Industry interaction: IIT-M alumni to go Yale, Harvard way

| Updated on: Apr 15, 2015

Designed to be an integral part of the IIT ecosystem

Housed in a quiet, leafy residential neighbourhood in Chennai, the IIT Alumni Industry Interaction Centre hopes to make a splash and follow in the footsteps of similar organisations attached to reputed global universities.

There is a growing network of alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology, both within India and abroad, and it feels it is time to give back to society. The Centre describes the facility as the Club in the City while a larger space — called Hub in the Sky spread over 40,000 sq ft — will be ready in about a year, at the IIT-Madras Research Park, in a building designed by noted architect Hafeez Contractor.

Kalpathi S Suresh, President of the Centre and Chairman, Kalpathi AGS Group, belonging to the 1986 batch of IIT-Madras; Chand Das, Chief Executive, ITC – Education & Stationery Products Business, of the 1977 batch of IIT-Kanpur; S Gopal, former Managing Director, Chemplast Sanmar, an angel investor, of the 1971 batch of IIT-M; and, M Subramanian, Chief Executive Officer, Netstream Technologies Pvt Ltd, of the 1984 batch from IIT-M, talk at length of the strength of the IIT alumni network.

The idea, according to Suresh, is to emulate institutions such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge, each of which have deep alumni relationships, anchored in their alumni clubs.

The AIIC, according to him, has been designed to be an integral part of the IIT ecosystem, providing space for alumni, faculty and industry to meet, socialise, discuss ideas and take them forward.

The programmes at the centre have been designed in such a way that it will draw upon the expertise of the IITs in different parts of the country. One such, PALS — Pan-IIT Alumni Leadership Series — is a year-long programme covering about 10 engineering colleges in and around Chennai, where a panel of alumni will deliver lectures and alumni in the corporate world will organise industry visits. The alumni will talk to the engineering college students about career options. The students will also get an insight into entrepreneurship and research as career opportunities.

IIT-Madras is looking to re-position itself as an institution of higher learning — post-graduate and doctoral programmes — and not just as one that offers basic engineering degrees. Thus, by having the alumni lectures in the 10 engineering colleges, IIT-M hopes to increase the number of students enrolling for PhD programmes.

Another aspect of the programme is the industry round table that is meant to catalyse industry-academia engagement. Both industry and academia have own, independent research programmes and if the two can come together, the impact of the research will be much greater. The first of the round-tables was on the automotive industry and featured about 10 companies and each round-table can come up with a research topic that the two can collaborate on. Companies can also do sponsored research at the IIT-M and they can also sponsor their candidates for post-graduate programmes. They will thus benefit from the research as it will be of immediate use to them.

The second block at IIT-M Research Park will have two large companies — Saint-Gobain Glass India and TCS — taking space, both driven by IIT alumni. The IIT Alumni Industry Interaction Centre (AIIC) in Chennai will be the first of many similar centres in each of the IITs, all of which are likely to have research parks attached to them, modelled on the one in Chennai.

Published on April 15, 2015

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