Keeping Up With The World: Central Laboratory Facilities
Apr 09, 2018 | Mrinal Chaudhary
Research and Development work conducted in a Science and Technology Institute is the most important factor considered while judging a world-class university. Quoting Times Higher Education, key characteristics of a globally recognised university includes that the university “Has a total research income of $229,109 per academic (compared with $168,739 for a top 400 university). Publishes 43 percent of all its research papers with at least one international co-author (compared with 42 percent at a top 400 university).”
This definitely makes it clear that Indian Institutions providing better Research & Development facilities are much sought after. In a bid to provide best facilities, some Indian Institutions have gone far in setting up separate Central Research & Development Facilities which can be used by any student of the institute irrespective of branch or course. In some cases, these facilities can also be utilised by other academic institutes, companies, industrial labs & government agencies.
1. IIT BOMBAY
The institute has a completely separate body which manages and facilitates research work of the Institute, named industrial research and consultancy centre. Not only does it supervise research work in its own Institute, it also spots & nurtures opportunities for collaboration between researchers (within IITB) and their counterparts in other institutions. The research environment includes laboratories’ civil infrastructure, equipment, support staff -- both technical and administrative -- and research staff. The central facilities can be used by the Students of the Institute, Students of other Academic Institutes and Govt. or Industrial Labs or Agencies. The procedures to apply, along with fees and Sample preparation specifications are listed under each facility that is available. Everything about Central Research & facilities at IIT BOMBAY can be found here.
IIT Bombay is also setting up a Research Park to bridge the gap between Industry and academia.
2. IIT DELHI
IIT Delhi has two separate bodies to manage and facilitate Research & Development in the institute. However, the focus seems to be more towards fostering industrial tie-ups and Promoting start-ups, & commercialization of Science and Technology in the Institute for mutual benefits. FITT- Foundation for innovation & technology transfer of IIT Delhi has been recognized as a scientific & Industrial Research Organization (SIRO).It has research parks, Biotechnology Business Incubation Facility (BBIF), and Technology Business Incubator programme, all of which operate with the aim of providing facilities for product development & incubation of Start-ups, whether from IIT Delhi or other institutions. The FITT has facilitated 360+ development projects, Incubated 59 start-ups, filed 500 patents and has obtained nearly 80 technology licenses.
3. IIT GUHAWATI
IITG-Technology Incubation Centre (IITG-TIC) is registered as a Society under the Registration of Societies Act XXI of 1860. Its goal is to encourage entrepreneurial initiatives amongst the faculty and alumni of the IITG community in particular and other State or Central Government Technical Institutions of the North East. It is an opportunity to explore and implement the innovative ideas into a commercially viable product through technology startup companies. This centre facilitates interdisciplinary research with special emphasis on development and innovation of high-growth- knowledge-based-business and nurtures the indigenous products with innovative hardware/embedded designs.
Technical support, business mentoring and soft loan facility subject to availability are the key services of this centre. Spreading across an area of approximately 4000 square meters within the Technology Complex of IIT Guwahati, IITG-TIC has the adequate infrastructure for this endeavour. Currently, funds for developing basic infrastructure and soft loan facility is given by the Department of Information Technology, Govt. of India. IITG-TIC is also one of the Business Incubators approved and recognized by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Govt. of India. The Technology Development Board, under the Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, has also approved grant assistance to IITG-TIC to support Start-ups units. IITG-TIC has a Seven-member Governing Body under the Chairmanship of the Director of IIT Guwahati. A Management Council directs and administers the smooth functioning of the IITG-TIC. Currently, the Management Team of the IITG-TIC is led by a Chief Executive Officer.
NITR has instated the Central Instrumentation Facility since May 2017.It was in place with a different name and in a different form since a long time but had never been structured enough to help people harness it to its full potential. The professor in charge of the Central Instrumentation facility is Prof.Mukesh Gupta, head of the department of Biomedical Engineering. The facility currently has a virtual space instead of a physical one. The portal for CIF in the website currently has facilities for the professors to book equipment for their projects and students.A whopping 280 number of high-end equipment are under the jurisdiction of the CIF. The apex body in charge has Head of the Departments and several other professors and experts.The structure of CIF is such that each equipment has been allotted a Professor in Charge and an Operator in Charge. The equipment is divided into 3 categories:
Category 1: The equipment that cost above 50 Lakh INR and has been ordered after May 2017.
Category 2: The equipment that cost above 50 Lakh INR but has been in place since before May 2017.
Category 3: The equipment that cost less than 50 Lakh INR and is maintained by the respective departments they are housed in.
The CIF is proposed to be expanded and newer equipment’s housed in a space allotted to CIF. The CIF, just like a few other Institutes, plans to open its doors to Industries and other professionals and Academia in the upcoming months. The logistics to support the proposed infrastructure would be managed through a Portal which will be fully functional in the upcoming months. CIF was allotted a humongous budget of INR 100 Crores to procure new equipment and INR 50 Lakhs to repair old equipment in 2017. Another 50 Lakhs was sanctioned when the previously allotted budget did not suffice. As of now, a meagre amount of students are aware of the facilities CIF provides. A section of students would have preferred CIF to be completely independent of the departments, but according to Prof. Mukesh Gupta,
The route currently opted for by the institute proves beneficial in the long run as professors who are experts in handling the equipment at hand. As opposed to a centralised faculty recruited for Central facilities in other institutes, NITR has opted to harness the current faculty only, the pros and cons of which will be revealed soon.
IS IT HIGH TIME NIT ROURKELA SHOULD SET UP SUCH FACILITIES?
In recent times, the student community of NIT Rourkela has often expressed an ardent wish to have such facilities. Having faced a lot of hindrances in research or product development activities due to obsolete machinery, delay in receiving requisite permissions from different departments, and also lack of availability of time and manpower to assist the researchers and students in their pursuits. Thus the demands for similar facilities as mentioned above have gained a foothold.
In this week’s poll analysis by Monday Morning, The question that was raised was:
Should a central laboratory facility be present for high-end research equipment?
While 10% of the NITR populace said they had no opinions about it, a humongous 75% of the respondents have responded that they support the idea of having a central laboratory which streamlines the process of using the equipment and its maintenance and leads to better productivity. The student pulse clearly indicates that students of the institute have faced problems in procuring and using equipment for research. In addition, the 2018 NIRF rankings have shown that the ranking of NIT Rourkela has fallen from 12 to 15. In it, NIT Rourkela has received a score of 52.36 in Research Output and Professional Practice, which is considerably low in all respects.
In the month of August 2017, the Director had announced an ambitious project under the chairmanship of Prof. Mukesh Gupta, Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The Central Instrumentation Laboratory has been under development since and funds will be sanctioned soon for the same. Training of some personnel to monitor equipment in these labs and to assist students is an important step in setting up such facilities. Management of funds and better usage of existing infrastructure can also contribute immensely towards the improvement of R & D facilities in the Institute.
It has often been argued that such developments become feasible only with large funds. 15% of the respondents felt that such an Initiative would require a lot of capital which can be used to repair the currently defunct equipment. After analysing the results, it can be duly concluded that NITR should strive to improve the conditions of the laboratories and should also plan to implant a central research laboratory at the earliest.