IIT Mandi, a new centre for academic excellence

Mandi: Established in the year 2009, the Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi (https://www.iitmandi.ac.in/) has rapidly joined the ranks of the top IITs in the country, with excellence in academics and world-class research, besides extra-curricular activities for students. The Institute has witnessed various new developments over the years and has actively engaged with Institutes and industry at a national and international level to collaboratively make a mark in the field of research, innovation and academics.

Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves, Director, IIT Mandi says, “IIT Mandi has seen continual growth since its inception and has been making its mark in the world of academics & research. We are proud to have one of the most robust academic courses along with state-of-the-art research facilities. We believe that our knowledge and expertise will help us work towards our vision of solving the society’s issues through our academic endeavours. The coming year holds promise of much more progress and we will strive towards making the institute the destination of choice for students and faculty”

1. IIT Mandi Campus: Nestled deep within the pristine valley on the banks of the river Uhl, a tributary of the Beas, IIT Mandi campus is a destination to look forward to for young faculty and students alike. Surrounded by Shivalik range of the Himalayas, two streams and a river, the scenic campus offers a world-class academic environment with a high quality of life amidst natural splendor. When the institute was allocated the land in Kamand for the campus, it was an animal husbandry farm with stables and horses running around. The transformation from an animal husbandry farm to a world-class campus is a truly remarkable achievement. The campus is divided into two units i.e. South campus & North campus. The campus has been constructed in a manner in which the faculty and the students residing there enjoy the pristine surroundings as well as live in an environment which is interactive and engaging.

The South campus, the first among the new IITs to be developed, is a fully functional setup with academic blocks, faculty residential blocks and student hostels along with research labs and other facilities. Alongside these, there are shops, dining areas and play areas which are easily accessible to all residents on campus. The connected North campus, which is under construction will house a conference centre of international standards along with additional academic and residential blocks.

The construction has been planned in a way that the student hostels, faculty residences and the academic blocks form 3 layers of the campus. These three layers have been placed in a way in which the students and the faculty are able to interact and engage not just in an academic environment, but also at a personal level. This was decided to ensure better communication between the faculty and the students and the faculty is able to assess and examine any issues the students may be facing and try to solve them.

The residential campus houses around 900 students and over 100 faculty members. Currently, around 50,000 sqm of construction has taken place and 1,70,000 sqm of space is under construction. By 2019, the campus will be able to accommodate 2500 students.

2. Academics & Curriculum: Historically, the IITs had a B.Tech. curriculum that was aimed at training engineers and scientists for a career in research or engineering in a specific branch. The curriculum had a large and strong core covering all sub-areas of the branch in depth. However, globalization and the rapid march of science and technology have brought dramatic changes to the engineering profession. Engineering is increasingly inter-disciplinary in nature, encompassing not only a range of engineering disciplines, but also involving management, sociology, linguistics, history and other non-engineering disciplines. Given such changes, it is necessary to re-orient the B.Tech. curriculum. The B. Tech curriculum at IIT Mandi is designed to be flexible with more electives to suit the needs and aspirations of diverse students.

The differentiating factor for IIT Mandi from its older siblings is the emphasis on hands-on work during the 4-year B.Tech program and its design oriented curriculum. The curriculum includes hands-on experience in reverse engineering, inter-disciplinary collaborative projects, socio-technical research and, in the final year, major technical projects. By the end of their B.Tech. program, the students have learnt to work in inter-disciplinary teams in order to develop practical products and technologies that meet real world needs.

The institute began by offering B.Tech degrees in Computer Science, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and PhD in sciences, engineering and the humanities. Over the years, as the new campus was set up, new academic areas were opened up for the students. These included M.Sc. in basic sciences, and M.Tech. in Engineering. The B.Tech. program was expanded to include Civil Engineering.

3. Design & Innovation Centre: The Design & Innovation Centre at IIT Mandi provides the necessary ecosystem for graduates and research scholars to develop much needed skills that are required to design and develop products and technologies. Since India has adopted a “Make in India” policy and IIT Mandi’s mission and vision are coherent with the country’s vision, our Institute aims to produce graduates with skills that would enable them to think independently in terms of creativity and innovation. With the conviction that technological innovation constitutes an essential element for achieving progressive development and permanent improvement in any activity, the state-of-the-art design centre is being set-up in the campus funded by MHRD. Since the next wave of economic growth globally will be led by innovation and entrepreneurship, this would be the key economic driver for India in the coming years.

The Design and Innovation Centre is a Rs. 1.3 crore project funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India. The Centre is equipped to support prototype and product development endeavours of the students and faculty members of IIT Mandi. Facilities like 3D printers, PCB fabrication unit, magnetic stirrers, Elvis System Development board and other development and test facilities are available at the centre. The Centre is all set to provide easy access of the centre to its students round the clock.

4. Students & Life on Campus: The residential campus currently has around 900 students from different courses. The campus comprises of students come from across the country including distant areas like Andhra Pradesh & Bihar. This indicates that the Institute is renowned across India for its excellent academic and research environment, which pulls good candidates from across India to be part of their student strength. Moreover, the Institute also ensures that the students who reside on campus have an interesting fun filled and exciting life on campus. There are regular weekend hikes, adventure trails, mountain trekking, nature trails etc. which are organized to keep the students involved and enthused to be part of this institute.

The Institute is also working towards an increased gender balance. Currently, the girl to boy ratio on campus is same as all other IITs, but the institute is trying to get in more girls by adopting means to encourage more girl students on campus. This includes a personal letter to each successful female candidate urging her to take advantage of the unique IIT B. Tech education. The Institute has also set up special help-desks exclusively for female candidates. This consists of volunteers – women faculty, B.Tech. students and alumni – from many of the IITs who are available to answer queries about life and studies in IIT by aspiring girls.

5. Social Exchange Programmes: The Institute also conducts social exchange programmes with schools in north-eastern regions of India and from Jammu & Kashmir. In these programmes, selected students chosen by the district/ state are invited on a month-long visit to IIT Mandi campus. The purpose of the visit is to let the students experience the life on campus and to ignite the passion in them to aim of studying at an IIT.

6. Faculty: With around 100 faculty members, the Institute has one of the best faculty student ratios among all IITs in India. The faculty engage in extensive research on areas of social importance and relevance and which could benefit people and solve society’s issues. A lot of faculty have been recruited internationally and have come back to India to work with IIT Mandi. With the rapid expansion of the campus and increasing number of students, the faculty strength will increase to around 300 by the year 2019.

7. Placements This placement season of 2016-17 in IIT Mandi saw some of the top companies making many job offers to the students. Amazon, L&T, TCS, Mahindra & Mahindra & Cognizant were some of the companies which took part in the campus placements in 2016-17. Other than these a considerable number of start-ups also participated in the recruitment process. Out of the total number of students who registered for placements, 84% of the students got placed and around 67% of the job offers were from multi-national companies.

8. Research: IIT Mandi places great emphasis on excellence in research. Nature, one of the top scientific journals in the world, tracks the affiliations of high-quality scientific articles published from every country in 68 high-quality science journals with monthly updates. As per the Nature Index of 60+ leading science journals, in 2015-16 IIT Mandi ranked 6th among all IITs based on total number of publications. Based on publications per faculty, the rank of IIT Mandi was 3rd. Some of the research centres at IIT Mandi include:

a. Advanced Materials Research Centre (AMRC) working mainly on novel materials for sensing, catalysis, drug delivery, electrical, electronics and biological applications

b. The BioX Centre for affordable healthcare and agricultural applications

c. Centre for Design and Fabrication of Electronic Devices for multidisciplinary research on device design and fabrication for the VLSI and electronics industries

d. Energy Centre for research on renewable energy for transportation and energy-positive buildings, resulting in technology transfer to industry for large-scale commercialisation (being established)

Apart from the research centres the different Schools do independent research as well as collaboration with the research centres. The focus areas currently are,

e. Communications, Networks & Distributed Systems

f. Multimedia Applications and Systems

g. Applied Cognitive Science

h. Condensed Matter Physics/Power Systems/Control Systems/Electronics

i. Thermal and fluid systems

j. Computational Mathematics

k. Uhl Centre – Technologies for the Himalayan Region

l. History, English literature, Psychology, Sociology, German Studies, Management, Economics

9. Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy

As the Institute strongly believes in doing R & D activities with benefits to the society, there is a strong emphasis in working with the Industry. IIT Mandi strongly encourages its faculty members to take up sponsored research projects and offer consultancy services to generate revenue to fund research and development activities. The Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) section headed by the Dean SRIC is the interface of IIT Mandi with government and other industry funding agencies, both nationally and internationally. SRIC facilitates the administrative work, for example recruitment of project associates, and financial handling on behalf of the faculty members engaged in sponsored research and consultancy.

This has resulted in significant amount of research funding in the past seven years totalling over fifty crores INR through a total of around 150 projects. While the majority of these projects are funded by government funding agencies such as DST, DBT, DeitY, DRDO etc., it is worth to note that about one third of the funding is for working with the industries. Faculty members from across the various disciplines are involved in a range of research activities starting from development of materials, processes, hardware and software for various applications including healthcare, agriculture, environmental, networks and so on. Projects from Indian companies such as SCL, Mohali; BHEL, Ranipur; Aindra systems, Bangalore; NMS works, Chennai; and Azista Industries, Hyderabad are aimed at developing indigenous products and processes that can boost the Make in India program.

10. International Relations & Industry Collaboration: IIT Mandi has engaged in international faculty & student exchange programmes with more than 12 international universities (TU9, Germany; WPI, USA; ITU, Denmark; BTH, Sweden; and, many other universities). The Institute also provides opportunities for faculty members at international universities/institutes to spend time for the purposes of teaching and research. Every year, 24 students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA) spend two months at IIT Mandi, working in teams with B.Tech. students on technical projects to benefit local communities.

Other than the exchange programmes, the Institute has also partnered for a INR 3+ crore research funding with international industry comprising of organizations like Intel Research, USA, Purdue Pharma, USA for research, and innovation in various areas related to VLSI resist materials, big data applications to healthcare and pharma.

11. IIT Mandi Catalyst (Technology Business Incubator): IIT Mandi Catalyst is a newly launched Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. The new TBI, first in the state of Himachal Pradesh, aims to incubate science and technology based start-ups. It was launched in May 2016. It aims to foster Research and Development (R&D) and entrepreneurship to spawn knowledge-intensive initiatives that would develop innovations useful to the society as a whole. As the name implies, the TBI will serve as a catalyst to nurture and guide entrepreneurial initiatives with social and/or commercial objectives by IIT Mandi students, faculty, and staff, and to invest in such entrepreneurial initiatives.

In addition, the TBI will facilitate co-operation and interaction between IIT Mandi and industry as well as entrepreneurs. Although it will not limit itself to any specific technology or business sector, the TBI expects that initial emphasis will be in Telecom, Information Technology and Computer Networking, Education, Energy, Materials, Healthcare, Biotech and Automobile Engineering.

The IIT Mandi Catalyst was awarded INR 4.5 crores funding from DST for the period 2016-21. IIT Mandi has committed about INR 8 crores. In addition, Vishal Bharat Comnet has donated INR 10 Lakhs toward incubation funds of IIT Mandi Catalyst.

12. Entrepreneurship Cell: The Entrepreneurship Cell (E-Cell) aims to promote entrepreneurship among students of IIT Mandi through continuous student engagement in activities that include interactive sessions with innovators and entrepreneurs, experts from industry, organizing competitions and training sessions, and mentoring business ideas. The key functions of the E-Cell include:

a. Organizing seminars/lectures/talks by innovators and entrepreneurs

b. Organizing entrepreneurship related competitions for students

c. Mentoring budding entrepreneurs through very early stages of their idea

d. Extending support such as minor financial support and access to workspace to very early stage teams.

13. Social Entrepreneurship in the region: The institute with the help of its faculty and volunteers has started a social entrepreneurship programme ‘Empowering Women of Kamand (EWOK)’, which works towards empowering women in the villages and community around the region and helps establish their social entrepreneurship venture. The members of EWOK work closely with the community and help them with ideas, seed funding and a risk-free environment where the women can explore areas of interest and convert them into small businesses. They have successfully helped around 15-20 women establish a small livelihood for themselves by doing work in handicrafts, stitching, beauty parlours, contracting among others