In the current day global practices, financial growth as well as societal development need to be integrated closely to ensure security and sustainability of the planet. To develop a deep understanding of the issues involved, industry and academia need to work together to innovate, evolve and translate technology solutions for the society. While discovery, innovation and development of various technologies have been in the domain of academia, the industry has been the prime mover for translation of these technologies into practice. Therefore, a strong need for tight engagement of the industry and academia is felt. And there emerges the role of a Research Park – a place that connects knowledge, ideas, technology, and resources all under one roof. Research Park is a space where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and collaborate to complement each other’s strengths. While the practice of having a university research park has been existent for decades internationally, India has tapped its potential only in recent years.
The IIT Bombay Research Park, also called ASPIRE, celebrated its 5th anniversary in June 2021. This article looks back at the role of the Research Park in shaping industry-academia collaborations at IIT Bombay and its promising plans ahead.
The Ministry of Education, Government of India, commissioned IIT Bombay to build a Research Park on its campus. Subsequently, in 2016, the IIT Bombay Research Park Foundation (IITBRPF) was incorporated. The Research Parks' vision is to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and research excellence through industry-academia collaboration. Modeled on the learnings from successful national and global research parks, ASPIRE is envisioned to become the nerve-center linking knowledge, expertise, and resources to boost industry-academia collaboration in India.
Companies are encouraged to set up working spaces, labs, and offices in the Research Park and benefit by leveraging the knowledge capital available at IIT Bombay. Not only this, the member companies get an opportunity to tap the growing talent of students, get access to state-of-the-art labs and the exhaustive collection of books at the IIT Bombay library. Companies can choose to collaborate with the institute through the following modes of engagement - Fellowships & Scholarships, R&D Projects, Faculty Visiting Fellowship, Endowment for a Cause, Joint Project with Third Agency, Employment Opportunities, Joint Training/ CEP Courses, Adjunct Faculty, etc.
At present, 21 companies namely, Applied Materials, Amar Chemistry, Atomberg, Bharat Forge, Ceremorphic, CTech, Everest, Google, ideaForge, igrenEnergi, Inventys, Jay Chemicals, MNST, MuRata, NanoSniff, NCIIPC, TATA Advanced Systems, Tejase Aerosense, Ubisoft, Viacom18, and Virenxia are the members of the Research Park. Of these, 12 companies have research labs set up on the campus, and nine other are Associates, wherein a company is virtually connected, need not co-locate itself, and can initiate collaborative activity with IITB. Though the Research Park is in its nascent stage, the temporary set-up at the IIT Bombay campus has resulted in several collaborations amongst the companies, the student community, and the faculty. The Park was able to initiate collaborations and garner funding of almost INR 10 crore generated through R&D collaborations in the last five years. There have been 25 joint publications, one patent registration, and 79 students have benefitted directly by getting internships and employment. While the Research Park offers many benefits for the companies, it equally helps the faculty and students in their academic pursuits.
Start-ups like Nanosniff Technologies, ideaForge, Atomberg, igrenEnergi Services & CTech have graduated from SINE, faced the market, grown tremendously, and have set up R&D facilities in the Research Park. These success stories are a testament to the fact that IIT Bombay provides a complete ecosystem to shorten the time of innovation to mature and reach the market, by working parallelly with SINE, E-Cell, and the Research Park.
The Research Park building is currently under construction and shall be operational by early 2022. This building will be a landmark structure cocooned in the flora and fauna-rich campus of IIT Bombay. It aims to be a green building on an area of 5 lakh sq. ft. About 50 companies are expected to set up their R&D labs/ centres in the Research Park in the coming two years. The structure provides all the utilities and facilities required by the industry.
The Research Park has helped establish R&D links in scientific domains that include, but are not limited to Semiconductors, Metals & Materials, Energy, Bio-technology, Chemical, Automobile, IT & Telecom. Some of the emerging technology domains that could be witnessed at the Park are Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, Healthcare, Energy, Robotics, Cyber Security, and e-mobility. Government schemes like 'Make in India' and 'Startup India' provide funding opportunities with a vision to bolster research in the country. The existing R&D interaction between industries, institutes, and the various centres of excellence will only support the Research Park stand true to its commitment to connecting industry and academia.