“We will promote the incubation of deep scientific and technological start-ups”

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) topped the national list in the just-published Q23 (Quacquarelli Symonds) ranking of world universities for 2023, while climbing to a global rank of 155. Retaining the global highest rank in its strongest , Citations per Faculty, The Institute showed improvements in the reputation of the employer, teaching capacity and others.

But IISc is still a long way from breaking into the top 50, a goal outlined when it was elected to the Institute of Excellence with additional funding and autonomy. In an interview with Rashid Kapan from DHdirector of the institute Prof. Govindan Rangaradjan talks about the launch of an interdisciplinary B Tech in mathematics and computer science, the first postgraduate undergraduate engineering program in IISc history; research leading to tangible government policy, diversification in the medical arena, etc.

IISc is the “Institute of Eminence”, identified for additional resources and greater autonomy to develop its main strengths and break into the top 50 in the world rankings. But it is still a long way to go.

The support from the Ministry of Education through the Institute’s program for high-ranking officials has been extremely valuable in achieving some of our ambitious goals. This has allowed us to expand our educational offerings to include many new interdisciplinary doctoral and master’s programs, to improve laboratory infrastructure and student facilities, and to launch cutting-edge research in several critical and futuristic fields.

In the coming years, we will focus on building our core research strengths across all boundaries of science, engineering and medicine, developing world-class curricula, fostering translational research and promoting the incubation of deep science and technology startups.

We will also continue to carry out activities with a direct social impact, such as the training of school teachers, the dissemination of sustainable rural technologies and research in areas such as climate change, health, water management and renewable energy. At the same time, we will focus on adopting modern professional practices and comparing ourselves to international standards.

We are also constantly striving to attract and retain highly qualified researchers by providing generous start-up grants to young teachers, creating gifted presidency and young researcher positions to stimulate high-performing researchers, applying rigorous internship assessments, and improving administrative support for teaching. and students, increasing the reach and emphasizing employment inclusion.

The institute has maintained its highest global ranking of faculty citations, a QS ranking parameter that assesses the strength and impact of research. How was this achieved despite the low funding compared to the best Ivy League institutes in the world?

Since its inception, research has been central to the institute’s mandate. IISc has always encouraged its teachers to initiate and conduct cutting-edge research on an equal footing with their national and international counterparts.

The institute is constantly striving to provide the necessary support and infrastructure they need to stand out, and offers complete freedom to faculty members to pursue their research interests. IISc is particularly known for its focus on interdisciplinary research, bringing together researchers from different disciplines to work together and solve large-scale problems, as exemplified by the newly launched Quantum Technology Initiative.

In general, the Indian institutions are not doing well in translating good research into tangible actions and they remain in the dissertation documents. What can be done to change this?

At the institute, teachers are not only encouraged to engage in basic research, but also applied and translational research with a social impact. We have several mechanisms and administrative structures to help faculty members create start-ups, collaborate with industry partners in technology development, and commercialize their inventions for the benefit of society.

How much of IISc’s in-depth research in the fields of mobility, ecology and other areas influences policy decisions at the state and central government levels?

The institute has many departments and centers working directly with government agencies to provide key information on policy decisions. For example, scientists from the Center for Climate Change in Divecha work with politicians and contribute to the formulation of climate change policies at the national level.

Similarly, the Center for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning works with civilian authorities on the planning, operation, design, management and policy of transport systems in India. Several other departments and centers are also involved in work that influences policy decisions at the regional and national levels.

IISc proposed the establishment of a postgraduate medical school and a non-profit hospital with 832 beds. Why does the institute diversify its main focus areas?

IISc has a centuries-old legacy of excellence in science and engineering. Given the ongoing pandemic, we have realized that we also need to focus on clinical research for the social good, especially for the ‘next 6 billion’ people in India and other developing regions. Modern clinical trials require a fusion of science, engineering and medicine.

The addition of medical school will take advantage of our existing major strengths and lead to profound scientific and technological discoveries, inventions and innovations leading to affordable healthcare for all. With this goal in mind, we plan to establish a one-of-a-kind postgraduate medical school and 832-bed non-profit hospital called Bagchi-Parthasarathy Hospital on our Bengaluru campus.

Undergraduate students across the country are drowning in low employment potential. How can IISc take the lead in democratizing opportunities in the basic sciences, enhancing market readiness for science graduates?

A large number of young men and women enter the higher education system in India through bachelor’s colleges and universities. The quality of education they receive at the bachelor’s level has a great impact on their career aspirations. It is in this context that a few years ago the institute launched a unique four-year bachelor’s degree program (research). The novelty of this program lies in its interdisciplinary and research-focused approach, strong aroma of engineering and exposure to disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

This August we will also start an interdisciplinary B Tech program in mathematics and computers. This will be the first postgraduate undergraduate engineering program in IISc history.

The last few decades have seen phenomenal growth in mathematics related to the generation, storage, dissemination and use of information, making mathematics at the heart of emerging disciplines such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, data science and quantum computing.

The vision of the BTech program is to produce leaders who will be at the forefront of research, development and innovation in these disciplines and futuristic technologies that require deep use of mathematics, computer science and data science.

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