IMPRINT India Initiative
Accelerating Innovation & Research
Since time immemorial, necessity and aspiration has always driven mankind to discover, invent or innovate through individual or collective effort. The history of human civilization is replete with examples of how mankind has derived inspiration and learned from nature to overcome various challenges and meet the basic necessities of food-shelter-survival during the stone-age to begin with, and gradually progressed by leaps and bounds to reach the modern age of security and amenities over many centuries and millennia. Undoubtedly this phenomenal development has materialized through firm determination and urge to unravel and seek the truth, learn the art and implement them in practice. Realization of translation of knowledge to useful practices has always been a slow process through decades and centuries, occasionally aided by disruptive paradigm changes brought through unexpected discovery or laboured invention, but eventually integrating them all with humanity, converging for societal benefits. Myopic views would brand these pursuits as isolated scientific, engineering or technological interventions, but needless to mention that every such endeavour, individual or collective, emerge seamlessly from certain justified motivation and eventually amalgamate into a greater cause – the needs of the humanity. In the modern era, innovative technological developments that originate from societal demands and make far reaching impact to humanity warrant far more sound foundation in scientific principles and ethical values than before, and hence, pose a much bigger challenge to formulate a strategy and roadmap to attain the desired goal.
The Science-Engineering-Technology Nexus
If science is all about ‘know-why’ (fundamental knowledge), then engineering provides the principles (‘know-how’) to convert scientific knowledge into practicable solutions and overcome challenges while technology (know-what sells) makes such development commercially viable and sustainable.
Thus, science discovers and unravels the nature through curiosity driven act or necessity inspired effort, engineering invents and replicates by applying the fundamental laws and principles. Technology ultimately innovates new practices to translate a selected few of such discoveries and inventions into useful products and processes because the society needs, demands and consumes. While scientific knowledge is universal, engineering and technology often originate from local needs and aspiration. Thus science-engineering-technology-society nexus is a continuous and complementary cycle and the backbone of the eco-system through which humanity thrives and progresses.
In the years to come, engineering and technology will pivotally be called upon to address and resolve issues of sustainability and growth ranging concerning energy, habitat, resources, environment and transportation. Our country is large and diverse. Although saints of ancient India like Kanad (600 BC) or Aryabhatta (550 AD) gave the clues on anu/paramanu (molecule/atom) and decimal system (concept of zero) to the world, India has yielded that vantage position of scientific leadership. We may demographically be a young nation, but at the same time an old civilisation with a heritage, and a legacy of innovative thought and action, of leadership in diverse fields. To usher in a technologically self reliant India a pragmatic and structured approach is needed, in particular to provide the quality engineering education and infrastructure necessary to pursue world class research and innovation for sustainable and inclusive growth.
While learning is a continuous process spanning over the entire lifetime, cumulative knowledge grows by stages from the elementary data, information or practices to the ultimate wisdom through a painstaking process supported by dedication, patience, discipline and persistence. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is now committed to create and implement an education policy, presently being inclusively and participatively evolved to transform the nation, and cater to the needs and aspirations of our citizens and country.
Adopting engineering and technology as the vehicle to addressing the societal needs and achieving national prosperity, MHRD has drafted a new and catalytic scheme called IMPacting Research INnovation and Technology or IMPRINT. IMPRINT is a first-of-its-kind Pan-IIT and IISc joint initiative to develop a (a) New Education Policy, and (b) Roadmap for Research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in selected domains needed by the country.
The ten domains represent the most important areas relevant to our country in order to enable, empower and embolden the nation for inclusive growth and self-reliance. The first phase of IMPRINT is dedicated to creating a policy document defining the scope, strategy and mandate for pursuing engineering challenges in the country and not developing a specific technological product or process. The real engineering pursuit will ensue in the second phase.
Each technology domain of IMPRINT along with the underlying themes, targets and topics embedded in them represent the immediate goals before the nation for engineering innovation and intervention. However, the principal motto remains the same for each domain: (a) to create an education policy for inculcating scientific temperament and innovation skill, and (b) to develop the research roadmap for technology preparedness. Competent manpower and robust strategy is a sure recipe to success.
Since IMPRINT is a national programme, initially steered by the IITs and IISc, ultimately the entire engineering fraternity of the nation including IITs, NITs, national academies, governmental ministries and departments, research organizations, strategic sectors, policy agencies and industry must join hands and own the collective responsibility. Given the proper commitment, no task can prove impossible.
The Domains and Coordinators of IMPRINT, steered by IIT Kanpur (as the national coordinator), are: (i) Health care: IIT Kharagpur (ii) Information and Communication Technology: IIT Kharagpur (iii) Energy: IIT Bombay (iv) Sustainable Habitat: IIT Roorkee (v) Nano-technology Hardware: IIT Bombay (vi) Water Resources and River systems: IIT Kanpur (vii) Advanced Materials: IIT Kanpur (viii) Manufacturing: IIT Madras (ix) Security and Defense: IIT Madras (x) Environmental Science and Climate Change: IISc, Bangalore
Each domain in IMPRINT is divided into themes, sub-themes, target and topics for educational orientation, research and innovation. In order to create and sustain an inclusive eco-system in science-engineering-technology-society, academia must pursue new knowledge, research organization should innovate and industry ought to absorb both knowledge and innovation to develop new technology to produce goods and services that would be both competitive and add value to ultimately serve the society and the nation. Before embarking on actual technology development, IMPRINT is designed first to map the strength and weakness in our system, define the goals, identify logical course and create a roadmap to champion the engineering targets.
The Honourable Prime Minister of India has always held the view that research shall be socially relevant. The higher educational institutions shall not remain islands of knowledge, untouched by the society around. Based on this idea, an initial brain storming deliberation was held in the RETREAT between the Human Resource Minister and leadership (Directors and Chairpersons) of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Goa on June 28-29, 2014. Intense discussion led to the resolution that India today should aspire to be a knowledge and innovation driven economy for employment generation and prosperity, and IITs and industries should join hands to solve the national challenges. Innovative research and new technology development through industry-academia partnership may pursue the following course of action:
Identify and select themes of national importance and challenge for technology development through MEGA research project which can provide complete system engineering solution and generate large scale employment Key to approach such objective is to forge formidable and effective partnership between industry and academia with mutual trust and dependence Identify domains and themes, hold wide discussion, define the scope/objective, select the partners to make a team, and pronounce the deliverables with clear roadmap and timeframe IITs must continue to pursue high-risk fundamental research of academic interest, but allow to create an eco-system that will enable the industry depend on academia for technology solutions, and even seek advice / guidance for future Closer interaction between IITs and Industry will promote entrepreneurship
As a way forward, it was decided to:
Hold thematic workshop in a relevant industry with selected invitees from IITs to define the scope, objectives, roadmap, timeframe and deliverables Develop a joint project proposal for funding from industry and government Develop a team drawn both from industry and IITs with specific work elements / targets to be handled by a specific team (of students / faculty / engineers) Create an independent monitoring team and mechanism for periodic assessment of progress as per milestones and approve next phase of work The process ahead must be simple and urgent so that industry does not lose its patience and interest
The Visitor’s Conference 2014
His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Honourable President of India, in his capacity as the Visitor to the IITs convened a Conference at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 22, 2014 with the Chairpersons and Directors of all the IITs. Both the Honorable President and Prime Minister addressed and urged the leaders to pursue excellence. While the Honrable President desired that IITs must rank among the top institutions in the world, the Honourable Prime Minister stressed upon greater need for optimum utilization of resources including young students and scholars for pursuing the engineering challenges relevant to India. Following presentations from each IIT, the afternoon was devoted to deliberations on specific themes. One of the themes presented and very intensely discussed in this conference was ‘Ten Technology Domains and Goals’ that outlined the major engineering challenges faced by the country. It unanimously emerged that engineering practices should provide solutions to the problems and challenges faced by the society and hence must carry both a global as well as local (nation-specific) charter.
Interaction with NAE-USA
In December 2014, a delegation from Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) visited Washington DC to interact with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), USA to deliberate on the theme ‘Engineering Education in the 21st Century’. The focus was on the 14 Grand Challenges defined and championed by NAE. The important outcome of this two-day event was: (a) Technology challenges are interdisciplinary, need based and seamless in nature, (b) Pursuing engineering/technology challenges can create healthy interest and motivate engineering students in India to make useful contributions, and (c) Efforts must percolate or begin from the grass root or school level by way of visit to the schools and colleges and mentoring students through projects and summer internships.
Subsequent discussion within the IIT community suggested that the engineering challenges in India must address issues like security (homeland/cyber), healthcare (rural, urban, diagnostics, water, sanitation), agriculture (productivity, storage, sensors), pedagogy (self/mass education), and energy (conventional, renewable including environment protection). India should aim to produce 10000 PhDs in these engineering domains in next 10 years. NAE-INAE collaboration may promote such initiative. Such a national program for five year with a national coordinator should be supported by DST.
As a reciprocal exercise, a joint symposium on ‘Engineering Education in the 21st Century’ was held in New Delhi on 16-17 October, 2015 under the aegis of the MHRD, Indian National Academy of Engineering (New Delhi) and National Academy of Engineering (USA). While the domains under IMPRINT bear large overlap with the fourteen Grand Challenges defined by the NAE-USA, the scope and mandate of IMPRINT is much wider and more tuned to this country for obvious reasons. Each technology domain of IMPRINT along with the underlying themes, targets and topics embedded in them represent the immediate goals before the nation for engineering innovation and intervention.
The IMPRINT Activities
MHRD issued a memo in April 2015 asking the top engineering institutions of the country to create a special initiative and address the engineering challenges focused on India. IIT Kanpur was designated as the national coordinator to lead the team IMPRINT-India comprising all IITs and IISc. As the main coordinator, IIT Kanpur organized the kick off workshop to apprise the community and launch this initiative on May 11, 2015 (Engineers’ Day). In order to pursue the twin mandates of IMPRINT (education policy and research roadmap), ten technology domains as engineering challenges or goalposts have been defined, coordinating and participating institutes with coordinators and participating scientists have been identified, and specific programmes are being developed. The second meeting of the theme/domain leaders was held through video conference on 15th July 2015 to provide suitable direction and instructions. The next workshop held at IIT Delhi on Aug 16, 2015 resolved that the first phase of IMPRINT should define the ‘gap’ between the available and desired level of manpower, technology and infrastructure in the selected domains so that the strategy, timeframe, roadmap and budget to pursue technological self reliance and leadership can be formulated in due course. Several rounds of follow up meetings over video or by actual gathering (on 15 Jul, 2 Aug, 1 Oct , 2015) allowed further deliberation and identification of Domain Coordinators and Members, selection of Institute Representatives, defining the scope, format and contents for the website, information booklet, launching of a national essay and logo contest, etc. Several domains organized their internal workshops with their own domain members to identify the themes, sub-themes, targets and topics.
The INAE-MHRD-NAE Symposium
On Oct 16-17, 2015, a joint INAE-MHRD-NAE symposium on ‘Engineering Education in the 21st Century’ was held in the India International Centre, New Delhi. Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, the honourable Human Resource Minister inaugurated and addressed the gathering as the Chief Guest. The symposium was attended by all the domain coordinators and some team members of IMPRINT along with a delegation from NAE-USA led by Professor CD Mote Jr, former President, University of Berkley and President, NAE-USA. The symposium was also addressed by the Secretary DST and Additional Secretary (HE), MHRD. The deliberations from the NAE centred on Grand Challenges, while each Coordinator of IMPRINT presented the scope, objective and mandate of IMPRINT, particularly the interventions desired with regard to engineering education and infrastructure readiness in their respective domains. It may be noted that the domains under IMPRINT bear large overlap with the fourteen Grand Challenges defined by the NAE-USA. However, the scope and mandate of IMPRINT is much wider and more tuned to this country for obvious reasons.
IMPRINT in its first phase is a policy developing initiative covering pedagogy, teaching, curriculum, technology-benchmarking and infrastructure readiness. IMPRINT is not meant only for IITs and IISc; it is a national movement providing an opportunity for the higher echelon institutes in India to integrate with all grass root level institutes, industry and organizations, mutually complement and deliver what the country demands and aspires. Policy is our immediate mandate; technology (products and processes) development and delivery will eventually follow.