A Tale of four IITs
Part 3 : The Search for Research
After a look at demographics and academia across the four IITs, we present to you the final article of the Pan-IIT series. Here, we attempt to cover most of the parameters that shape our perception of how research-intensive and research-friendly an IIT is. Being the premier technical institutes in India, different IITs have various initiatives to inculcate the culture of research amongst the youth of the country. So let us begin by looking at the statistics, which tell us volumes about the worldwide standing of these IITs.
What do the statistics Say?
In terms of the earnings from patents, the numbers paint a grim picture as compared to the others. With a combined earning of Rs. 35.71 lakhs over the last three years (7 lakh last year), IIT Delhi’s patents have only been able to earn a nominal percentage of IIT Bombay’s average earnings of 2.20 crores and IIT Madras’s average earnings of 2.18 crores each year. IIT Kharagpur also goes hand in hand with Delhi, with a combined earning of only Rs. 49.95 lakhs over the past three years. In the status quo, IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Bombay are trudging downhill in this regard, with the earnings from patents reducing gradually over the last few years. IITM, on the other hand, has a lot of positives to take from its performance over the last few years. The institute has earned 1.85 crore from technology transfer fees and royalties during the year 2016-17. The Intellectual Property Management Cell has enabled filing of around 120 patents during the year, of which 20 are international patents, representing an increase of 20% over last year. IIT Madras surpasses all other IITs with the higher number of patent filings.
Even in terms of Sponsored Research and Consultancy Projects, IIT Delhi is not a major force to reckon with when we compare it to the other two.
- During the year 2016-17, 158 Sponsored Research Projects with a total funding of Rs. 140.21 crores and close to 370 consultancy jobs with a total value of Rs. 36.38 crores were undertaken. The average money received from the Consultancy Projects undertaken over last three years equals Rs. 41 crores while for the Research Projects, the average is Rs. 93.28 crores.
- In 2016-17, 212 ministry-sponsored projects for a total value of 326.50 crore and 565 industrial research and consultancy assignments amounting to 113.57 crore have been sanctioned at IIT Madras. This represents an all-time high in extramural research funding for the institute. The average money received from Consultancy Projects over the last three years is Rs. 71.6 crores, while that received from Research Projects is Rs. 182.02 crores.
- In 2016-17, IIT Bombay received nearly Rs. 343 crores for 631 Sponsored Projects and Rs.47 crores from a total of 706 Consultancy Projects. The average money received for consultancy services and Research Projects over the last three academic years is Rs. 37.4 crores and Rs. 257.6 crores respectively. The upside for Bombay is that, despite its unexceptional performance in Industrial consultancy in recent years, its client organizations are on the rise. IIT Delhi, on the other hand, has seen its client organizations reduce from 477 in 2014-15 to 369 in 2016-17.
- During the year 2015-2016 the Institute received 203 research projects from the Government, private and international funding agencies/enterprises for a total value of INR 102.82 Crore and 153 consultancy projects worth INR 22.68 Crore.
Total Amount Received Through Sponsored Projects (in Billion Rupees)
If we talk about the number of publications as per Scopus, world’s largest abstract and citation database, IIT Delhi has published 5792 papers in reputed journals, with nearly 1800 of them being among the Top 25% Highly Cited Papers. IIT Bombay is not far ahead with 1882 of their 6618 publications being among the Top 25% Highly Cited Papers as per Scopus. IIT Madras has a higher number of publications (5852) than IIT Delhi but their number of journals in the Top 25% Highly Cited Papers is less by 270. On the other hand, IIT Kharagpur lags behind a little with a total of 4513 publications, out of which 1271 publications are in the Top 25% Highly Cited Papers. While IIT Delhi here is at par with others, when comparing it to itself, we observe that the number of citations per publication have reduced from 5.44 in 2013 to 1.76 in 2016. This is clearly not a good indication for any individual looking to pursue research at IIT Delhi.
Number of Citations for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016
These statistics, to a large extent, fall in line with the Times Higher Education Research Index which rates IIT Bombay (37.6) almost twice as better as IIT Delhi (19.2). In terms of Citations Index, IIT Delhi leads by 0.9, the courtesy of a better Citations to Faculty Members ratio.
A look at the Research Infrastructure
For research to thrive in an institute, it is imperative that the infrastructural facilities are both formidable and diverse, in order to supplement the research initiatives. Some of the Centres and Interdisciplinary groups at these institutes offer postgraduate programmes and reflect the Institute’s multi-disciplinary approach and emphasis on staying with leading-edge technologies in its academic approaches.
- IIT Delhi has a total of 11 Multidisciplinary Centres, 4 Schools and 4 Centres of Excellence. These cover research areas ranging from Information Technology and Instrument Design to Industrial Tribology and Climate Modelling.
- IIT Bombay has 12 Centres which provide PG programmes. These include fields like Education Technology, Resources Engineering and Corrosion Engineering. 23 other Centres host a large number of sophisticated equipment and advanced facilities for carrying out R&D activities at IIT Bombay. These include specialized centres for niche and diverse fields like public policy, photovoltaics, policy studies and propulsion technologies.
IDC: Industrial Design Centre
- The exact number of multidisciplinary or specialized centres at IIT Madras was unavailable. However, we do know that it supports research in certain fields in which the other two IITs do not undertake much research. Through its Centre for Battery Engineering and Electric Vehicles, IIT Madras is taking the lead in bringing these critically important technologies to the Indian market. In addition, Decentralised Power Systems, Steel Technology, Wireless Technology, Urban Engineering and Safety of Heritage Structures are also some areas in which IIT Madras has been supported by bodies such as UNESCO, Ministry of Tamil Nadu and Govt. of India to undertake heavy research.
- IIT Kharagpur has 11 Schools and 8 centres of excellence. These offer specialisation studies in many unconventional areas. Some of these are Center for oceans, rivers and Atmosphere and Land Sciences, Cryogenic engineering centre, Rubber technology centre, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law and School of water resources.
IIT Madras’s rise as a research powerhouse can be attributed, without a doubt, to the IITM Research Park which has not only set new benchmarks for industry-academia collaborations, but has also shared its experience and helped in the setting up (or potential setting up) of similar university-based research parks in IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur. Phase-I of the Research Park is fully occupied with more than 70 companies, and 30% of the Phase-II with 0.8 million sq.ft. of built-up area that is nearly complete is already operational. Applied Materials, TCS, Ashok Leyland, Titan and BHEL are some of its major corporate clients. Applied Materials, a US-based company, has already joined the IIT-B Research Park, called ASPIRE, as the anchor client as well.
In 2016, IIT Delhi saw the Nanoscale Research Facility (NRF) being established with the support from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to support the interdisciplinary research in the area of nanoscience and nanotechnology. About one hundred and forty virtual laboratories have been set up in the IITs and some partner institutions across India under the Virtual laboratory project which is funded by MHRD and coordinated by IIT-Delhi. Students can work in these labs for free.
Some of the research activities at IIT Bombay in the Nanotechnology area are at par with some of the best institutions in the world. IIT Bombay has also been selected as one of the two institutions in the country (the other being IISc Bangalore) for setting up a ‘Centre of Excellence in Nanoelectronics’ by the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT), Government of India.
- Innovation Tower, also called the I-Tower is the next big upcoming project of IIT Kharagpur. At an estimated cost of H14 crore this tower would act as the systematic outlet of the institute helping its students and teachers produce their research outputs and in the process would promote excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship at IIT Kharagpur. i-Tower will have a total built-up area of 4714 sqm and will house several tinkering laboratories (dry and wet), workshops, research laboratories, instrumentation facilities, computation and design facilities and other regular amenities. It will house mechanical and electrical workshops and assembly facilities and laboratories for carrying out innovations and prototypes in ergonomics, packaging, biomechanics, energy modules etc. other than a state of the art management and information science lab for taking these prototypes to the market. This will also house state of the art classrooms, faculty office, seminar and conference rooms.
A glimpse of some Major Research and Entrepreneurial Initiatives
IIT Delhi :
- A new initiative ‘Faculty Interdisciplinary Research Projects (FIRP)’ with the objective of enhancing Interdisciplinary and collaborative research interest in the Institute has been undertaken. Under this scheme, 40 projects have been sanctioned in the first phase involving more than 90 Faculty members.
- “Discover and Learn Projects (1-2-3-4)” has been launched to enhance research aptitude among undergraduate students and increase the component of ‘learning by research’.
- IRD support for student startup activity in the campus is given under ‘Student Start-up Action Scheme’. The objective of this scheme is to support entrepreneurial activity by providing an environment in terms of recognition, initial seed grant and expert advice. Each of the selected projects has been given a seed grant of Rs 1 Lac. 8 Projects are selected for support under this scheme in the first phase during 2017.
- IIT Delhi also started an “Industry Day” from this academic year. Over 170 industries participated in the first ever Industry Day held at IIT Delhi on September 23, 2017. This gave an opportunity for the world to know the research that is happening at IIT Delhi.
- Under the Summer Undergraduate Research Award (SURA), undergraduate students in their second year are required to submit project proposals in association with Faculty. This allows the students to obtain an early exposure to the research world.
IIT Bombay :
- IIT Bombay tops the charts when it comes to the budget allocated for Research activities (Rs. 342.95 crores). Centre of Propulsion Technology is the key benefactor with a sanctioned budget exceeding Rs. 160 crores over a span of 5 years.
- During the year 2016-2017, the institute supported many student technical activities such as Mars Rover, Student Satellite, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) etc.
- IITB participated in the International Engineering and Technology Fair – 2017, International Engineering Sourcing Show-VI and Asia Pacific HRM Congress & National CSR Leadership Congress Meet – 2016.
- Pratham satellite designed by IIT Bombay students under the mentorship of IITB faculty and ISRO scientists was launched by ISRO on 26th September 2016 on PSLV 35 vehicle.
- The Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) is an umbrella for fostering entrepreneurship and nurturing tech start-ups at IIT Bombay. In the year 2016-17, SINE hosted 54 companies, of which, 26 new companies got incubated and 15 have graduated.
- New initiatives to promote linkages with industry include undergraduate student research internships in core industry resulting in academic credits and simplified terms for short duration visits by faculty to industry for R&D collaboration. Some major Industries which visited IITB to explore research collaborations include Bosch, Shell, Mercedes Benz, Unilever and Reliance Industries.
IIT Madras :
- ISRO-IITM Space Technology Cell joint projects is a continuing activity sponsored by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where research projects of interest to ISRO are taken up at IIT Madras. Five new projects worth Rs. 170 lakh were taken up in last 2 years.
- IIT Madras focuses extensively on its student-based technical research initiatives and projects. Team Raftar, the formula racing team, secured the overall second position in Formula Bharath 2017 out of 55 teams. Team Anveshak has worked relentlessly on their Mars Rover to become one of the few teams from India to clear the critical design review at the University Rover Competition at Utah. Team Nimbus came 2nd in India and 14th in the world in the SAE Aero Design Competition, the largest aero design competition in the world at the university level. IITMSAT is the student-led satellite initiative of IIT Madras to launch a Space-based Proton.
- IITM Incubation Centre’s pioneering efforts to support India’s start-up activities were recognized by the Department of Science and Technology’s National Award for Best Emerging Technology Business Incubator in May 2017.
- As a significant step towards enhancing and encouraging entrepreneurial thinking amongst students and faculty, IIT Madras has launched the Gopalakrishnan Deshpande Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (GDCIE) along the lines of similar Deshpande Centres functioning in a few universities in North America.
IIT Kharagpur :
- RMSOEE (Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship) being a department of entrepreneurship works in tandem with the aim of providing facilities to the entrepreneurs, with the help of STEP/TBI, TIETS and E-Cell, the different supporting agencies and numerous programs organized at IIT-Kharagpur.
- The Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) has identified IIT Kharagpur as one of its TePPOutreach cum Cluster Innovation Centre (TOCIC) for Promoting Innovations in Individuals, Start-ups and MSMEs (PRISM) scheme. Under this scheme, individual innovators are encouraged to submit their project proposals on a regular basis. The proposals are evaluated and the potential innovators are supported with individual grants.
- IIT Kharagpur is setting up a Design and Innovation Centre having a special focus on Rural Technologies with an outlay of INR 10 Crore in 3 years from MHRD. For this unique venture, IIT Kharagpur will be the Hub with four Spokes, namely IIEST Shibpur, NIT Rourkela, NIT Jamshedpur, and NIT Patna.
- The M N Faruqui Innovations Centre (MNFIC) was launched in 2014 with support from alumni. The objective of this centre was to provide tinkering facilities to students to motivate them to innovate through experimentation.
So here we come to the conclusion of this series. Throughout the series, we have compared the IITs in different aspects. All the comparisons have brought to light some good points from each institute while at the same time places where they can improve. We hope that this article finds a place in their journey towards betterment and helps these premier institutes establish themselves as the best in the world one day.
Disclaimer: The statistics used in this article have been taken from NIRF 2018 reports, IIT official websites and Annual Reports for 2016-17.