AMCHAM’s Tamil Nadu Chapter held a breakfast meeting on ‘How Academia and Industry Can Collaborate to Make in India and to Skill India’ on August 29th in Chennai. Mr. Balasundaram Radhakrishnan, Executive Director (Manufacturing) Chennai Vehicle Assembly and Engine Plant, Ford Motor Company, chaired the session, which featured guest speaker Prof. Dr. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. The meeting commenced with a welcome by Mr. Balasundaram Radhakrishnan, who set the tone for the meeting.
After members had introduced themselves, Mr. Balasundaram Radhakrishnan said that university-industry collaboration required careful management and could bring many benefits. These include a two-way flow of ideas: results can flow out to industry and they can also be in-bound to fuel research questions. For example, sometimes technical problems experienced at the cutting-edge of practice lead to new questions for science. He added that a combination of economic, business and technology factors have led to a steady rise in synergistic partnerships between industry and academia in India.
Dr. Bhaskar Ramamurthi began by responding to the comments made by members when they introduced their companies. He spoke of how the IIT’s in India have spurned research in many disciplines and have many patents, most of which have been commercialized. Dr. Ramamurthi said that as an administrator he spends a considerable part of his work day interviewing potential faculty. He said that the faculty at IIT have been given the freedom to pursue research and work with students to nurture them in the area of their specialization. He added that the institute has sixteen academic departments and a few advanced research centres in various disciplines of engineering and pure sciences, with nearly 100 laboratories organized in a unique pattern of functioning. A faculty of international repute, a brilliant student community, excellent technical and supporting staff and an effective administration has all contributed to the pre-eminent status of IIT Madras.
In his presentation Dr. Ramamurthi said that the 3 focus areas of research were: academic research to produce research papers for publication; translational research in the area of industry, space, defense and incubation; and transformational research which had a direct societal impact, disruptive improvement in housing, water, education, healthcare and energy. IIT Madras has over 2,000 ongoing projects, working with 500+ Indian companies, 100+ MNC’s and has filed over 195 patents. The Director said that IIT – Madras has established eight new centers of excellence, besides 15 such centers of excellence already functioning in the institute.
The Director also emphasized that IIT Madras is working with many leading companies and also has a research park to incubate startups working in diverse sectors such as auto and automotive energy, power, big data and analytics, mechanical engineering and design, telecom and networks, financial services, product engineering and design, ITES and consulting, bio medical devices, IP services, social enterprises, industry professional bodies, incubators, technology and policy, bio processes amongst others. He said that IIT Madras was open to collaborating with MNC’s and that there is space available in the IIT – Madras Research park for American companies to establish research centers.
During the interactive session the Director remarked that the role of academia is to impart knowledge and instill the quest of creativity and questioning. He added that it was the responsibility of industry to train engineers for the role they have been selected.
In conclusion Mr. Radhakrishnan said that, its high time now to reboot the India education system and joint initiatives by industry and academia would play an important part in plugging the talent gap in the years to come. Training individuals for the jobs of the future and allowing them to visualize what is possible today will not only make a difference in their lives but will enrich our communities now and for the future. The meet concluded with an insightful interactive session followed by networking.