IIT Madras Faculty showcase cutting-edge research on technologies for social impact

INN/Chennai, @infodeaofficial 

Indian Institute of Technology Madras conducted for the first time in Mumbai a ‘Technology Conclave for Social Impact’ today (10th December 2018) to showcase the pioneering work underway in the Institute in various fields.

IIT Madras faculty explained their research underway to tackle problems in water, health and sanitation besides using data science for addressing social issues during this Conclave. With the Institute having one of the top entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country, the participants were also given a briefing on how IIT Madras Incubation Cell helps students to convert their innovations to startups in deep tech.

Speaking about the Conclave, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “It is not widely appreciated that our faculty and students carry out research and technology development, and pursue innovations, that leave a fairly immediate and deep impact on society. Through this conclave, IIT Madras wishes to bring such work to the fore and develop deeper collaborations with industry, philanthropic foundations and other stake-holders so that we can bring to our people game-changing solutions to our pressing challenges.”

The event is being held in Mumbai as many of the country’s major businesses are headquartered in the city. The objective to increase IIT Madras engagements with the Mumbai-based industry in the financial capital of India.

Addressing the Conclave, Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (International and Alumni Relations), IIT Madras, said, “Thanks to the foundational work of first 40 years of IIT Madras, we are now able to undertake projects in the last 20 years that would have been unthinkable earlier. Technology is now dominating the way of life now. At IIT Madras, we have chosen not only to develop the technology prototype in-house, but we also actively look at its scalability.”

Further, Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula added, “We have faculty pursuing pure research at the global level, we have Professors who work with the industry actively and solve their day-to-day problems and Researchers working on social problems and developing solutions that are scalable. An Institute such as IIT Madras thrives on diversity of ideas and that is what is being showcased during this Conclave.”

Speaking about the IIT Madras Project on ‘Integrated Waste Management in Villages – Vichur Village Experience,’ Prof Ligy Philip, Department of Civil Engineering, and Dean (Planning), IIT Madras, said, “As the second most populated nation in the world, India generates 120 billion litres of water and 720,000 tons of waste per day. A paradigm shift is necessary, and waste should be viewed as a resource. The waste water generated at households are dumped without processing, thereby contaminating waterbodies.”

Vichoor, a panchayat with 250 residents located North of Chennai, was chosen to implement this project. Awareness programs and society-driven waste management systems were formulated, and the village volunteers were trained to man the composting/biogas plants.

Now, Prof Ligy Philip said, “Now, 1,300 kg is being generated per day at Vichoor and the compost generated from this waste is sold for Rs. 20 per kg. Many waste generated by households such as papers and plastic are now being sold to appropriate traders. The reasons behind success of this project is due to good support of the local villagers and industry showed interest in working on this project. We are also executing more projects with support from TECHNIP and Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd (CPCL).”

In a conversation between industry and academia, representatives from Virtusa and Robert Bosch, (two corporates that are already working with IIT Madras), experiences were shared and the impact such collaboration can create were discussed.

Speaking on ‘Deep tech incubation at IITM,’ Dr. Tamaswati Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer, IIT Madras Incubation Cell, said, “Some of the startups incubated by IITMIC are transforming their sectors and having a huge impact on society with starups in sectors as varied as robotics, electric vehicles, agriculture, water filtration, healthcare technology, renewable energy and air pollution. We are incubating between 40 and 60 startups every year and giving a boost to the ‘Make-In-India’ campaign.”

Highlighting the ‘Impact of Healthcare technology research on society,’ Prof Mohanasankar Sivaprakasam, Director, Healthcare Technology Innovation Centre, that has developed technologies that has found its way into four commercial products, said, “Healthcare is a very complex and multi-stake holder area, corporate CSR can be a very powerful mechanism to address the funding gaps present in the current scenario.”

Prof Sujatha Srinivasan, Head, R2d2 Laboratory, IIT Madras, spoke about ‘Addressing disability through Assistive Devices.’ Prof Ravindran, Head, Robert Bosch Center for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, IIT Madras, spoke about the ‘Impact of Data Sciences Research on Social Problems.’ Dr. Niket Kaisare, Coordinator, NPTEL, IIT Madras, spoke about ‘Empowerment through NPTEL – Education.’ Prof Indumathi Nambi, who is coordinating the national ‘Carbon Zero Challenge,’ spoke about ‘Student Innovation Enabled by CSR.’

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