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Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA)

ITRA is an enabling National Programme initiated by DeitY to help build a national resource for advancing the quality and quantity of R&D in Information and Communications Technologies and Electronics (ICTE, or IT for short) and its applications, in IT and related institutions across India. ITRA is currently operating as a Division of Media Lab Asia (MLAsia), a Section-25 not-for-profit organization of DeitY.

The core areas of IT span various engineering disciplines, notably computer science and engineering, and electrical engineering, although applications may come from almost any discipline. ITRA focuses on strengthening the nation’s competitiveness by expanding the R&D base in IT, especially by leveraging the large IT education sector and IT users such as government, industry and other organizations. The enhanced IT R&D capacity created through ITRA would impact the overall ecosystem of Information Technology, to be reflected in the numbers of research groups and labs created, new research areas initiated, scale of PhD graduations, new curricula, innovative solutions to industrial and societal problems, strong linkages with R&D groups, etc.

ITRA is designed to produce a large numbers of IT researchers who are well equipped with the latest IT knowledge, educated in relating classroom knowledge to developing solutions, trained to spot problems amenable to IT solutions, motivated to identify societal problems in IT and other domains, and exposed to mechanisms for converting lab solutions to working prototypes. ITRA activities are aimed at a major increase in the national capacity of producing PhDs who could become faculty in academic institutions and address the needs of the industry and society at large.

Objective:

The main objective of ITRA is to achieve competitive advantage in IT and increasing the national R&D capacity, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This would be accomplished through:

  • Building R&D Groups in IT,
  • Networking the Groups and connecting them to Industry and Society,
  • Producing high quality PhDs for Industry, R&D labs and Academic Institutions,
  • Enabling innovation in IT, and
  • Enhancing societal problem solving skills.

Outcomes and Outputs

ITRA is designed to serve as a national resource for enhancing the quality and quantity of R&D in IT. ITRA, with its network of experts and organizations, is intended to significantly increase the:

  • Quality of R&D and teaching,
  • Capacity of R&D across a large number of institutions,
  • Quality and number of faculty and researchers,
  • Numbers of technologies, publications and patents,
  • Ability, enthusiasm and initiative in spotting and solving societal problems,
  • Societal impact of BS, MS and PhD work,
  • Diversity of the available career paths to students, and
  • Efficiency of IT as well as non-IT sectors in the society.

Output of ITRA at the end of 5 years is expected to be as follows:

  • 40+ Participating Institutions,
  • 60+ R&D Groups ,
  • 75+ ITRA Faculties, and
  • 500+ PhDs Enrolled.

Mechanisms

ITRA uses a pyramid model of increasing the number of partner institutions. Each institution learns from its mentor institution located at the next higher level, while it simultaneously helps improve the quality of its own mentee institutions at the level immediately below. Thus, coexisting mentor-mentee interactions simultaneously raise quality across the pyramid with time, while fresh, lowest tier institutions are steadily added at the bottom. This leads to an exponential growth in the number of ITRA partner institutions. The R&D enhancement activities include:

  • Multi-disciplinary Team Formation:
    • Teams are formed consisting of academic institutions or R&D labs of different quality and disciplines, with varied geographical spread;
    • If needed, non-academic partners are included as collaborators, e.g., Govt. organizations, R&D labs, industry and NGOs focused on:
      • A basic IT research problem, or
      • Applying IT to an important application domain
  • Focus Area Identification, Project Review and Initiation:
    • Focus areas are identified based on national priorities, need assessment and opportunities.
    • For each focus area, specific projects are defined through Strategy Formulation Meetings of national and international experts and stakeholders.
    • Projects are initiated for implementation.
  • Enhancement of Quality of R&D at ITRA Institutions:
    • Eminent experts are invited to nurture R&D teams in emerging areas and collaborate with ITRA Institutions/Faculty
    • Fellowships, awards, professorships, etc., are given to recognize performance
    • Researchers are exposed to state of the art facilities, best practices and mentorship
    • Programs are formulated to promote creativity and innovation through nurturing societal sensitivity
    • Mechanisms are defined to transfer deserving technologies developed by the teams to companies, etc.

ITRA engages world renowned researchers as adjunct faculty and advisors to help the partner institutions by motivating research groups, conducting research, guiding students, teaching new classes, evaluating status and discussing/implementing changes, if needed. Pooling experts from across the world offers the partner institutions an opportunity for incorporating the best institutional practices followed across the world.

Projects Launched

14 multi-disciplinary, collaborative, multi-institutional R&D team projects in the focus areas of “Mobile Computing, Networking and Applications” and “IT based Innovations in Sustainability of Water Resources” have been launched at 44 institutions across the country. Projects in another focus area, “IT in Agriculture & Food” are being launched.

For more details about ITRA, please visit http://itra.medialabasia.in

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