Published: 15th June 2020
Want to be part of India's growth story: Why IIT Madras has been ranked the best in India by NIRF for five years running
In a conversation with Dr Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director of IIT Madras, we discover how and why the institute topped the NIRF Ranking again this year
For the second time in a row, IIT Madras has topped the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) Ranking, which was announced on June 11, as the best overall institution in the country. It has also been ranked the best engineering institute in the country for the fifth consecutive year. So, what makes it stand out year after year? We speak to the Director of IIT Madras, Dr Bhaskar Ramamurthi to find out more. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
1. IIT Madras has topped the NIRF Ranking for engineering institutes since 2016 and has been ranked first in the overall category for the second time in a row. What makes the institute stand out?
IIT Madras is proud to have been accorded the recognition of No. 1 in Engineering Institutes in India for five consecutive years and No. 1 in the Overall Category for the second year in a row. All the IITs play important roles in nation building. IIT Madras has ensured that the pedagogy and the strengths of the institute are leveraged optimally. The institute nurtures research on transformational technologies that have the potential to address the societal challenges faced in India today. These include creating of the requisite infrastructure for the expansion, increasing the faculty strength and increasing the number of PhD scholars and the research output. These are formulated in a manner that builds on the strengths of IIT Madras and the aspirations of the faculty, staff and students. In particular, aspects unique to IIT Madras — the IIT Madras Research Park, the strong linkages with industries, the incubation ecosystem and the large groups working on transformational technologies that impact people’s lives — are leveraged.
2. What do you think is the biggest contributor to your score this year?
We collectively engage with faculty and students in drawing a road map to improve our performance based on quantified targets like increasing faculty strength, student exchanges with global universities, good placements, good quality high impact research, an entrepreneurial and innovation culture on campus to continue to make remarkable strides in our progress. IIT Madras has a strategic plan in place that focuses on the same aspects that are also covered under the NIRF Ranking such as qualified and experienced faculty, rapidly increasing publication quality and count, better student-faculty ratio, greater industry-academic interface which is well reflected through the high amount of industrial consultancy and sponsored research programmes undertaken by the institute and so on. We have recently extended the plan to the next five years as part of our 'Institute of Eminence' (IoE) initiative. Additionally, IIT Madras has also created a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages students to become job-generators. The IIT Madras Incubation Cell (IITMIC) is India’s leading Deep Technology Startup hub with Innovation and Impact as key differentiators/drivers. Over 195 deep tech start-ups have been incubated till date in sectors like Manufacturing, IoT, Energy/renewables, Healthcare/ medical devices, Water, EdTech/skill development, AgriTech, Robotics, AI, ML, Data Analytics, AR/VR and Enterprise.
A researcher at the IIT Madras laboratory
3. This achievement comes at a time when IIT Madras turns 60. That must be special. How much does IIT Madras' long history enable you to achieve this feat?
IIT Madras has been nurtured on strong foundations built by our pioneer faculty, staff and students. We were the first IIT to have an industrial consultancy cell, started even before the German faculty had left for home. We continue to maintain leadership in this aspect and this has naturally led to a strong deep technology entrepreneurship ecosystem. Research has been part of our DNA since the very first years and we have built this up steadily to the strong base we have today. We not only continued to nurture and develop our collaboration with top German universities but developed similar ones with leading universities around the world, leading to several joint PhD programmes.
The new academic complex at IIT Madras
4. Your score has improved over the years. 2020 has been your highest score in the engineering category so far. What are you doing to ensure this growth?
The goal will be to continue to strive for excellence in whatever we do and make a mark nationally and internationally, and be a part of India's growth story. We will begin implementing the plans made under the IoE scheme and see further acceleration of the institute's growth in all spheres.
5. What will you do next to maintain the streak and how will you innovate post COVID-19?
IIT Madras is already at the forefront of research and innovation in helping the nation tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The IIT Madras-incubated start-ups and faculty have already come out with innovations such as:
- India’s COVID-19 hotspot prediction tool used by health departments of all the states on a daily basis
- a 'Smart Bin' that can assist in safe disposal of waste in quarantine areas
- PPEs made from 3D printing and commonly-available stationery material
- an affordable respiratory assist device for intensive healthcare
- a Nanoparticle Coating Material to ‘inactivate’ Coronavirus on contact
- designed and rapidly constructed a modular ‘Doffing Unit’ for safe removal of PPEs at Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital
- developed a wearable tracker for the early detection of COVID-19 symptoms
- partnered with the industry to develop a 'touchless' sanitiser dispenser for vehicles
The institute, through its Incubation Cell, Research Park and other bodies such as the Center for Innovation and Nirmaan, will continue to encourage and support students and faculty to innovate and come up with solutions to help the country solve pressing problems, not only in the fight against COVID-19 but in all walks of life.