The Tata Centre for Development, UChicago
The Tata Centre for Development (TCD) at University of Chicago is a development accelerator that combines implementation, research and training to support ambitious interventions, evaluate new solutions, and transmit insights to key decision makers who can translate research findings and lessons from pilots into action for wider impact. This unique, integrated approach builds on the University of Chicago’s rich legacy of bringing multi-disciplinary expertise to bear on India’s most pressing socio-economic challenges. Work is concentrated in three key policy verticals — health, water and sanitation, and energy and the environment.
TCD’s model has a tri-pronged approach:
- Research: the faculty from UChicago’s economics department conduct research jointly with government and other partners to generate solutions to a wide variety of social challenges as mentioned above.
- Outreach: Academic research needs to be accessible outside the gates of academia and TCD works relentlessly to make research findings accessible to policy makers, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and the general public to build support for reform and innovation.
- Scale-up: TCD works with policy makers and social entrepreneurs across India to scale-up successful evidence-based policy innovations to achieve maximum impact.
More than 50 UChicago faculty members are currently engaged in projects across India. TCD uses an innovative approach to communicate research findings for impact, using digital, print, video, interactive media, and other tools to make the academic research broadly accessible.
These research projects are improving the quality of life for people across India in a wide range of areas such as:
- Air pollution: Launched in 2017 by the Maharashtra government, the ‘Star Ratings Programme’ is the world’s first effort to scientifically evaluate whether mandatory public disclosures can cause firms to reduce pollution. Large industrial plants are publicly rated on emissions, and these ratings are made available to the public at mpcb.info as well as through other media outlets. The project has been scaled to Jharkhand and Odisha and TCD aims to scale this programme to six other states by 2020.
- Water pollution: Many of India’s waterways are polluted posing health risks to its citizens. Using advanced, real-time monitoring, TCD researchers are helping policy makers in Delhi, Telangana, West Bengal and Brahmaputra identify possible solutions. TCD aims to launch an interactive website in 2019 to provide citizens with the first-ever national database on water quality throughout the country.
- Diabetes: TCD researchers in Tamil Nadu discovered that reminders sent through wearable devices can nudge ‘high-risk’ individuals to make smarter lifestyle choices, leading to improved health outcomes and lower medical costs. The Tamil Nadu government is looking to expand the pilot study state-wide.
- Oral cancer: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is the leading cancer among men in India. Early detection is critical for better prognosis and sharply lower costs. TCD, in partnership with the Tata Memorial Hospital, is producing and testing a low-cost saliva kit that could be deployed among high-risk populations. This combination of frontier medical research and simple technology will allow millions of people to lead longer lives.