Opening Up New Opportunities: ISRO Space Technology Incubation Centre at NITR

Opening Up New Opportunities: ISRO Space Technology Incubation Centre at NITR

Space has been a domain that has attracted generations of intellectuals, but still, many aspects of it remain unexplored.  The never-ending fascination of space technology has a very exquisite place in the Indian scientific arena, with many firsts to its name and many scientists leaving an impeccable mark. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been the focal point of these innumerable space science achievements. An earnest attempt to enhance the scope of research and innovation in the field has been ISRO’s Space Technology Incubation Centre (S-TIC) that aims at involving more and more students and academia to it and to encourage institutes to come forward and contribute towards the continual growth of the Indian Space Programme. Motivating individuals for establishing start-ups related to space is what it further entails. 

To explore the possibility of setting up ISRO’s proposed Space Technology Incubation Centre (S-TIC) at the premier institute, a two-member team of the Capacity Building Programme Office (CBPO) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) visited NIT-Rourkela on 8th March 2021. 

CBPO associate director Jiwan Kumar Pandit and programme manager Nishank Kumar visited NIT Rourkela after ISRO expressed the desire to set up the S-TIC at the institute. They held a meeting with senior administrative officers of NIT Rourkela, which was also attended by CBPO director PV Venkatakrishnan in virtual mode. 

ISRO has set-up one Space Technology Incubation Centre in 6 regions of our Country viz. Central, East, North, North-East, South and West. In this relation, NIT Rourkela had the opportunity to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ISRO for setting up the S-TIC for the Eastern Region of our country comprising Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andaman and Nicobar.

The MoU between ISRO and NIT Rourkela was signed on 18th March 18 2021, via online mode. The MoU mentioned the opportunities that this collaboration with ISRO will provide for research & development and space start-ups. It will leave no stone unturned to offer an excellent opportunity for academia to collaborate with industries and make a significant contribution to Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan in the Space Technology sector initiated by ISRO.

NIT Rourkela will provide its state of art laboratories, facilities and expert faculties to meet these objectives. This Centre will enable start-ups to build applications and products that could be used in a future space mission and carry out research and product development in Space Technology and applications. 

Congratulating NIT Rourkela on this occasion, Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO and Secretary Department of Space, Government of India, highlighted that-

Space technology-related research and the products from the S-TIC will be utilised in future Space missions and will help nation-building through ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ in space technology and applications domain. Students and research scholars will execute real projects given by ISRO of NIT Rourkela, taking guidance from expert faculties, mentors from ISRO and relevant industries.

The project book named ‘YUKTI – Sanchita 2021’ was also released by Dr Sivan during the occasion.

It entails many pioneering research proposals open to all reputed technical institutes of the five Eastern regions, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. Faculties can be Principal Investigator (PI)(one number) and Co-PI(no limit on the number) and head Undergraduate, Postgraduate students and PhD scholars and work on these projects. It may also be an interdisciplinary venture (professors and students from different departments can work together on one particular project) or faculties from multiple institutes can collaborate too. The PI shall include the names and roll numbers of the students under them and apply by 30 April 2021. A Joint Management Committee (JMC) has been constituted that includes seven members from ISRO and four members from NIT Rourkela. The JMC will evaluate the applications, review the feasibility of proposals and budget allocation and select the teams for a project. 

If the students and faculties from other institutes want to work in labs of NIT Rourkela, they can come and carry out their research. If NIT Rourkela labs don’t have the facility, they can also reach out to ISRO and work in their advanced and state-of-art labs. The interested faculties can interact with ISRO mentors for the projects (included in Yukti Sanchita booklet). 

- Prof. Susmita Das

The projects are meant to be product or prototype oriented. The developed prototype will be evaluated by ISRO, and if found to be innovative and original, it will be jointly patented by ISRO and NIT Rourkela. The research publications will be given due importance too. 

The complete establishment of the centre will take around six months. Space has already been finalised for the same in the Golden Jubilee building. ISRO will be providing funds for the infrastructure and the institute will be supporting it. But the students and professors can start working as soon as they get consent for the project. 

ISRO has issued a lump sum Annual Grant amount of Rs. 2 crores for a period of up to two years to NIT Rourkela as seed money for setting up the STIC. The seed money would be utilised for facility augmentation to carry out the research projects and product development taken from ISRO. NIT Rourkela will provide the required infrastructure inside its academic campus.  Prof. Susmita Das will be the coordinator of the S-TIC from NIT Rourkela. The S-TIC initiative envisages attracting and nurture young academia with innovative ideas and research aptitude, motivate and support them in the field of space technology and applications, thereby developing an industry-academia ecosystem for space technology. 

Addressing the virtual meeting for signing the MoU, Prof. Animesh Biswas, Director, NIT Rourkela, said, 

I heartily thank ISRO Chairman and Director of CBPO (Capacity Building Programme Office) for selecting NIT Rourkela in the Eastern Region for setting up S-TIC. NIT Rourkela’s Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy is one among the best in the country. ISRO’s support will further enhance our research infrastructure.

Prof. Susmita Das had the following message to give: 

The opening of the S-TIC indeed envisages immense opportunities for the students and professors of NIT Rourkela to take up live projects of ISRO and gain more exposure to the industrial projects too. Space technology and application is a much sought-after area and the students with these research exposures as a base can come up with start-ups in future. Incubatees will be supported. Faculty Start-up policy will also be given a boost in near future. Technologies developed by our students may someday be a part of ISRO mission. It is certainly a landmark step for the institute.

Monday Morning congratulates the entire NIT Rourkela fraternity on such a momentous event and hopes that it will open gates for more innovations and promise a bright future for the students and the country. 

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