04 December 2022 18:46:53 IST

‘IIT Roorkee should produce at least 10 Unicorns next decade’

 KK Pant, IIT Roorkee, Director

Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IITR) celebrated its 175 th Foundation Day on November 25. Since its establishment in 1847, the institute has played a vital role in providing technical human resources and know-how to the country. Today, the institute imparts higher education in engineering, sciences, management, architecture and planning, and humanities and social sciences.

The institute has now embarked on a series of short-term (five years) measures for the next 25 years to coincide with the 200th year celebration.

“Entrepreneurship is very important. After 10-15 years, there should be at least ten Unicorns from IIT Roorkee. Our long-term goal is to be among the top 100 institutions globally,” says KK Pant, Director, IIT Roorkee, who took charge just two months ago, in an interview with bl on Campus at the institute’s campus. Excerpts from the interview:

With IIT Roorkee at 175 years, what is the goal for the next five years, and for when the institute will be 200 years old?
In the short term, the main focus is to implement the National Education Policy (NEP). Under NEP, we have to make our curriculum vibrant with more practical-oriented courses.
Our vision is in sync with the India@2047 vision that includes diversity, equity and inclusion. We would like to see women participation at around 50 per cent from the present around 20 per cent.
In the long run, we want IITR to be among the top 100 global institutions from the 369 it is at presently. We want our campus to be self-sustainable, and in this model, everybody should contribute.
We want to work on making the IITR campus more attractive by inviting more students across all categories and train students to become entrepreneurs.
How important is entrepreneurship today? 
It is very important. We want to see that in every batch around ten start-ups should come up. After 10-15 years, there should be at least ten Unicorns. 
But, how will you achieve this? 
It is a very challenging goal. We have a start-up lab. The products developed at our institute should be marketable globally. Students visit local industries to identify problems they face and try to solve them.
Our PhD students, masters students, and BTech students, have research projects in which faculty members will be involved as mentors and the products would be developed as per society’s needs.
In what way? 
For example, the society’s main needs are food, energy (clean) and water - or called FEW. This should be inter-connected. We are working for society and a lot of industries will come up. The industries should not pollute the environment and consume a lot of water. There should be focus on zero water discharge.
In Uttarakhand, the Ganga water coming from Gangotri is clean but as it passes through different states, it becomes polluted with industry discharge. This should not happen.
How about industry-academic collaboration? 
Many companies have shown interest in taking forward the products of the start-ups incubated at the institute. The DRDO has supported us with a commitment of around ₹200 crore; in the area of space, we are creating a virtual centre, and along with Indian Space Research Organisation we are working on sensor development.
We are working on disaster management for earthquake-related issues. Start-ups are one of the ways through which the institute will connect with industry. Faculty members were writing papers and filing for patents but could not be commercialised.
But, now the Government of India has made that every paper, patent and technology should also be commercialised. Of 100, even if 10-20 projects are getting commercialised, it will be a big success. That is what we are working towards.
Can you throw some light on the research park that you plan to develop? 
Our Saharanpur campus is 65 acres with two masters and Phd programmes. A part of that area can be used for an R&D park, which will be helpful for industry. It will come up at a cost around ₹500 crore. To start with, the investment will be about ₹200 crore, and funded mainly from the alumni funds. 
What is your yearly student intake? You also attract many international students, right? 
There are 9,500 students in total. There are around 200 international students from countries like Bangladesh, Africa, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. We also have bilateral exchange programmes with universities in Europe and the US. 
What action is being taken for the institute to be self-sufficient? 
Today, around 80 per cent of funds for our requirement comes from the government, and the balance 20 per cent from our initiatives. We would like to increase this to 40:60 with 40 per cent from our own funds in the next 5-10 years. This would be from endowments funds, fees, sponsored consultancy, and short-term programmes for the industry. 

(The reporter was in Roorkee at the invitation of IIT Roorkee)