In April 1973, the Industrial Consultancy Centre (ICC) was established at IIT Madras. With the establishment of the ICC, IIT Madras aimed to provide expertise in design, development, and experimentation with regard to problems and processes in industries. The staff and faculty of the Institute would be involved, making it a self-sufficient organization. The ICC aimed to bring young engineers and technologists into the realm of entrepreneurship and self- employment.
The Centre, inaugurated by Mr. C. Subramaniam (Minister for Industrial Development and Minister for Science and Technology), is now known as the Office of Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research (IC & SR). When it was set up, Prof. K. A. V. Pandalai was the Director of IIT Madras. According to the Annual Report of IIT Madras 1976-77, the ICC was established to create a link between IIT Madras and industries, promote sponsored research activities, and also relationships with industries. The organization is headed by the Dean at a Professor level.
- The first Dean of the ICC was Prof. R. G. Narayanamurthi from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Prof. Narayanamurthi was the Dean until the academic year 1974-75. As part of the Fourth Indo-German Agreement (signed on 1 November 1974), Prof. Hans Wagner joined the Institute as the Adviser to ICC in July 1976 and stayed until September 1978. One of the aims of this agreement was to strengthen the cooperative efforts of India and West Germany and the consultancy services of industry.
- The ICC was most likely located at the Mechanical Sciences Block (MSB) when it was founded. Towards the end of 1976, the ICC shifted to the southern wing of the second floor of the Building Science Block (BSB) occupying 400 square meters there.
- In the academic year 1978-79, Prof. V. C. Venkatesh was the Professor in Charge of the organization. By this academic year, the organization had taken up over 5000 assignments for more than 1000 customers. The ICC organized courses, seminars and various projects. One of the projects (in the academic year 1978-79) was the designing and developing of agricultural spraying equipment for M/s Monsanto Chemicals of India Ltd., Bombay to apply chemical ripeners to the foliage of sugarcane crops. The design was the first of its kind in the country.
- After Prof. Venkatesh’s tenure as Professor in Charge, Prof. P. Srinivasa Rao was appointed as Dean of IC & SR in the academic year 1979-80. In an Oral History Interview with the Heritage Centre, Prof. P. S. Rao talks about his interest in consultancy and how the consulting activity was built up over the years. He mentions how Prof. P. C. Varghese from the Department of Civil Engineering emphasized the importance of conducting courses for students as well as practicing engineers from outside. In this way, the engineers from industries would take part in courses in order to gain knowledge from the experts at IIT Madras
- Eventually, Prof. Rao developed relationships with companies such as L&T, Doordarshan and many others. He also developed an important connection with the Indian Railways in the early 1970s. The Indian Railways took the help of Prof. Varghese and Prof. Rao in developing and testing prestressed concrete sleepers for railway tracks using the dynamic load testing laboratory facility at the Structural Engineering Laboratory. In an interview, Mr. Najeeb Shariff mentions that the laboratory was built by Prof. P. S. Rao. The collaboration with the Indian Railways was a success and the sleepers are still being used today.
- Prof. P. S. Rao was succeeded by Prof. J. C. Kuriacose in the academic year 1982-83. During this year, 16 new Collaborative Research Projects, some of which were ‘Transport System Management for Indian Cities’ and ‘Solar Energy for Cold Storage’ were taken up along with West Germany. The IC & SR was organizing various kinds of projects every year, one of which was the Collaborative Research Project, which involved collaboration with foreign countries on projects.
- The following academic year, in 1983-84, Prof. H. N. Mahabala took over as the Dean until the year 1984-85. During his tenure, a new programme, M. S. in Entrepreneurship was introduced as part of the Institute’s Silver Jubilee activities. The IC & SR arranged special lectures based on entrepreneurial development for students of IIT Madras
- Apart from this, the ICC brought together faculty members from various disciplines in order to cater to the demands of companies at regional and national levels. Some major research institutions such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) established cells at IIT Madras to collaborate on research projects. The Annual Report of IIT Madras, 1987-88 notes that the ICC conducted seminars and short term courses which would be beneficial to ISRO scientists. The Annual Report of IIT Madras, 1989-90 mentions two short term courses conducted by the ICC, which were ‘Expert Systems for Indian Space Programme’ and ‘Random Vibration and Acoustics’. This shows the wide scope of the projects undertaken by the IC & SR even in its early stages. The state and central government fund projects at IIT Madras, along with industries that require assistance from the Institute.
- The ICC came to be known as the Centre for Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research some years after it was started. The Annual Report of IIT Madras (1982-83) refers to the organization as the ‘Centre for Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research’ in a report, as opposed to ‘Industrial Consultancy Centre’ in older Annual Reports.
- In an interview, Prof. V. Radhakrishnan, who was Dean of the IC & SR from 1985 to 1990 talks about the narrow scope of consultancy during the time. He mentions that things were not looking bright for consultancy at the time, but the reasons for the limitations are not mentioned in the interview. During Prof. Radhakrishnan’s time as Dean, the IC & SR published a number of booklets about the activities about the various departments and also a monthly newsletter called NewsTech, news on technology. This newsletter, released in January 1989, was circulated to industries. Prof. Radhakrishnan also started an Industrial Associateship Scheme in 1987, wherein industries could join as associate members of the Institute. By the academic year 1991-92, over 200 industries and organizations had joined the scheme. The IC & SR also started Technology Appreciation Programmes (TAP) along with other programmes in order to increase the Institute’s exposure to the industry.
- Another new programme started by Prof. Radhakrishnan in 1988-89 was a Research-based Consultancy (RBIC). He believed that research was essential to provide consultancy so that a knowledge base could be created based on the research being done. According to Prof. Radhakrishnan, faculty members were more attracted to this new programme, as it yielded better remuneration.
- A report notes that one or more industries could sponsor projects of interest as long as they agreed to share the results obtained. These projects would last anywhere between six months to three years. The images below show the values of projects over the years, both in industrial consultancy and sponsored research.
- Towards the end of Prof. Radhakrishnan’s tenure, a new building for the IC & SR was proposed and the place was also allocated following the approval of the Board of Governors and the then Director Prof. N. V. C. Swamy. The building was constructed and completed under Prof. V. S. Raju’s tenure as Dean of the IC & SR. The new IC & SR building was completed in the academic year 1994-1995. It cost 136 lakh rupees. Additional space on the first and second floors was also completed at a cost of 45 lakh rupees.
- During Prof. K. V. S. Rama Rao’s tenure as Dean of the IC & SR, the new IC & SR building was formally inaugurated on 28 July 1995 by Mr. Madhavrao Scindia (then Minister for HRD). This was not the only accomplishment this year for the IC & SR.
- The organization also agreed to provide technical consultancy for the development of a new international airport at Nedumbassery, Kochi. The total value of the assignment was estimated to be around 1 crore rupees.
- By 1996-97, the number of industries taking part in the programmes of the IC & SR increased. An MoU was signed with the Port of Visakhapatnam to construct a multipurpose berth in the outer harbor of Visakhapatnam. Several more MoUs were signed with L & T ECC Construction Group, Madras, and Tata Telecom for ISCN terminals.
- On 2 March 1998, Prof. S. Srinivasa Murthy took over the reins as Dean of the IC & SR from Prof. K. V. S. Rama Rao. During this year, the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) proposed funding projects under M.S. and Ph.D. programmes at the Institute. This was in addition to the IGCAR projects that were being continued through the previous year.
- The various schemes, programmes and projects at the IC & SR continued, and visitors from Australia, Switzerland, Germany and many other countries continued to come to the Institute to take part. In April 1999, the first issue of IIT Madras bi-monthly News Letter was published and four more issues were published during the year. For the first time, the national projects crossed the 1,000 lakh mark in 2001-2002. These projects were valued at 1525.39 lakhs. In yet another first, the IC & SR brought out a CD on IIT Madras. This information has been recorded in the Annual Report of IIT Madras, 2001-02.
- On 3 March 2003, Prof. V. Kalyanaraman was appointed as the Dean for the IC & SR and the following year, on 19 April 2004, the ISRO-IITM Cell discussed projects of mutual interest to both ISRO and IIT Madras, and also post-graduate level projects which final year M.Tech. and dual degree students could work on. The IC & SR organized several faculty visits to industries and also plenty of lectures and workshops. One of these workshops was conducted on an international level. The topic was ‘Modeling of Tsunamis: Generation, Propagation and Impact’ and it was sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services Limited. This workshop was organized from 31 March to 2 April 2005, three months after the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
- IC & SR began to conduct socially relevant activities under the banner Technologies for Social Development. One of the projects under this programme was the Rural Technology Action Group, Tamil Nadu, also known as RuTAG which started functioning on 10 June 2004. This project aimed to bridge the technology gap between urban and rural India. Some of the early proposals included mud blocks for low cost housing and constructing a bridge across a canal. These projects were undertaken and completed with NGOs such as the Pothu Vivasayeegal Sangam and Gandhigram .
- Trust in Dindigul district. Around 11 projects of this nature were completed and more than 20 more taken up in the mid 2000s. Some of the ongoing projects included introducing LED street lights in villages such as Sittilingi, Tamil Nadu. The projects extended to the North-East, Uttarakhand and even Leh, Ladakh. A database and website was prepared on rural technologies to mitigate the technological gap.
- One of the programmes under the Technologies for Social Development was L-Ramp, Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Programme for Inventors. It was a joint initiative of IIT Madras and Rural Innovations Network, supported by the Lemelson Foundation, USA. The aim of this was to make the living standards for poor communities better using scalable and sustainable means. L-Ramp encouraged engineering students to work on socially relevant projects during their final years in order to find sustainable solutions. Grants were provided to forty students to take up these projects. The Lemelson Foundation sanctioned around eight crore rupees to IIT Madras for projects under L-Ramp in August 2004.
- The social projects continued to gain momentum over the years, when Prof. T. T. Narendran took over as the Dean from 6 March 2006. During his tenure as the Dean, L-Ramp presented innovation awards for innovators, journalists, investors and many others for their efforts. On 28 November 2007, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (former President of India - President up to July 2007) presented awards at the IC & SR building. The award included a trophy, certificate and prize money. Award categories included Grassroots Innovator Award, Woman Innovator Award, Young Innovator Award, Enterprise Award, Investor Award, Media / Journalist Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Annual Report of IIT Madras, 2007-08 has published photographs of the awardees and also photographs of the innovations funded by the programme.
- Prof. Job Kurian served as the Dean from 11 March 2009 up to 11 March 2012 after which Prof. Krishnan Balasubramaniam took over. The projects and consultancy activities continued to expand in the late 2000s, and the value of sponsor research projects crossed the 10,000 lakh mark in the academic year 2010-11. A Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship was set up in August 2010 to focus on countering the problems faced by the economically weaker sections of Indian society using the innovation and entrepreneurship aspects of IIT Madras. The centre organized camps, workshops, field visits, courses and many other activities.
- In the academic year 2012-13, IC & SR started taking to social media in order to reach out to stakeholders. Net based avenues were created with the handle ‘ReachIITM’. It included a Facebook, Twitter and YouTube page. Apart from this, an e-Newsletter campaign was started with a monthly periodical being published. The social media handles were regularly updated for the benefit of the stakeholders.
- According to the 2016-2017 Annual Report of IIT Madras, the Facebook page of the Institute had gathered over 1,02,000 likes, engaging over 30,000 people every week. The Institute's Twitter page had around 36,000 impressions per month, on an average. Around this time, the Institute extended its platform to Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. The social media venture initiated by the IC & SR was successful in reaching out to the public and keeping people updated on the activities of IIT Madras.
- In March 2016, Prof. Sujatha Srinivasan of the Mechanical Engineering Department was invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan to showcase a project on the standing wheelchair at an exhibition on ‘Innovations in Medical Science and Biotechnology’. She had begun coordinating a project on the ‘Development of a Standing Wheelchair’ around the years 2012-2013. On 31 May 2017, Prof. Sujatha Srinivasan was awarded a patent for the portable standing wheelchair design. This was one of the many patents awarded to IIT Madras faculty and researchers over the years. One of the crucial roles played by the IC & SR is the filing of patents for innovations and inventions of the researchers and faculty of IIT Madras.
- Prof. Ravindra Gettu became the Dean from 7 March 2018 and towards the end of the year 2019, during Prof. Gettu’s tenure, the standing wheelchair was launched at the IIT Madras Research Park. The wheelchair, named ‘Arise’ was well received by chief guest Thaawarchand Gehlot (Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment), who held the device in high praise.
- The IC & SR was now a major hub for industrial and social projects and by the time Prof. Manu Santhanam took over as the Dean after Prof. Ravindra Gettu’s tenure, several new projects had been initiated. One of these projects was the translation of science books into Telugu and Tamil. The translated books were donated to village school libraries. Over 300-500 local-language medium schools were involved in this project.
- The IC & SR today, housed in a large building behind the Kendriya Vidyalaya IIT Chennai (KV) grounds, the one inaugurated by Minister Scindia, continues to find sponsors for a large number of projects and assignments undertaken at the Institute. In the financial year 2021-22, the organization hit an all-time high, generating 1000 crore rupees, including 768 crore rupees from sanctioned projects and 313 crore rupees in industry consultancy. Apart from taking up projects, IC & SR coordinates various aspects pertaining to Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer. So far, the organization has filed over 1500 patents out of which 146 have been granted.
- The Annual Reports of IIT Madras contain important statistics and information regarding the activities of the IC & SR starting from 1973. The reports and documentation allow the reader to trace the development of the ICC from a relatively smaller centre into a large organization making an impact across the world in various fields. The scope of the projects range across a wide array of areas including medicine, aeronautics and much more.
Heritage Center,IIT Madras.
1973 - 1983
- 1979 – 1st Meeting of IC&SR Board.
- 1980 - Guidelines for taking up Consultancy Jobs.
- 1980 - Intellectual Property Rights Rules.
1983 - 1993
- 1986 - ISRO-IITM Space Technology Cell.
- 1987 - Industrial Associateship Scheme.
- 1989 - Research Based Industrial Consultancy introduced.
1993 - 2003
- 1994 -Inauguration of IC&SR Building with Conference Facilities.
- 1995 -Technology Development Mission Projects.
- 1996 -IGCAR-IITM Research Cell.
2003 - 2013
- 2008 -ISO-9001 Recertification.
- 2011 -IIT Madras awarded for filing maximum number of patent by GoI.
- 2013 -Social Networking activities initiated.
- 2013 -IPM Cell was set up.
2013 - Present
- 2014 -Renovation and Expansion of IC & SR building.
- 2018 -Tula Software go-live (Inhouse ERP system for Project Management and Accounting System).
- 2019 -Renovation of the auditorium into a state-of-the-art facility.
- 2020 -Common Instrument Facility setup at NAC complex.
- 2021 -Rs. 1,000 Crore of funding and revenue generated in FY2122.
- 2022 - National Intellectual Property Award.