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New Delhi: India’s top businesses have joined forces to build a new university that will prepare students for an economy that will increasingly rely on artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data science.

Software company Mphasis Ltd and InfoEdge India, which owns stakes in Zomato and Policybazaar, and a bunch of wealthy individuals plan to open the science and technology university in Mohali, near Chandigarh in August this year.

Neeraj Aggarwal, chairman, Asia Pacific at Boston Consulting Group and co-founder of the university, said the plan is to cater to the changing needs of society in the science and technology space.

The university will focus on teaching and research in areas such as AI, robotics, cyber-physical system, data science and economics.

“We are starting in August with 750 crore in funding. While 500 crore of this is already in, an additional 250 crore will materialize before August, for which soft commitments have come," Aggarwal said in an interview.

HDFC, Axis Bank, Motilal Oswal, InfoEdge, Mphasis and Bharti Foundation have already committed funds, said Aggarwal.

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Some companies have funded or are funding through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and others are funding the project in their individual capacities. For example, Bharti Foundation has committed a corpus, and the engagement with HDFC is through its H.T. Parekh Foundation.

“InfoEdge India is with us as a corporate donor and its co-promoter, Hitesh Oberoi, is also there as a co-founder in his individual capacity," said Vineet Gupta, managing director of Jamboree Education and co-founder of the university.

Aggarwal and Gupta said some of the corporate donors may open specialized centres, and some buildings in the university are likely to be named after them.

For example, InfoEdge is expected to promote a centre for entrepreneurship. Named Plaksha, the university in Mohali is raising funds through a trust.

“An education initiative with a clear vision, backed by right people, does attract like-minded people. It’s a collective philanthropy initiative and over 60 technology entrepreneurs, corporates, HNIs from India and six other countries have joined in within two years," Gupta said.

Gupta said the university has named Rudra Pratap, deputy director and professor at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, as vice-chancellor, and is hiring faculty from top foreign universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US and Cambridge in the UK.

The research in the university will focus on addressing India’s challenges in areas such as smart agriculture, clean energy, future of mobility, human and planetary health and affordable health systems. It will “foster an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and catalyse 1,000 startups in 10 years".

Gupta said the varsity will start with four undergraduate programmes and around 250 students this year, which can be scaled up to 1,000 in two years and 8,000 students and scholars over the next eight to 10 years. “While we are starting with scholarship for 33% students, the aim is to have 50% students studying for free at the new varsity. Our funding efforts encompasses corpus for such scholarship initiatives too," Aggarwal said.

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