as one of the principal sources of wootz steel.

According to Gill, 'While a great deal is know about wootz as a high quality material for making weapons, the underpinning indigenous metallurgical traditions and technologies from which this remarkable material emerged have not been studied.  Our aim is to try to unravel both the chronological origins of iron smelting in the region and its technological development.  To do this we are examining and recording sites where iron has been smelted from local ores.  This means visiting rural villages and exploring forest areas to identify heaps of slag waste left by these processes.'  The team has also interviewed traditional blacksmiths and the descendants of the last smelters of the region to record their memories.

Understanding TATA

A book by Morgen Witzel, a senior fellow at the University of Exeter Business School, recently entered the non-fiction best seller list in India.  Entitled TATA, The Evolution of a Corporate Brand, the book tells the story of the development of the Tata brand as the company expands its global footprint.

Tata generates at least 60% of it's income outside of India and is active in many different markets including steel, cars and chemicals.  Its UK companies include Tetley Tea, Jaguar Land Rover, Corus and the chemical company Brunner Mond.

Commenting on his interest in the company that led to the book Morgen said 'Tata is not only one of India's power houses but has had a very interesting past.  For example, the company has only had five chairmen in 140 years and so provides a very different model to that of Western business.  In addition, it has a long history of involvement with social causes, something that stretches right back to its foundation in the 1860s.  Tata Sons, the parent company of the group, is two-thirds owned by charitable trusts and gives away millions every year to hospitals, schools and community projects.'

On publication the book attracted significant interest from the Indian media and Morgen undertook numerous press and television interviews: 'The level of interest in the book has been phenomenal and completely taken me by surprise.  I was amazed to discover that the first print run sold out in threes weeks after launch' he says.

Indian Dance and Drama

The Department of Drama at the University of Exeter possess a striking range of international practitioners, training models, and critical theorists.  India dance and drama is at the heart of its teaching and research, informing the work of Professor Graham Ley, Dr Jerri Daboo and, in particular, Professor Philip Zarrilli.

Philip worked in India for 7 years and is the first non-Malayi 'master-teacher' of Kalarippayattu, Kerala's traditional martial art.  His kalari in the UK is the first non-Indian kalari to be recognised outside of India, and he published the first major ethnography on kalarippayattu, When the Body Becomes all Eyes, now in its 14th print run.

Philip's interests extend to kathakali dance-drama and kutiyattam, where he has affiliations and regular contacts with the Kerala Kalamandalam, and other institutions where these traditional theatre/dance forms are taught.  He uses Indian techniques in training actors worldwide, and has published a book about his use of Indian traditions in training actors worldwide, and has published a book about his use of Indian traditions in training contemporary actors Psychophysical Acting (winner of the 2010 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Outstanding Book of the Year Award in Los Angeles).  Philip is currently planning a major professional production of a play based on Indian folk-tales.

Entrepreneurship in India

When Exeter alumnus Stewart Noakes established TCL Global - a computing software testing and training company - on the University of Exeter campus in 2000, his ambitions were on an international scale.  Based in the University's Innovation Centre, TCL Global now employs over 100 people around the world.  The company has been recognised as a Deloitte Fast 500 company and a Microsoft Tech Track 100 company.

Significantly, its largest operations are based in Bangalore where more than 60 people are currently employed.  Over the next five years, the company aims to see TCL India expand to over 300 people, with a particular focus on the needs of companies in India.

Stewart says, 'As we have grown TCL globally we have been helped greatly by the Innovation Centre and the support of the University.  This has included Alumni networks, MBA training and guidance from staff at the Business School.  As part of our vision we have a strong commitment to the future of our industry and the community in which we work.  The commitment is seen through activities such as the scholarship programme , which we run in the UK, India and the USA.  It enables Indian students with a passion for IT to be involved in a truly international internship programme and gain real world skills.'