`A commendable job'

Print edition : October 08, 2004

KAMAL NARANG

Interview with Dr. R. Chidambaram, Chairman, TIFAC.

Dr. R. Chidambaram, present chairman of the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), has played a pivotal role in the development of science and technology in the country. In an e-mail interview to Anupama Katakam, he speaks about Mission REACH.

What were the objectives and goals of Mission REACH?

The objective of this scheme is to develop high quality manpower relevant to industry and, in the process, effect necessary changes in higher science and technology in the education system. This is sought to be accomplished by proactive participation of industrial experts in formulating and modifying existing curricula at present being taught in engineering and other technical colleges. The content of the academic courses is modified, after seeking the views of industry as well as assessing the latest technological needs through the REACH Monitoring Committee experts and other domain experts. This has often led to the development of entirely new programmes in interdisciplinary areas of direct relevance.

An important goal of Mission Reach is also to set up state-of-the-art R&D facilities in a chosen area in the chosen institute so that students have access to the latest research tools for getting world-class experimental education as well as upgrading their skills. Another key benefit of having such facilities is that they create the base for industry-sponsored R&D and perhaps even incubation of new ventures.

Could you give us a critical assessment of TIFAC's and the Mission REACH projects?

I personally feel that Mission REACH has done a commendable job of meeting the objectives and goals originally set forth by setting up 18 TIFAC-COREs spread across the country in advanced areas, which are most relevant to Indian industry as well as societal needs.

The TIFAC CORE on `Agricultural Biotechnology' at Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala and the `Advanced Computing and Information Processing' at SASTRA, Thanjavur are some success stories. A few unique TIFAC-COREs have been set for meeting specific local needs like the `Safety in the fireworks industry' at Mepco Schlenk College, Sivakasi. COREs have also been set up in areas related to human health and medicine such as `Diabetic Retinopathy' at Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai. As you can see, the chosen institutions have already reached a level of excellence to which the TIFAC-CORE programme will add further value.

With regard to the success of Mission REACH, I feel that it has contributed to the technical education system of India by introducing a large number of new courses (some of them for the first time in the country) as well as turning out trained professionals, who are `tailor-made' to the needs of industry.

Several new and innovative products in the form of proto-types/formulations have been developed at these TIFAC-COREs, which are now being scaled up by the industry. For example, the TIFAC-CORE in JSS College of Pharmacy, Ootacamund, has developed an appetite stimulant for children - "HAPENZ", which is a polyherbal formulation. Likewise, about 100 prototypes of automobile industry-related and general engineering appliances have been tried out for major industries by the TIFAC-CORE in PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore.

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