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Editorial Articles

volume-40,5 - 11 January 2019



Indranil  Manna

“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence”

             - Rabindranath Tagore

 Statistically speaking, India for its 1.25 billion people offers higher or tertiary level education through nearly 800

universities (including central, state, private, deemed and all other categories) who are mostly governed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and nearly 100 Institutes of National Importance (INIs) which were created through special acts of the Parliament or State Assemblies who directly report either to the Central or State Government. The latter group includes the famed Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) etc. The chain of IITs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) represent the top echelon of technology institutes in the country which can boast of the most modern curriculum and infrastructure, though many state level university engineering departments are no less eminent in terms of their contributions and track record. Like all other seats of higher learning, engineering institutions too primarily deal with and focus on a single entity – knowledge, which they either disseminate (by teaching) or create (by research). In order to remain relevant and serve the society, engineering education needs a special outlook or approach different from conventional pedagogic style only consisting of lecture, discourse, monologue, text books, notes and examination leading to a degree without practical training for invention and innovation.


Successful pursuit in science, engineering and technology yields discovery (a new law, element or compound, phenomenon), invention (a new principle, device, drug, machine, process), and innovation (a new and economical product or process), respectively. Therefore, engineering education must build on relevant scientific theories and principles to address the issues of ‘need’ of the society; e.g. high strength material, greater thermal/electrical conductivity, affordable health care, sustainable energy resources, remedial measures for carbon footprint, efficient devices/ machines etc.

MHRD Initiatives on Promotion of Innovation

In recent times, the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched several new and innovative programs to make higher education more pervasive and effective and usher in significant positive changes in the higher education system, particularly in engineering and technology. Some of the notable initiatives are summarized below:

Research and Innovation: Start up India Initiative for HEIs

To promote  culture of ‘innovation’ in tune with the declaration of 21st century as the century of innovation and our Prime Minister’s desire to dedicate 2010-20 as the ‘Decade of Innovation’, MHRD has launched MHRD Innovation Cell (MIC) and  Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) to systematically foster the culture of innovation in all higher education institutes (HEIs) across the country by encouraging and nurturing young students to explore new ideas that can result into innovative products and activities and in turn can make them successful entrepreneurs one day.

Innovation has become synonymous

 with evolution and progress in life.

Education is the only way to effectively

train the population not only to benefit

from the exploits and fruits of innovation

 but also to actively participate and contribute to this crusade for creating a better, safer and healthier planet.

The initiative envisages creation of 1000 Institute Innovation Centers (IIC) across the country to spread awareness, promote the culture of innovation among students and create an effective eco system for ushering in ‘New India’ that can compete with the likes of Stanford and MIT.

Global Initiative for Academic Network (GIAN)

MHRD initiative on creating a new program titled Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education aims to connect the Indian academia with the international talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs by inviting them to teach and participate in research in Indian HEIs. GIAN should augment quality of professionals in academia, and elevate India’s scientific and technological standing in the global benchmark.

Scheme for Academic Research and Promotion by Collaboration (SPARC)

SPARC is a new and logical follow up initiative of MHRD after GIAN for improving the research ecosystem of India’s HEIs by facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian academia and best institutions in the world. Under this Scheme, 600 joint research proposals will be funded for 2 years to facilitate strong international research collaboration with leading foreign universities. Lack of international faculty and scholars in Indian institutions adversely affects our ranking. SPARC may significantly help Indian universities close that gap and facilitate new inventions and innovation.

Digital India-e-learning

The main objective of this virtual classroom initiative is to enable millions of youth outside the university campus to access best quality teachers and teaching courses in an easy paced manner without having to pay large admission/tuition fees or even qualify through JEE or other entrance examinations. MOOCs will allow limited interaction with faculty, take examinations and even earn certificates that may help in getting employment.

Research and Innovation

It is envisaged that design-centric innovation can be a force multiplier that can help India move up the value chain and make its industry globally competitive. Under this initiative, 20 new Design Innovation Centers (DIC), one Open Design School (ODS) and a National Design Innovation Network (NDIN) are planned to be set up with interlinks.

Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY)

UAY promotes industry sponsored, outcome-oriented research projects with an outlay of Rs. 475.00crore for a period of two years beginning 2016-17. The project cost is met to the extent of 50 per cent by MHRD and 25 per cent each by the Industry and host Institute. The objectives of UAY scheme are to promote innovation in IITs, connect with manufacturing industries, spur innovative mindset and promote collaboration and cooperation between academia and industry.

Innovation in HEIs - IMPRINT

The relevant question now is what is next?

The Government of India, in order to promote the culture of innovation in India, particularly in the technology institutions like IITs, NITs and all other HEIs, recently formulated a new and unique scheme called Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT), primarily with the goal of translation of knowledge from research into viable technology (product or process). Initiatives to promote research and innovation is nothing new. Yet why was IMPRINT conceived? What is different about IMPRINT? Let us address these two issues first.

As we all know, India with its over $ 2.5 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) eyeing a double digit growth is a mighty economic force in the world supported by a formidable 1.25 billion population with more than 800 million below the age of 35. Furthermore, India may soon be crowned the youngest nation in the world with average age of 28. However, it is also a reality that our nation faces multitude of daunting challenges in terms of energy/physical/ cyber security, potable water scarcity, environment and climate change, poverty and unemployment, and easy and affordable education and health care for billions. A vast majority of these tasks demand engineering inter-vention and technological innovation. A clarion call was made by the Honorable President and Prime Minister of India to address all engineering and techno-logical challenges faced by the nation through a nation-wide unique initiative called IMPacting Research INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) launched on November 5, 2015 from the Rashtrapati  Bhavan. Thus, the initial version of IMPRINT was conceived as a national initiative of MHRD through an inclusive and sustainable mode of translational research.


IMPRINT is different from usual research initiatives because (i) it is meant not only for creation but for translation of knowledge into viable technology, (ii) it addresses not just one but all technology challenges faced by the nation, (iii) it relies upon a total inclusive model of crowd sourcing and involving all concerned stakeholders from ministry to industry. Consequently, the initial round of IMPRINT (IMPRINT I) created an unprecedented enthusiasm among the researchers in academia. From 2612 initial proposals only 259 were selected and 142 projects are now underway with an outlay of Rs. 485 crore for three years. Until now IMPRINT I has culminated into more than 200 peer review publications and about 25 patent applications and invention disclosures. Over 250 project staff including about 100 Ph.D. scholars and 50 post-doctorates have been engaged in various projects. In order to disseminate the progress of all the 142 projects, a new KNOWLEDGE PORTAL has been created in the IMPRINT

website (https://imprint-india.org/knowledge-portal) to display the recent exploits and progress, significant results and possible breakthrough achieved on a monthly basis from each project, apart from documenting the knowledge (publication, report, patent) and facilities (instrument, device, laboratory) created, manpower (student, scholar) trained, financial resources obtained/ utilized, collaboration (with industry or partners) pursued, and above all, the prototype, pilot or product developed under the on-going IMPRINT I research project.


Solar Power Tree

Innovation by: CSIR-CMERI

Developed by the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI), the Solar Power Tree generates the same amount of electricity as a conventional array (enough to light up 5 homes), but on a much smaller plot of land. With photovoltaic panels placed at different levels on branches made of steel, "solar trees" could dramatically reduce the amount of land needed to develop solar parks. Solar power trees are also capable of harnessing 10 to 15 percent more power compared to ground-mounted solar arrays. The tree charges a battery backup system that can provide two hours of light after sunset on a full charge. The solar tree is also self-cleaning, with a built-in water sprinkler to clear any debris that would interfere with efficiency.                           (Source: www.innovate.mygov.in)



Atal Innovation Mission


Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India's endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

 The Atal Innovation Mission shall have two core functions: Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated Atal Tinkering Labs Atal Incubation Centers Scale-up support to Established Incubators


The portal will remain active until the logical conclusion of the projects. All the products and prototypes will be displayed in public through an exhibition in February 2019.

Imprint II

Encouraged by the success of IMPRINT I, a newer version called IMPRINT II, was planned in a more inclusive manner by expanding the catchment of implementing institutions, by adopting a more demand-driven strategy of solution development and by incorporating the specific requirements of the states of India so as to make end-user translation and technology adoption easier. The SERB (Science and Engineering Research Board) in the Department of Science & Technology (DST) was made the nodal agency for implementing the IMPRINT II initiative working along with the National Coordinator. All faculty members and researchers in all Government of India funded HEIs working in engineering and technology areas, especially in IITs, NITs, IISERs, IIITs or CUs are eligible to submit proposals in IMPRINT II as the Principal Investigator (PI). IMPRINT II shall maintain an appropriate inventory of stakeholder needs and map the same against various products/ technologies/ knowledge base likely to be developed under the initiative.

Overall outlay for IMPRINT II is about Rs. 670 crore during 2018-19 to 2021-22 with 50-50 budget sharing between MHRD and DST. Like IMPRINT I, this version also evoked wide spread enthusiasm. From 2145 initial proposals screened to 549 final proposals, eventually only 122 projects were selected for funding after two rounds of rigorous review running over three months. Help from over 500 experts including the Expert Pool of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) was utilized for blind project review and knowledge management. Core mandate of IMPRINT II has been:

  • Develop products/ processes and viable technologies for addressing the identified challenges in different domains
  • Formulate and develop focused translational projects against identified technology thrust areas by various stakeholder ministries
  • Evolve new technology transfer models for enabling technology diffusion to industry and stakeholders
  • Continuously monitor and refine the challenges and gaps in the various technology domains and collect feedback from stakeholder ministries/ industry
  • Align the programmers and projects with the needs of various industry sectors and the States of India in order to achieve end-user translation
  • Facilitate building capability and competence in identified technology thrust areas in the various HEIs and universities in order to plug the demand-supply gap
  • Detailed information about the scope, mandate, eligibility, review/monitoring mechanism, and format/ procedure for submission of preliminary and final project proposals are available in the IMPRINT website (www. IMPRINT-2.in). and www. imprintindia.org). An extended version of IMPRINT II will soon be rolled out to address special societal challenges covering issues on pollution, waste management, health care, personal security etc.


In the present era of knowledge based society, science is no longer only a curiosity driven act but is felt as an intrinsic necessity and urge to translate knowledge into societal benefit through engineering invention and technological innovation. Scientific pursuits demand continuous efforts, not sequential. Outcome is mostly slow and incremental but at times disruptive leading to paradigm shift and opening new chapters and avenues. Innovation has become synonymous with evolution and progress in life. Education is the only way to effectively train the population not only to benefit from the exploits and fruits of innovation but also to actively participate and contribute to this crusade for creating a better, safer and healthier planet.

E-mail: imanna@metal.iitkgp.ac.in

This article has been sourced from ‘Yojana’ magazine’s January, 2019 issue which is dedicated to the theme of Innovation. For details visit www.yojana.gov.in.