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Amrita University: Live-in-Labs® wins at the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards Asia  

Young woman with elderly village woman
Live-in-Labs has reached 1 million beneficiaries in rural India since it began in 2013.

Key Points

  • The Times Higher Education (THE) Awards Asia recognises excellence and innovation in higher education across the Asia-Pacific region. Live-in-Labs® was awarded for its Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Leadership. 
  • Live-in-Labs® is the university’s internship program in rural India. Participants from Amrita and 30+ international institutions form multidisciplinary teams that live in impoverished villages to find solutions for sustainable development. Since 2013, they have reached more than 1 million beneficiaries in 25 states and clocked 400,000+ hours in the field.  
  • Amma started Live-in-Labs® to foster empathy in young people and engage rural communities in their own development, thus establishing an environment where scientific progress can be used to improve the lives of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.  
3 May 2024
Main topic
Rural Development
Related topics

Amrita University has won the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Asia Award for its Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Leadership. At the heart of this recognition is the groundbreaking initiative, Live-in-Labs®, our internship program in rural India. The students live in impoverished villages across the country to collaborate with the community and find sustainable solutions for the challenges the people face in their daily lives.   

“Science and technology are rapidly advancing, but how can those improvements reach the world’s poorest and create a sustainable future for all?” said THE in bestowing the award.  

“That was the question that spurred senior leaders at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham to launch Amrita Live-in-Labs®—an initiative that takes students and staff outside their campus classrooms and laboratories and into rural communities in India.” 

Live-in-Labs® is based on a vision Amma shared with the United Nations Academic Impact Conference on Technology for Sustainable Development held in New York in 2015. As Chancellor of Amrita, she said universities should take into consideration how much society has been able to use their research to serve the lowest and most vulnerable strata of society. 

“All universities should send their students for internships in impoverished rural villages or city slums. They would be able to directly witness the problems that the poor face and listen to what the people have to say. They could then write papers about it. This would help awaken compassion in their young minds,” said Amma in her keynote address. 

Since Amma began Live-in-Labs® in 2013, Amrita Univerity has reached more than 1 million beneficiaries across 25 states. Students with more than 30 institutions from around the world have travelled to India to join. Overall, students and faculty have clocked in a monumental 400,000+ hours in the field working towards sustainable development in rural communities. 

“Amrita University is extremely honoured to be selected for our contribution to Environmental Leadership by THE Awards Asia 2024. When Amma envisioned Live-in-Labs® over a decade ago, Amrita was one of the first universities in the world to provide an opportunity for students to experience village life and codesign sustainable solutions for solving the challenges in the community,” said Dr Maneesha V Ramesh, Amrita’s Provost & Dean of Amrita School for Sustainable Futures

“The program was devised to instill compassion in the youth and empower communities through their involvement. Thereby, providing an ecosystem to translate scientific advances to uplift the villagers at the bottom of the pyramid and create a sustainable future for all. Our impact is a testament to our work, and it is a proud moment to be awarded by THE. There is more to do and we shall remain steadfast in our mission to offer sustainable solutions.” 

To name just three of Live-in-Labs® successful projects, THE cited the ricycle, a low-cost rice planting machine; a load-carrying aid for women; and compressed earth block technology for houses. They are concrete examples of how Amrita University is leading practical solutions to empower rural people, alongside alignment with the needs of our planet. 

Amrita was also the only Indian institution to receive an award this year. Judges said its “innovative efforts mobilise much of the brain power of the university in service of environmental sustainability while helping students to develop essential competencies to become sustainability stewards: empathy, humility, compassion”. 

Valuably, they continued, the program also highlighted “the power of collaboration among people from different walks of life in addressing shared challenges”. 

There is more to do and we shall remain steadfast in our mission to offer sustainable solutions.

Dr Maneesha V Ramesh, Provost, Amrita University

This esteemed recognition by THE celebrates innovation throughout Asia’s higher education institutions. Eighty finalists were in the running across 10 categories, and overall, there were 600 entries with 17 countries and territories from across the region.  

Previously, THE has also rated Amrita among the world’s top universities in its Impact Rankings. They are the only global indicators to rate universities’ progress towards the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In its 2023 assessment, THE rated Amrita 1st in India and 52nd in the world, and the work of Live-in-Labs® is one of the key components for this recognition. The rankings include 1,406 universities from 106 countries and regions. 

Live-in-Labs® has 11 thematic areas integral on the path to developing sustainable and self-reliant communities: Education; Health & Wellbeing; Energy; Water & Sanitation; Waste Management; Agriculture; Environment; Livelihood; Gender Equality; Climate Change & Risk Management; Peace, Justice & Strong Institution.   

For the 2024 Asia Awards overall, Phil Baty, THE’s Chief Global Affairs Officer, noted the “wealth” of innovation across the region.  

“We received such a flood of excellent entries that I have to emphasise that these 10 winners—chosen through a rigorous and robust judging process—are but the primus inter pares, the first among a host of quality submissions that our experts singled out,” he said. 

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