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AICTE released Research Policy Framework Document (AICTE and Clarivate Analytics)

AICTE Circular | 11 July 2018 | New Delhi |
Aiming for Excellence: Pathways to Institutional Advancement through Research

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) yesterday announced the release of a research policy framework document developed in partnership with Clarivate Analytics, the company behind Web of Science, the world’s most trusted citation index. Web of Science is a publisher-independent platform which provides unrivaled coverage of papers, books, conference proceedings, datasets and patents to researchers in more than 100 countries and 7,000 academic institutions around the world. Released at the AICTE headquarters in New Delhi, the framework was developed to drive research excellence across AICTE approved academic institutions. In addition to offering best practices and guidelines, the research policy framework provides:

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament (Act 52 of 1987) under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India. AICTE as per its mission to be a true facilitator and an objective regulator has initiated several initiatives with focus on planned and coordinated development of technical education in the country. AICTE has always encouraged academic excellence in academic institutions. AICTE has a vision to improve the standards of technical education and to provide competent technical manpower for the nation. In this endeavor AICTE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Clarivate Analytics on 25thApril, 2017. Clarivate Analytics is one of the world’s largest providers of intellectual property and scientific information, decision support tools, and services. Clarivate Analytics is well-known for brands that include Web of Science, EndNote, Derwent Innovation, Derwent World Patents Index, Cortellis, and Converis among others.The AICTE-Clarivate Analytics collaboration aims to drive research as an integral component of academic excellence. Clarivate Analytics with AICTE has developed this research policy framework document ‘‘Aiming for Excellence: Pathways to Institutional Advancement through Research’ to help AICTE approved academic Institutions to increase awareness of research and develop a strong research program. AICTE encourages that this policy document may be adopted by the AICTE approved institutions as it would enable institutions to develop short term and long term research program plans, put in place infrastructure to enable research, and establish governance mechanisms to promote and strengthen research.
Research experiences enrich an institution in many ways. First, teachers who engage in research can integrate their experience in the classroom: instead of rote learning an instructor can challenge students to grapple with fundamental questions and problems as researchers do. In such an environment, students report more interest in their coursework and more confidence in their teachers. Second, instilling a research culture improves the institutional environment for all, not only students, and signals high aspirations and a seriousness of purpose of the institution. Third, research requires infrastructure,including modern facilities, equipment, and supplies, so establishing research activities means improving the physical condition of an institution. Doing this requires funding but once established a vibrant program of research can attract support from government, industry, and private sources, a fourth benefit. Fifth, research builds and burnishes the reputation of an institution, attracting superior students and faculty. Not only are faculty drawn to such an institution but they are more likely to remain, which is important because retention of talented instructors and researchers contributes to sustaining excellence. Sixth, a research program opens up possibilities for collaboration, locally, regionally, and globally. These connections raise the profile of an institution and create opportunities for advancement of many kinds, including associations with industrial firms that are nowadays an increasingly important partner in higher education initiatives.These are only a few of the benefits of establishing, maintaining, and extending a program of research at an institution of higher education.
This document describes steps along the road to a robust research program within an institution. It focuses on key considerations, including the necessity of careful, evidence-based planning, both short- and long-term; building human capital,resources and funding, and fashioning collaborations, institution to institution, people to people, and across sectors; ensuring governance mechanisms to track and promote the institution’s research program, including both qualitative and quantitative assessment; and, establishing an enduring system of continuous improvement, with feedback channels across all departments and dimensions of the institution. Click here to View /  download the Research Policy Framework Document document, 28 pages, pdf

Need for patent search awareness stressed

TelanganaToday  |   5th Jul 2018 |

Visakhapatnam: Though India ranks fifth in the globe in terms of research publications, it is way behind with a poor 52nd position in Global Patent Index which shows there is dire need for creating awareness on patent search and filing methodologies among researchers and Start-up communities, according to Chairman and Managing Director of National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) H Purushotham. He was speaking at the inaugural function of a two-day advanced training and workshop on ‘Patent search’ which is being jointly organized by NRDC-Technology and Innovation Support Center in collaboration with Andhra Pradesh Innovation Society (APIS), Govt. Of AP., Visakhapatnam, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Cell for IPR Promotions & Management (CIPAM) under the Department of Industrial policy and Promotion (DIPP), Govt. of India.

The initiative taken by NRDC, WIPO, CIPAM and APIS would facilitate creating awareness about Patenting in the country, he stated. Mr. Andrew Czajkowski, Head, ITSS, WIPO, Mr. B. K. Sahu, Manager and In-charge, NRDC-TISC & IPFC, Visakhapatnam, Prof. V. Valli Kumari, CEO, APIS, Dr. V. Keasava Rao, Vice-Chancellor, Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (DSNLU), Dr. Anitha Rao, Director, DSNLU, Dr. Muttyalu Naidu, Vice-Chancellor, Adikavi Nannaya University (AKNU), Dr. KVS N Raju, Vice-Principal, Sagi Ramakrishnam Raju Engineering College (SRKREC) and other dignitaries attended. NRDC-TISC has entered into Memorandums of Agreements for commercializing IP’s and technologies with three Universities–DSNLU located at Sabbavaram in Visakhapatnam, AKNU at Rajahmundry, and SRKREC at Bhimavaram and Kakinada. NRDC is engaged to broaden and strengthen the technology resource base by fostering long-term relationships with R&D organization, MSME’s, PSUs, academia, technical organizations, industries and also individual inventors. The MoA was signed and exchanged in between Dr. H. Purushotham on behalf of NRDC and Dr. V. Kesava Rao, Dr.Muttyalu Naidu and Dr. K. V. S. N. Raju.

This MoA will provide expert services in IPR management, Technology Transfer, training, Techno-commercial evaluation of technologies developed by faculties/students, linkages with research funding agencies, linking to Startup India Mission and other relevant services. The resource persons were represented from CIPAM & TISC and other Government of India organizations. This workshop was aimed to present in-depth knowledge on various IP search databases and enable navigation steps of searching for patent literature for finding out the state of the art of technologies. The programme highlighted the key concepts on patent search, providing visibility on various prominent Search Tools and Strategies. More than 130 participants have taken part from various MSMEs, Start-ups, Industries, Universities, Research institutes, Academia and other prospective entrepreneurs. – Courtesy

Interested and relevant stakeholders may view live video training workshop sessions ( Duration 2:46:30) on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIkJGwc0DdI

Nissan sets up first global digital hub in Kerala, India, to hire 500 this fiscal

The Economic Times |  PTI |   Jun 29, 2018 |

It will focus on digitisation of Nissan’s current manufacturing and engineering capabilities and enhancing customer experience to take it to the next level

Japanese auto major Nissan Motor Co today said it is establishing its first global centre for digital operations in India and will hire around 500 people for the same by the end of this fiscal.  The Nissan Digital Hub, to be set up in Kerala, will be followed by a number of software and information technology development centres in Asia, Europe and North America, the company said.  The Kerala centre will focus on building new-age digital capability to enhance user experiences, product development capabilities, security and connectivity in line with the advent of autonomous, connected and electric vehicle technologies. “We are building our team up for this new-age digital capability. We thought that India would be a great market for us from a technology and talent perspective,” Nissan Motor Corporation Chief Information Officer Tony Thomas told PTI.

He said developing such new-age capability has been necessitated by the transformation happening in the automotive industry across the globe with respect to manufacturing, automation, engineering design and how cars are sold. It has become even more important with the the advent of autonomous and connected cars along with emergence of electric vehicle technology, he added. Commenting on the role of the new centre, for which the company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kerala government today, Thomas said,”This is for the global market. The talent that we are building here will be serving all over the globe for Nissan”.  The centre, which will be initially located at Technopark – owned by the state government in Thiruvananthapuram before moving to a permanent location in the city, will focus on two key aspects, he said.  “The first is to take the current IT capability that we have and evolve it to the next generation,” Thomas added.

It will focus on digitisation of Nissan’s current manufacturing and engineering capabilities and enhancing customer experience to take it to the next level.  The second part, he said, would be on development of security and data analysis to cater to the needs of modern cars, which have become “computer on wheels”.  “Connected, electric and autonomous cars, a lot of technologies go into these cars. (There is a) need for security and analysis of data…We will be focusing on building some of those capabilities here to serve our company,” Thomas said.  When asked how big the centre would be in terms of manpower, he said,”Our assumption is that we will have about 500-odd employees here driving outcomes for Nissan across the globe”.  The centre will start with around 20-odd people.  “We have almost 100 offers ready to go as soon as we finalise with the government. Before the end of the fiscal we will hit 500 or more,” he said.   Thomas said Nissan will also work with its partners to build an ecosystem for future technology at the centre.  “We will be building it up. From thereon, based on our performance we will build up and the number (head count) will grow up,” he added.  Nissan Chairman (Africa, Middle East and India region) Peyman Kargar said, “The creation of Nissan’s first global Digital Hub in India reflects our commitment to this growing market and our belief in investing in India for the long term”.  Harnessing the skills and talents of the workforce in India is another way that Nissan is working to capture the full potential of the region, Kargar added. Nissan, along with its alliance partner Renault, has a manufacturing facility near Chennai with a potential annual capacity of 4.8 lakh vehicles.  The alliance also has a global R&D centre in Chennai, employing 7,000 engineers engaged on several projects, including vehicle and technology development. – Courtesy

\       Apply Now….Nissan Digital Hub Jobs through LinkedIn

Only 13% of Prime Minister’s research fellowships (PMRF) likely to be offered

The Indian Express | Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | June 23, 2018 |

A total of 43 selected students — the highest — have been offered research opportunities in IISc, followed by IIT Bombay (24) and IIT Delhi (20).

The government is likely to offer only 135 out of the 1,000 fellowship positions announced under the recently launched Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship (PMRF) this year, The Indian Express has learnt. Announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Union Budget earlier this year to fight ‘brain drain’, the PMRF aims to give 1,000 students direct admission to doctoral (PhD) programmes in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for carrying out research in cutting-edge science and technology domains, with focus on national priorities. The opportunity, however, is limited to students who have either completed or are pursuing the final year of their B Tech or integrated M Tech or integrated M Sc from either IISc, IITs, National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) or Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs).  As per the latest status report, shared by IIT Hyderabad —tasked with screening applications and final selection — out of the 2,035 applicants interviewed across 18 disciplines, about 135 have been offered direct admission to PhD programmes in IISc and IITs in Mumbai, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur, Kanpur, Roorkee, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Gandhinagar.

A total of 43 selected students — the highest — have been offered research opportunities in IISc, followed by IIT Bombay (24) and IIT Delhi (20). The biggest chunk of admissions offered have been cornered by candidates seeking to pursue research in mechanical engineering (26), material science and metallurgical engineering (24), interdisciplinary programmes in science and engineering (21), electrical engineering (21) and civil engineering (20). Stringent selection procedure, government officials say, is the reason behind utilisation of just 13% of fellowship this year. “This is the first year of the fellowship and the IITs and IISc set the bar really high for screening candidates. We want the brightest minds for this fellowship. The response is expected to improve with each passing year,” said a senior official, without wishing to be named. Under PMRF a fellow will receive a monthly stipend of Rs 70,000 in the first two years of research, Rs 75,000 in the third year and Rs 80,000 in the last two years of PhD. That apart, each fellow is also eligible to receive an annual research grant of Rs 2 lakh. While launching the scheme in February this year, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that the fellowship is expected to attract best talent in the country, which could go a long way in addressing faculty shortage in the country. “The initiative will convert brain drain into brain gain,” he had said then. – Courtesy    /     https://pmrf.in/

How IISc is using its knowledge to incubate core tech products with a societal impact

The Economic Times | J Vignesh | 20 April 2018 |

Fathima Benazir and Alex Paul used to be friends at school in Ooty, but then lost touch. Benazir studied biochemistry, while Paul took the engineering route to become director of IT service management at Zoho, where he spent close to 13 years. When they eventually reconnected over calls, both were ready to try something new. Paul was getting bored in Australia and wanted to come back to India. Benazir was keen on exploring further afield in molecular biology. Those conversations led to Azooka Life Sciences and eventually an organic stain product called Tinto-Rang. Critical to this process was the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which acted as incubator and has been doing so for several startups over the past few years. The institute has once again retained the No. 1 spot in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). IISc is unlike most incubators, devoid of much of the glitz thats usually associated with the space. That may be one of the reasons for its record. Getting into IISc is difficult, a lot of interviews and panels… where the panel is not judging how much money each startup is going make, but eventually, how many lives are you going to impact, said Paul. In terms of incubators, it may not be fancy looking… but it is definitely a house of knowledge. It helped that Benazir was an alumna. From giving the duo space to helping with various facets of the product, IISc STEM Cell incubator has helped the startup grow. Azooka is currently engaged in field trials of its product, which is used in molecular diagnosis but is safe enough to be ingested, unlike most of the other products that are used in such research. IISc, the highest-ranked institute for higher education in the country in most global league tables, has long been known for its research. It been making a concentrated effort to translate that knowledge into real-world impact. While there have been startups on campus since the early 2000s, the initiative has picked up momentum since 2014.

The institute has put in place policies to support startups that have science and technology at its core, by alumni, faculty or others as long as there is a societal impact. Startups can also license intellectual property from IISc. Currently under incubation, which typically lasts three years, are ideas in domains such as space, healthcare, agriculture and biotechnology. STEM Cell takes 4-10% equity in such enterprises. As you know, IISc has been a research led institution… therefore, the focus has been on research and publishing papers in conferences. Not much thought was given to its relevance to society. You may become the top-ranked institute, but to the common man, it will be like, so what? said CS Murali, chairman, STEM Cell, explaining the philosophy behind the push. Untitled-6 Murali, an IISc alumnus who worked at Tata Consultancy Services , IBM and Cognizant, said the thought of giving something back occurred to him during the school centenary celebrations in 2008: Hundred years is a great number, but what can we do for IISc? He and a few of his friends started mentoring startups at IISc informally that year. After retiring from Cognizant in 2012, Murali got into it full time. The earliest ventures from IISc included bioinformatics company Strand Life Sciences and the handheld Simputer. Around 2001-02, the first wave happened… Strand Life Sciences, Simputer… that helped us understand what it was. Not all of them succeeded–Strand is an exception, said Bala Gurumoorthy, chief executive of IISc Society for Innovation and Development (SID). The second wave happened around 2008, when Murali and others came on board. In the last three-four years, it has seen an uptick. It probable that this is a reflection of the change in the country as well, he said, referring to the startup explosion in the last 10 years that created companies like Flipkart. SID, which was established in 1997 as a research and development bridge between industry and IISc, also supports entrepreneurship. The early engagements with startups did not have much support from the institute but that changed. Faculty members can be promoters or technical advisors and can hold equity. The policy, which came into being five years ago, allows them to spend one day a week in activities related to the company. They can take sabbaticals as well, allowing them to engage with startups full time. Every IISc-incubated startup gets a faculty mentor who a sector expert. For Rohan Ganapathy and Yashas Karanam, IISc has been an invaluable partner. The cofounders of Bellatrix Aerospace , both in their mid-20s and neither of them alumni of IISc, are building an electric propulsion system for satellites designed to use water as fuel. They were previously based in Coimbatore but were challenged by a lack of test facilities and expert advice. Coming here, we have been able to scale things up faster, said Karanam. We are working with several departments and working with professors, using a lot of lab facilities available at IISc–this is the greatest plus point. No other incubator would have helped in getting such a big space. We have got a 1,000-square feet lab space dedicated for us. Bellatrix is the only startup that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working with, having ordered its system for satellite missions. Azooka similarly works with various departments in IISc to finetune various aspects. Within three years, IISc has helped us collaborate with the centre for nanoscience, we work with biochemistry, we take advice of molecular biophysics that helps us with structure, for liquid handling we take advice from the device instrumentation and control department, said Paul. Being able to access high-tech labs means costs can be reined in. If you want to use, say, scanning electron microscopy for some sample, you can go to a lab that offers this facility. You can get it done rather than thinking where to get this one crore or two crore worth equipment, said Navakanta Bhat, professor in the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering and cofounder of Pathshodh, which makes portable diagnostics devices. There are departments which also offer facilities to startups with special consideration, with discounted pricing. It is a big boon. The Tata Trusts are using Pathshodh device for its rural healthcare programme. Bhat has taken a sabbatical to work on Pathshodh. About 350 kilometres away, the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras has been consistently successful in nurturing intellectual property-led startups for decades. About 140 startups have been a part of the IIT-M Incubation Cell.

IISc has nurtured about 28 startups, with more than half of them starting up since 2014. The aspiration is to bump up that number. Murali said about 8% of faculty members are involved in some startup activity or the other. While this is seen as an improvement from before, funding is a challenge. Money comes by way of grants and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets of corporates. One main challenge our startups have faced is raising money, said Murali. Some of them have managed to raise a decent amount from grants. When we brought in investors, they looked at these companies, liked them but said it is too early for us. Siana Capital Management–led by technology outsourcing advisor Siddarth Pai and former managing director and chief executive officer of IL&FS private equity Archana Hingorani–wants to raise up to $100 million to help academic ventures get funding, ET recently reported. Siana Capital struck an agreement with IISc recently that enables it to review startups and gives it the first right to provide seed funding. The pipeline is looking healthy, said Gurumoorthy, with April having seen more than 20 applications thus far. IISc is working on building a network of alumni mentors to help companies. IISc has done this in the past, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head of education, KPMG (India). They have not done it like an incubation centre, the way they are doing it now. It is a timetested concept, and it is good that somebody like IISc, who represent research in India in very many ways, particularly, the basic sciences area it is good that they are coming up with this. One big success story could help pave the way for more. We have companies that will make a mark, said Gurumoorthy. But it is like making a movie–will we get a super hit? We (have to) wait. We will keep our fingers crossed. – Courtesy

IIT Delhi fellowship to research students and PhD degree-holders to launch start-ups

The Telegraph | Our Special Correspondent | Apr 18, 2018 |  IIT Delhi fellowship to launch start-ups |

Representational Image

New Delhi: IIT Delhi will become the first tech school in India to begin a fellowship to help research students and PhD degree-holders to launch start-ups with products developed through their research findings. IIT Delhi director Prof. Ramgopal Rao told reporters that the PhD incubator would be set up on its Sonepat campus in Haryana in four months.  At present, nearly 2,500 students are pursuing PhD in centrally funded technical institutions but hardly any opportunity exists now for them to start companies based on their research. PhD students usually pursue a career in academics. “We will give an opportunity to PhD students to launch start-ups by converting whatever they have learnt and discovered. They will get fellowship for three years to pursue their vision,” Rao said. He cited the example of Intel, which was started by PhD students. IIT Delhi will select 20 candidates based on their research and help them pursue their start-up initiatives. Those who have submitted their theses or have already received their PhD degree will be eligible, said IIT Delhi deputy director M. Balakrishnan. “If we can incubate 20 companies and two of them succeed, that will be a big achievement,” said Rao. The director said no other IIT or tech school in the country had started such a programme.

He said the IIT would send 50 of its students this summer to villages to understand the problems in rural India. The students will stay in the villages for a short duration. At an exhibition on Tuesday, the IIT showcased several technology solutions that have been developed at the institute. One such technology is about prevention of crop residue burning. Developed by researchers at the bio-medical engineering department, the technology seeks to make products such as disposable plates and glasses by using crop residue. Crop residue burnt by farmers in Haryana and Punjab is suspected to be one of the major contributors to air pollution and smog in Delhi. The IIT has also developed a nasofilter to purify air. The product developed by the textile engineering department can be put on the nostrils. – Courtesy

HRD ministry to set up online network of research facilities available in universities

Hindustan Times | Apr 17, 2018 | Press Trust of India |

It is proposed that through the network access to research equipment and facilities will be provided to researchers and other legitimate users for their academic or non-academic research work. – Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map, I-STEM

The Union HRD Ministry has decided to establish an online national network to list all the scientific, technical, analytical and research equipment available in universities across the country to help legitimate users access them. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has written to all the universities and higher educational institutions in the country, asking them to furnish information about the existing facilities.

“The government has planned to establish an online national network that lists all the scientific, technical, analytical, research equipment and facilities procured with funds provided by its agencies and installed in academic research and development organisations across the country,” the UGC communication to the institutes read. Through the network, it is proposed that the “custodians” of such equipment and facilities will provide access to researchers and other legitimate users, so that they can utilise the facilities for their academic or non-academic research and development work through an online reservation system, according to the communication. – Courtesy
Accordingly,all the Higher EducationalInstitutions are requested to furnish information about the existing facilities at different centres (including instruments funded under extra mural projects by funding agencies) on the website: The I-STEM Web Portal is the gateway for users to locate the specific facility(ties) they need for their R&D work and identify the one that is either located closest to them or available the soonest.

Kerala engineers who developed robot to clean manholes are on a mission to end manual scavenging

Scroll | 27 February 2017 | Thiruvananthapuram |

Bandicoot successfully completed a trial run in Thiruvananthapuram this month.

Genrobotics team with Bandicoot | Genrobotics

Manual scavenging is outlawed in India, yet thousands of people are still engaged in the work and many die cleaning sewers. According to the Safai Karmachari Andolan, a movement to eradicate manual scavenging, at least 1,470 manual scavengers died at work between 2010 and 2017. There are an estimated 1.8 lakh people in the country working as manual scavengers. Now, though, a group of engineers from Kerala may have found a way to end the “dehumanising practice”. They have designed a spider-shaped robot that cleans manholes and sewers with precision. Called Bandicoot, it has already successfully completed a trial run in Thiruvananthapuram, unclogging five manholes filled with plastic, filth, medical waste and sediments. The robot, which takes 15 minutes to clean small sewers and around 45 minutes to unclog bigger ones, was developed by Genrobotics, a company founded by nine young engineers in Thiruvananthapuram two years ago. “Our ultimate aim is to end manual scavenging in India,” said Vimal Govind, the company’s 25-year-old chief executive officer. “It is time to change manholes to roboholes.” Following the successful trial earlier this month, the Kerala Water Authority has decided to use Bandicoot to clean all sewers in Thiruvananthapuram.

Bandicoot cleans a manhole during the trial run in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo courtesy Genrobotics

Ray of hope

India has enacted two laws – the Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act, 1993 and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 – to eventually eradicate the practice of manually cleaning, carrying and disposing human excreta and garbage from sewers. Yet, manual scavengers across India still clean sewers at great risk to their lives. Most of the time, they are not provided the mandatory safety gear by their employers, largely municipal agencies, making them vulnerable to fatal accidents. Even a protective cap is a luxury for most of them, let alone jackets, gloves and masks. As a consequence, many die from inhaling poisonous gases accumulated inside manholes, oxygen depletion, heat stress or from falling down the pit. The overwhelming majority of manual scavengers are from Dalit communities. It is a harrowing life.

Bandicoot, thus, is a ray of hope. It only requires a person to operate it from a safe distance. The 80-kg robot lifts the heavy metal cover on its own, drops its arm into the manhole, scoops out the solid waste and dumps it in a bucket. “All operations can be viewed on a monitor,” Govind explained. “The robot can also be used to check the sewage apart from jetting the sewer lines.” Genrobotics plans to teach manual scavengers to operate the robot with the aim of rehabilitating them. “Bandicoot will make the life of manhole cleaners safer,” Govind said. “It will help them earn a decent living without fear of losing jobs and lives. It will also break the caste system. Bandicoot will ensure manholes in India will remain clean without losing human lives.”

In good company

In 2015, nine mechanical engineering students from MES Engineering College in Kuttippuram, Malappuram, to explore the possibility of developing robots. “All of us are passionate about robotics and we began to exchange ideas and the group was immediately given the name Team Genrobotics,” Govind said. “We decided to retain the name when we launched the company in 2016.” The idea was to build on a powered exoskeleton they had developed in the final year of college and which had won them many accolades. A powered exoskeleton is a wearable mobile machine that allows limb movement with increased strength and endurance. Such machines are used by soldiers to carry heavy objects and by fire fighters during emergency operations. After finishing college in 2016, they began to work on developing medical and industrial exoskeletons. But paucity of funds hampered them. “In order to raise funds we began to work for different firms,” said Govind. In 2017, the Kerala Startup Mission, a start-up incubator launched by the state government, offered to fund their project. “Our robotics dream got wings once again and we regrouped soon,” Govind said.

An illustration of Bandicoot lifting a manhole cover. Photo courtesy Genrobotics

A bright idea

The team then went to meet the state’s Information Technology Secretary M Sivasankar to discuss their ideas. Quite unexpectedly, he asked the engineers whether they could develop a robot to clean manholes. “A manual scavenger’s photograph published in a newspaper that morning triggered his suggestion,” Govind said. “We readily agreed.” They set to work immediately, studying the different types of manholes, speaking to manual scavengers to understand the cleaning methods and watching documentaries and videos on manual scavenging. “It helped us understand the scourge of manual scavenging,” Govind said. “We decided to go ahead with the project as we felt it was high time we ended the practice.” In one documentary, Govind heard a manual scavenger saying God had made them to do this work. “The statement shocked me,” he recalled. “At that time I decided that it was my duty to rescue these people from this deadly job.” The team officially started work on the project in June 2017 and launched Bandicoot’s beta version in January 2018. “We are indebted to Kerala Startup Mission and the Kerala Water Authority for helping us realise our dream,” Govind said. The research and development work was done and the robot was assembled at the Kerala Water Authority’s office in Thiruvananthapuram. “We procured the components, except the advanced camera and waterproof material, from different parts of India and customised them for our needs,” Govind said. “Approximate coast of one robot is Rs 10 lakh but the price will come down when it is mass produced. But we can finalise the price only after talking to government.” – Courtesy

PM research fellowship can’t stop brain drain from top engineering, tech institutes, say faculty, students at IITs

The New Indian Express | Sumi Sukanya dutta  |  24th February | Opinion |


NEW DELHI: Government’s flagship PM Research fellowship scheme for PhDs at IITs and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is being touted as a measure to check brain drain of “brightest minds” but the programme is being met with scepticism by students and faculties at premier institutes. On Friday, the Union human resource ministry invited application from the engineering graduates from IITs, IISc, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Indian Institutes of Science Research and Education for the programme—first announced in the budget this year. The scheme promises up to Rs 80,000 stipend to about 1000 students apart from Rs 2 lakh annual research grant and urges them to come up with research idea in subjects such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology- among several others- with clear deliverables and outcomes.

It also makes it clear that only those students who have the Cumulative Grade Point Average upward of 8 will be considered. “Every year about 20 per cent brightest minds from premium engineering and technology institutes leave country either for jobs or higher studies—this scheme should put a brake on that practice,” a senior hrd official said. Several faculty members across IITs, however conceded that unlike the undergraduate programmes at IITs, PhDs are considered less “prestigious”. “In fact, the reality is that only 200-300 students from IITs prefer to do PhDs at IITs while most prefer to go abroad for better exposure and academic experience,” said an IIT director, not wishing to be named. “Also for many students who want to pursue higher studies instead of taking up high-paying jobs, money is not very high on the priority list nor is what is being offered by the government very lucrative.” Dheeraj Sanghi, professor of Computer Science at IIT Kanpur said that scheme might benefit students from other institutes more than the older IITs and IISc. “The students will be interested in staying back for the purpose of research here if there is a healthy research ecosystem in India but the government perhaps needs to find several other ways to ensure that,” he said. “Also what is the guarantee that after five years of research these students wont go to countries like US for post-doctoral experience or jobs?”  Samarth Malik, a mechanical engineering student at IIT Kharagpur said that there is hardly any buzz around the scheme on the campus. “Many talented students are attracted towards PhDs in US universities because of the best academic experiences they promise—I doubt if PMRF can deter such students,” he quipped. – Courtesy

Online Registration For Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Begins

ND TV | Education | Maitree Baral | February 24, 2018 |

B.Tech graduates or those in the final year of B. Tech or Integrated M.Tech or integrated M.Sc. in Science and Technology streams from IISc/ IITs/ NITs/ IISERs/ IIITs are eligible for the fellowship. Additionally, applicants must have also secured 8 CGPA or more for being eligible for the fellowship.

NEW DELHI:  Online registration for Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship (PMRF) has begun. The last date to apply is 31 March. B.Tech graduates or those in the final year of B. Tech or Integrated M.Tech or integrated M.Sc. in Science and Technology streams from IISc/ IITs/ NITs/ IISERs/ IIITs are eligible for the fellowship. Additionally, applicants must have also secured 8 CGPA or more for being eligible for the fellowship. The fellowship will lead to direct admission in IISc or 23 IITs for full time PhD programme. Application submission portal will be available at pmrf site.  On 7 February 2018, Union Cabinet approved of the PMRF scheme under which 1000 best students with the eligibility criteria mentioned above will get direct PhD admission with fellowship ranging from Rs. 70000 to 80000. In addition to this, a research grant of Rs.2.00 lakh will be provided to each of the Fellows for a period of 5 years to cover their foreign travel expenses for presenting research papers in international conferences and seminars.

Candidates with B.Design admitted through JEE/UCEED and 4-year BS or B.Sc students of IISc, IITs, or IISERs admitted through JEE, KVPY and SCB are also eligible.  Applicants must send abstract on topics related to science and technology with focus on national priorities. The word limit of the abstract is 1000 words and must be sent in a PDF format. There will be written test and interview for the selection. The syllabus of the written test will be same as that of GATE/ JAM/ CEED and it will be held at the respective IIT or IISc whichever is the nodal institute. Interviews at nodal institutions will begin in the mid of May (exact date will be notified on the official website) and final list will be out by 1 June 2018.  Click here to Apply Online –   https://pmrf.in/