The Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur (IIT-J) is the nerve centre for major innovations taking place in the region, thanks to the cluster called the Jodhpur City Knowledge and Innovation Foundation (JCKIF) — a Section-8 company that helps with collaboration among the top notch institutions in the city.

Jodhpur has got the cluster tag due to the presence of various institutes — IIT, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, National Law University, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Ayurveda University, Footwear Design and Development Institute, ISRO, Forest Research Institute and ICMR. “We collaborate with these institutions to innovate solutions for the society,” says its Deputy Director, Sampat Raj Vadera, adding that IIT-J is serving as the nodal agency for the Jodhpur cluster.

There are five other similar clusters located at Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Bhuvaneshwar and Delhi, he explains.

Unique collaborations

IIT-J is perhaps the fastest growing among the second generations of IITs. “Through the cluster, we have projects of all sorts from basic research to mega projects and multi-agency and institution projects,” Vadera told bloncampus.

The JCKIF, a non-profit organisation, was established in March 2021, under the Companies Act, 2013, to carry out and sustain the activities of Jodhpur City Knowledge and Innovation Cluster. It is an initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India on the recommendation of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council to create an Atmanirbhar Bharat through science and technology.

The cluster is doing some of the best projects right now, of which medical technology is one of them. IIT-J offers MedTech programmes in collaboration with AIIMS Jodhpur. In a first, this unique collaboration, launched last year, is integrating technology and medicine.

Sampat Raj Vadera, Deputy Director, IIT Jodhpur 

Sampat Raj Vadera, Deputy Director, IIT Jodhpur 

It is not a normal academic programme, but one where doctors and engineers are admitted to work together, to develop affordable medical technologies. The students spend six months at AIIMS to see the entire facility, patients, wards and operating theatre, and identify the deficiencies. Take, for example, the root canal treatment. How can it be done smoothly? Or, the challenges involved in fixing the cannula — a thin tube that doctors insert into a person’s body cavity — and how can it be done efficiently. While the doctors identify the problems, engineers provide the solution, and testing them will be done by doctors, explains Vadera.

Integrating medicine

Another major collaboration is the creation of AyurTech Centre of Excellence — a first-of-its-kind initiative. It is an effort by IIT-J in association with the Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Rajasthan Ayurved University, to bring together Ayurveda and tech to form a new field of ‘integrated medicine’ into the mainstream. A built-up space of 3,760 sq ft has been provided by IIT-J for the AyurTech facility for phenotyping, molecular biology, chemistry and device development, fabrication and characterisation. This space will enable capacity building in different domains of Ayurveda, increase employability, provide innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities and help in trans-disciplinary research programmes, says Vadera.

Key research areas that the centre will focus are on digital devices integrated with IoT, AI and computer vision for rapid, objective and accurate assessments of Ayurveda parameters and tailoring interventions, he explains.

It will also work on open-source platforms of drug-disease networks using a compendium of molecular signatures of drugs, medicinal plants and ayurveda-based formulations for discoveries, poly-pharmacology and repurposing and ontological frameworks, he said.

Investigators from Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Department of Chemistry at IIT-J will collaborate with doctors at the Ayurved University, University College of Ayurved and AIIMS Jodhpur, as part of AyurTech, he says.

Jodhpur is also the hub for handicrafts. The cluster is working with artisans to innovate, discuss and understand the problems, and work out solutions together, explains the deputy director.

(The writer visited IIT Jodhpur on its invitation.)