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Alumni launch Rs 200-cr tech makeover for BITS

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Alumni of the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani (from left): Mr Satish Gupta, Founder, Cradle Technologies; Mr Prem Jain, Senior Vice-President, Cisco; Mr Rajendra Khare, MD, Broadcom (India); Mr Vikram Shah, MD, Talisma; Mr Gunender Kapur, Executive Director, HLL, and Mr Manoranjan Mohapatra, COO, Hughes Software Systems, at a press conference in the Capital on Friday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , March 19

THE Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani, is in for a major technological makeover as its alumni from across the globe get together to initiate two hi-tech projects that are likely to put the institution on the global technology map. It is an effort of the alumni, faculty and students to make BITS move higher on the education value chain through a "movement" christened BITSConnect.

The first initiative, The Oysters Lab (OLAB), worth over Rs 200 crore, has been put in place by the 30,000-strong BITS Alumni Association along with industry, and will embark on pioneering semiconductor research and development work in the country. It is to be the country's first campus-based VLSI design facility and is being put together by technology world leaders such as Cisco Systems and Wipro.

The aim is to transform BITS into a virtual university where "cutting-edge technology research, development and education" can take place. OLAB's two laboratories are to be in Pilani and Bangalore, with the potential of fundamental research carried out here ultimately aiding in commerce.

The second project, NEURON, worth Rs 7 crore, has been set up as a gigabit backbone that provides broadband access, IP telephony, streaming media and video conferencing facilities in student rooms, hostels, staff quarters, guest houses — in short, wires the entire BITS campuses across Pilani, Goa and Dubai.

"The project provides a major transformation on how alumni conduct themselves. We hope alumni of other institutions also take up such work. For us, it was like a global movement with a national impact. It has ignited emotions in many of us, who had left the country, and others, who were in the country but went to industry, said Mr Satish Gupta, co-founder and Senior Vice-President (Business Development), Cradle technologies Inc, who is one among a long list of BITS alumni luminaries who have been associated with the project.

"It's been hours and hours of work across a year and a half and intensive networking that has seen the project through. I have been involved in other projects where we wired campuses, but this one was different. It was a grassroots effort of bringing the alumni together, raising funds from one and all and saving every penny as we went along the job. Not a single penny was spent on overheads," informed Mr Prem Jain, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, New Business Ventures, Cisco, as he reveals that as much as half a million dollars was collected from alumni across the globe.

"This is not a one-time project. A critical mass will keep on driving it as it gives each of us a lot of internal satisfaction," said Mr Manoranjan Mohapatra, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at Hughes Software Systems.

BITS Connect sees immense future in the venture and believes that it will make a significant contributing to teaching, will step up the quality of research and last, but not the least, will keep the alumni connected, many of whom met each other physically for the first time at the unveiling.

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