Tata, UNSW to exchange ideas and personnel

TCS chief technology officer Ananth Krishnan.

Indian software services giant Tata Consulting Services has secured an alliance with University of NSW in which the two organisations will collaborate on areas of common interest such as ­machine learning, virtual reality, robotics, data analytics and cloud computing.

Under a memorandum of understanding, TCS and UNSW will exchange scholars from UNSW and there will be internships for its students at TCS’s global research facilities.

The university will also become part of TCS’s global network of academic partners, which also includes the University of Technology, Sydney and global institutions such as Columbia University, MIT and Indian Institutes of Technology.

The agreement was signed by TCS chief technology officer Ananth Krishnan and UNSW deputy vice-chancellor enterprise, Brian Boyle, in Sydney, ­coinciding with the TCS Asia-Pacific Summit.

Mr Krishnan said the pace of technology change had made it necessary to create a structured framework within which institutions pursuing different models could still engage constructively to develop solutions.

Fostering a meaningful dialogue between the commercial and the academic world, according to Mr Krishnan, was an important step in combating Australia’s perceived weakness in turning sound research into ­viable products.

“Successful commercialisation is a universal issue and I don’t think the issue has been solved anywhere,” he told The Australian.

“But universities don’t have to be innovative … their job is invention.

“Innovation is something industries need to be good at, not universities.”

TCS’s continued push to partner with educational institutions is part of what Mr Krishnan describes as the importance of a consortia-based approach, where different stakeholders can work with each other to amplify their respective strengths.

“The industries get to harness the knowledge of the academics, while universities get to see the benefits of engaging with a real problem,” he said.

Mr Krishnan pointed to the recent activity in Australia around cybersecurity — with organisations like Data 61, universities and the private sector all working together — as an example of how the consortia-model could evolve across different industry segments.

However, he warned that the alignment would take some time.

“This will require an adoption of different approaches to a ­problem but the challenge is not insurmountable,” Mr Krishnan said.

Cracking the innovation code is a big part of Mr Krishnan’s job as the technology leader of an IT behemoth like TCS, which is also doubling down on high margin digital services, analytics and artificial intelligence to mitigate the impact of subdued IT spending and greater competition on its balance sheet.

It’s a shift that Mr Krishnan said TCS had been planning for some time but he said the fundamental shift in services wasn’t just about technology.

“The big challenge for all ­organisations is to understand how we cater to self-generation,” he said.

“This is going to force every enterprise to reimagine how they connect with customers and the experience that they will deliver to them.

“It’s as much about having the right mindset as it’s about having the right technology.”

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