Vinson Kurian

Chennai, Jan. 7

The strong national recognition and status of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) make them logical anchors for University Research Parks (URPs) as they provide leadership in every field of science and technology.

India would need 25 URPs to promote innovation and leadership, according to Prof S. Ananth, Director, IIT-Madras.

‘SCIENCE' BACKBONE

Delivering his address at the 98th Indian Science Congress at the SRM University here, Prof Ananth said the backbone of Indian higher education and science and technology is formed by its 12 science and technology institutes of national importance.

These include the seven IITs, five of which were formed soon after Independence in the 1950s, with one each being added later in 1995 and 2001. Eight more IITs and five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) have been added since 2006.

“To begin with, we need one such park associated with and set up in the vicinity of each of the 12 science and technology (S&T) institutes of national importance. In the second phase, the eight IITs and the five IISERs should be enabled to set up research parks to promote innovation and competitiveness,” Prof Ananth said.

ENABLING ENVIRONMENT

Setting up successful URPs needs an enabling policy environment, interest-free loans/grants from the Centre and free or low-rental land from the State Governments.

IIT-Madras has set up what Prof Ananth said is India's first university research park, which required nearly a decade's hard work with the cooperation of the Tamil Nadu Government and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The IIT-Madras Research Park (IITMRP) aims to create a full-fledged university-based research park in the country. It is an independent company promoted by IIT-Madras with the support of the State Government, the Union Ministry of HRD, and the IIT alumni.

By design, it is located outside the campus but within walking distance.

It is planned to have an area of 1.5 million sq ft in three phases of development to house R&D work of companies who wish to work with IIT-Madras as well as companies to be incubated therein.

The first phase has been completed and 30 companies have signed up since then, Prof Ananth said.

There are important synergies to be gained by leveraging university expertise and knowledge, and by offering higher education opportunities for the park's employees.

The goal is to have some 5,000 development engineers and finishing schools for up to 5,000 engineers per year.

Some five per cent of the R&D personnel is expected to teach as adjunct faculty, while 10 per cent would register for part-time masters and Ph. D programmes.

To the extent that this and other parks can attract highly qualified individuals to R&D, India could become a ‘design house' that develops higher quality products, participate in international standards bodies and develop intellectual property rights.

To advance such goals, IITMRP will feature infrastructure for start-ups, availability of venture capital, consultancy and prototype firms in the vicinity.

Some 15 per cent of park space will be reserved for start-ups and for training companies at concessional or deferred rental.

The remaining will be rented or leased on a long-term to companies leveraging research and development partnerships with the university.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 8, 2011)
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