'We have a dynamic process in place that keeps evolving'

Interview/ Prof V. Ramgopal Rao, director, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

98-Prof-V-Ramgopal-Rao Prof V. Ramgopal Rao

What makes you the best among engineering colleges in India?

One of the best things that distinguishes IIT Delhi from [others] is its faculty. We follow a three-level reviewer selection process to recruit our faculty. In the last four years, we have started nine new departments and centres. This means that we have created a new IIT within an existing IIT. Among the new centres are the Centre for Automotive Research and Tribology that focuses on electric vehicles (EVs). We also have three new schools—School of Public Policy, School of Artificial Intelligence and the School for Interdisciplinary Research.

We have a dynamic process in place that keeps evolving…. Institutions have to emphasise on new things that are important in society today such as EVs. If we do not, then India will have to import all those technologies. We are now recruiting at least 20 new faculty members in the EV space.

How important are collaborations and constant engagements for IIT Delhi?

Being in Delhi, we thought that we needed to get into policy studies in a major way. So we started a school of public policy. We are again recruiting a large faculty in the space. At the same time, Delhi also has a lot of location advantages. We get to directly engage with the ministries, and some of the finest institutions of India—AIIMS Delhi, National Institute of Immunology, Regional centre for BioTechnology—are also in Delhi. We have MoUs with all the major institutes, and have joint supervision of faculty and students between them, which helps in bringing a multi-disciplinary focus to our research.

Any new innovations you have worked on?

During the pandemic, we have undertaken and licenced at least 13 innovations. For instance, we have the cheapest low-cost RT-PCR kit. We also developed a Rs 50 antigen test. Around 70 lakh Kawach PPE suits, developed by IIT Delhi, have been sold until now. [Likewise,] N95 masks were very expensive and were not freely available. We launched masks under the Kawach brand for just Rs40, which met all the N95 specifications.

Are you introducing any new multidisciplinary course?

We have started an MTech in cyber security, which involves multiple departments in the institute, from electrical to computer science to information technology. Very recently, we launched an MTech programme for e-mobility, and a new masters in public policy. We are also starting a bachelors in design programme, and a BTech programme in energy engineering. There would also be MTech progammes in AI and data sciences.

How do you see the academic year 2021-22?

During Covid times, we have pushed our infrastructure projects. Around 1.8 million square feet of new space [will be] handed over to us in 2021. It will ensure that when students come back, we will be able to maintain some social distancing. There are two new hostels coming up, and we are planning [another] one. A sports complex and a laboratory space are also coming up. A research and innovation park will be inaugurated soon. We hope to see at least 100 industries come and do their research on the campus.