Q: With emerging technologies impacting every aspect of society, how can institutes like IIIT-H contribute to the research ecosystem?
IIIT-H has the strongest research groups in the country in the broad AI/ML areas, including Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, Robotics, Speech, Data Analytics, etc. As an institute, we are organised as research centres instead of departments and the deep involvement of undergraduate students in research is unique. We also have aspirations around making our research matter to society, to solve problems, create products, start-ups and open-source platforms for wide use. IIIT-H has established mechanisms and projects to translate academic research into market or field solutions. We were one of the earliest institutes to establish a full-fledged incubator in 2008. We also have experimented with models to connect research with start-ups, to build products from research and to help companies develop products using co-innovation model.
Q: How can higher studies and research be made a lucrative career option for youth?
Those who come to IIIT-H are inherently driven by curiosity and a true spirit of research. Society, however, diverts their natural aspirations to more ordinary goals like high-paying jobs in brand-name companies. The real question in front of us is: How do we prevent this diversion? How do we give them the opportunity to go beyond the ordinary and experience the thrill of engaging in research? Aspirations about making a big difference should be promoted over money and positions. Our unique research-led pedagogy model creates some of the best engineers in the country with high presence in product groups around the world. The future demands in-depth expertise beyond mere engineers, just as the healthcare profession looks to specialists over MBBS doctors.
Q: What are the new technology and applied research areas for industry and society that IIIT-H is focusing on?
We have started major efforts to apply the frontiers of research to impactful problems in society, while advancing the frontier at the same time. An entity called INAI to Integrate AI into population-scale applications was established recently with the support of Intel and partnership with Public Health Foundation of India and government of Telangana. Together with the Technology Innovation Hub on Data Driven Technologies established under the NM-ICPS scheme, we are looking forward to address several problems in public health, advanced diagnostics, smart mobility, Indian languages and agriculture.
Q: How does IIIT-H plan to contribute in the area of Quantum Computing?
We have a group of four faculty members, with a mixed background in physics, mathematics and CS, forming our Quantum Computing group and working in Quantum Algorithms, Security, etc. We are looking to grow their activities over the coming years. Combining quantum technologies with large scale machine learning would be something we can uniquely contribute to.
Q: How does IIIT-H plan to strengthen industry-academia relationship?
We need to engage with industry at the highest technical levels. Industry should engage with academia so that solutions and people for the next decade are produced in academic institutions. Excessive talk of “industry ready” graduates de-values the potential that academic institutions should strive for. Even in very evolved markets, direct engagement from industry is through social funding. And IP connect happens more through advisory and consulting. We have welcomed research engagement from tech companies for years. We have also worked towards creating models and structures that makes it easier for industry to engage with our research. In recent years we have built on early traction to get bigger models in place to amplify the connect such as multi-year CoEs (centre of excellence). We have models now to enable start-ups to innovate and come up with solutions that companies need, and in that process also enrich their use of technology through advice from research.
Q: What kind of facilities does IIIT-H have for startups and how do you plan to scale them up?
CIE at IIIT-H is perhaps the largest academic incubator in the country. And we have helped seed many incubators over the years, including T-Hub. A very less known fact is that we helped structure the model, processes and activities for T-Hub. Since then, our focus has shifted to enabling deep tech research-centered innovation and start-ups. The support is a full-service one, including technology, business, legal, mentorship and venture capital.
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