New bridges for New India: linking tech students and society

While interacting with the faculty from 15 National Institutes of Technology from all around the country and students at NIT Trichy, I reiterated simple steps through which we can make our technical education more meaningful, joyful and purposeful.
To promote originality among students, it is necessary that they pool the abstracts of their projects on one platform where prior art based on imagination of young minds is accessible. is one such platform which provides access to the information of more than 200,000 engineering projects by students from all over the country. It is important all NITs and IITs besides other institutions realise the transaction costs involved in accessing hundreds of sites to find out what has been done before are huge. Students are unlikely to do so, and thus common site for searching is imperative.
Once originality is achieved, innovations will not be too far. What can be the drivers of the innovations at students level:
The unmet needs to be identified in proximal and distant communities of entrepreneurs, fabricators, farmers, workers, artisans and women; potential uses of under-utilised or unused resources; repurposing of waste, energy and other resources; prospective applications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, Internet of things, thoughts and feelings; value addition in grassroots innovations and ideas of children etc.
For example, NIT Trichy has 6,000 students. If for one week, they in groups of six visit 1,000 villages and another week, 1,000 small enterprises to scout innovations, and map unmet social or industrial needs, they would have a rich agenda. Dr Mini Thomas, Director has shown interest in trying the idea out.
These problems are prioritised, modularised and allocated as credit courses to these groups to develop solutions. Once some headway has been made, the concerned communities are invited and a presentation is made. After receiving the feedback, these proof of concept are prototyped, tested in field and finished by the same team or a different team. In a few cycles of work, these can become hopefully viable product or process solutions.
These solutions may be made available for non-exclusive licenses at no or low cost to small entrepreneurs.
It is also possible, one can use the Kho Kho model. That is a prototype at one NIT or IIT or any other technical institution. Faculty supervisor should not hesitate in sharing the reports and technical prototypes with others.
Sometimes, one problem may need to be decomposed into five to ten modules to be developed by ten teams. These will have to be aggregated into a proper solution. This will depend on the complexity of the problems and number of disciplines required to address them.
Students can do energy, material, waste, and safety audits as well. Prof Mahesh at IITM has conceived a plan to build protocols to establish such facilities costing about Rs 50 lakh each at IITs and NOTs. Such audits can contribute a lot to improving cleanliness by repurposing waste. While big enterprises will witness job-minus growth by improving labour productivity, and other kinds of modernisation, small enterprises will generate jobs.
Time has come to build new bridges between formal and informal sector for unleashing the potential of New India.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place

1 Comment

  1. Sir, I think it is great idea to bring awareness about the prior art and foster innovation and creativity among the students.

    I am always highly inspired by your ideas and your efforts through the Honeybee network and SRISTI. Innovation developing from within the country and directed at problems concerning the people of this country is the need of the hour. And, enthusing the spark among the students at university level is a great way to take things ahead. Your guidance will be of immense help.

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