How higher education institutions can engage with the industry

The significance of higher education institutions (HEIs) has never been more pronounced than in the era of digital transformation and rapid technological advancement, amid ever-shifting industry landscapes.

Minu Sirsalewala
New Update


The significance of higher education institutions (HEIs) has never been more pronounced than in the era of digital transformation and rapid technological advancement, amid ever-shifting industry landscapes. Higher education institutions play a pivotal role in shaping tomorrow’s innovators and at the forefront of this revolution is the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi


(IIIT-Delhi). Excerpts from an interview with Dr. Ranjan Bose, Director.

What are the ways in which higher education institutes can engage with industry? How does IIIT Delhi collaborate with industries to enhance student skill development?

Interfacing with industry is not only necessary but essential. IIIT-D is industry-facing, globally connected, and socially relevant, and this is reflected in our teaching and learning processes. The following are some ways to engage fruitfully with industry and specific examples of how IIIT-D is doing it.


Research Partnerships with Industry: Collaborating on research projects enables faculty members and industry partners to address complex challenges, develop innovative solutions, and advance knowledge in specific areas. Several faculty members of IIIT-D have collaborative projects with industry, and industry projects support multiple Ph.D. students. Last year, IIIT-D signed over 10 new MoUs with industry partners.

Joint Project Guidance: Guiding joint projects with industry partners allows students to gain specialized skills and knowledge tailored to industry needs. At IIIT-D, joint project guidance with industry experts at the UG and PG levels is strongly encouraged. An example of this is the M.Tech. scholarships sponsored by Vehant Technologies, which supports the students and exposes them to first-hand industry experience.

Consulting Services: Providing consulting services to industry partners allows higher education institutes to leverage their expertise and resources to address specific challenges faced by industry. Faculty members at IIIT-D routinely consult for industry, improving their operations and solving complex problems.


Joint Hiring with Industry: Joint faculty appointments with industry can lead to a more incredible intertwining with industry. At IIIT-D, we have an ongoing program with TCS where part of the faculty salary comes from the industry, and the faculty spends proportionate time in the industry.

Technology Transfer and Commercialization: Industry partners can benefit from access to cutting-edge technology and intellectual property developed at higher educational institutes. At IIIT-D, we have a Dean for Corporate Relations and Entrepreneurship and a technology transfer office to liaise with industry and facilitate technology transfer.

Research and Innovation Showcase for Industry: Organizing events such as open houses, research showcases, conferences, workshops, and networking sessions provide opportunities for industry professionals, academic researchers, and students to exchange ideas, share best practices, and explore potential collaborations. At IIIT-D, the research and innovation showcase (RIISE) is organized annually.


Internship Programs: Establishing internship programs allows students to gain practical experience and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. The placement cell at IIIT-D proactively contacts the industry in core areas for both short-term and long-term internships. The placement cell also helps hone the soft skills of our students.

Research is becoming increasingly crucial for HEIs. Please share some more details about IIIT-D’s research ecosystem.

Today, the focus of HEIs is shifting from purely teaching institutes to more research-oriented, setting up a robust ecosystem for innovation leading to entrepreneurship. Here are some unique aspects of the thriving research ecosystem at IIIT-D:


             At IIIT-D, all faculty members are encouraged to carry out cutting-edge research, publish their work at top venues, and disseminate their findings through reputable academic channels. Last year, our faculty members and students published over 370 research papers in top journals and conferences.

             Sponsored research projects are essential for bolstering a curiosity-driven and applications-oriented research culture in higher education institutes. Last year, over 30 new Sponsored Research Projects were granted to IIIT-D.

             The Institute has a flexible Ph.D. program where interested students can join the program around the year. Additionally, several undergraduate students participate in research projects, with several of them presenting their work at prestigious conferences.


             High-quality research is recognized through research excellence awards. The research contributions of all faculty members are reviewed annually by domain experts as a part of their annual appraisals, and feedback is provided to the faculty members.

             A Dean heads the Innovation, Research and Development (IRD) division at IIIT-D and is responsible for strengthening the research ecosystem at the Institute. It organizes internal grant-writing workshops regularly.

             The Institute also has an internal ‘grand challenges program’ where it funds a couple of promising moonshot ideas. IIIT-D also has a strong penchant for international collaborative research.


             IIIT-Delhi organizes an annual outreach event called Research, Innovation, and Incubation Showcase (RIISE). The most recent edition of RIISE had sessions on industry-relevant topics like 5G, robotics, sustainable mobility, health tech, etc., and the student projects were displayed according to their Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs).

What specific initiatives does IIIT Delhi employ to bridge the gap between academia and industry?

IIIT-D has taken some unique and unconventional steps to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Here are some examples:

             Electronic products touch every dimension of our lives today. Currently, there is an emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and ‘Design in India’. IIIT-D recently established a Centre for Intelligent Product Development (CiPD) to respond to this emerging requirement. This unique Centre works on globally competitive electronic product platforms—including hardware and software systems—to design and develop products. Industry partners have been onboarded from day one.

             IIIT-D recently inaugurated the Medical Cobotics Center, the first of its kind in India. Cobot is a name for a ‘collaborative’ robot that works alongside humans. Besides translational research leading to product development and startups, this centre facilitates the training of healthcare professionals.

             We have started a collaboration with Thales, France, in the domain of open hardware research and development. This initiative has already led to the formation of a startup.

             A recent collaboration with Max Healthcare focuses on joint research activities and academic exchanges. We are already working on deep learning-based image analysis for cytotoxicity and predicting breast cancer receptor status and molecular subtypes using MRI images.

             IIIT-D is also leading an international collaborative project intending to establish Hub in Robotics and Autonomous Systems within India to address the problem of scarcity of skilled manpower in robotics technology.

How does IIIT Delhi ensure its curriculum stays relevant to industry demands?

The standard process for starting any new program at IIIT-D requires a workshop with industry participation. The industry experts provide feedback on the courses’ alignment with future industry requirements.

Starting new lecture courses is a streamlined process that requires peer feedback from faculty colleagues. Thus, emerging topics can quickly be developed and taught as elective courses.

At IIIT-D, we encourage experiential learning, also called learning through experience/discovery/exploration. Most of our courses have projects that require our students to get their hands dirty and ‘learn by doing.’

Curriculum revision is done periodically, taking inputs from the industry.

In the spirit of innovation, how is IIIT Delhi fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem within its faculty, enabling teachers to impart knowledge and incubate ideas into impactful startup ventures, thus simultaneously enriching academia and industry?

The Institute has a healthy innovation ecosystem leading to entrepreneurship. The IIITD-Incubation Centre is instrumental in driving the growth of entrepreneurial activities at the IIIT-D campus, including providing incubation support, funding, infrastructure, mentoring, etc., to students, faculty members, and alumni of the Institute. The Incubation Centre is supported by funds from DST, MeitY, and the Delhi government. Currently, there are more than 30 startups supported by the Incubation Centre.

IIIT-Delhi has a Technology Innovation Hub (TiH) under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems. This TiH is focused on catalyzing state-of-the-art research, development, technology transfers, engagement with industry, and entrepreneurial activities. There are already 25 startups supported under this program. One of the funded startups, CoRover Pvt. Ltd., is a leader in human-centric conversational and generative AI platforms and offers Chatbot as a Service.

The Institute is also actively contributing to the Delhi Research Implementation and Innovation (DRIIV) program supported by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, to solve emerging challenges in the national capital region.

IIIT-D has set up an Electropreneur Park (EP) at the IIIT-Delhi campus, which provides an ecosystem for nurturing entrepreneurs and startups through cooperation and collaboration in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing. EP is funded by MeitY.

With support from DSIIDC, the Incubation Centre has set up a state-of-the-art Drone Innovation Lab to facilitate startups in the drone sector and provides resources to help startups build drones indigenously. There are already over 6 drone-based startups, and one of the startups (Enord) recently launched the ‘AI-on-Edge Drone’.

What are some of the recent initiatives at IIITD?

The Center for Quantum Technologies (CQT) has been recently set up at the Institute. CQT is engaged in interdisciplinary research and development in quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum materials and devices. It is working towards developing ‘affordable solutions’ focusing on India-specific opportunities and requirements. It is also mandated to train skilled manpower at undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels that can advance quantum technologies in India.

The One Delhi app was developed at IIIT-D and is extensively used by commuters in Delhi. Recently, we integrated the Delhi metro ticketing with the One Delhi app. It is perhaps India’s first app that has bus and metro ticketing in one place. This work has been carried out in our Centre for Sustainable Mobility.

What are your views regarding AI in education?

Education today is becoming increasingly digitized, diverse, distributed, disruptive, data-centric, and driven-by-vision. At the same time, the questions related to learning outcomes, effective learning, and inclusivity have become paramount. With the world becoming more complex and unpredictable, learners must acquire the basic skills to deal with the dynamic scenario. This is where AI comes in.

             AI can potentially address some of today’s most significant educational challenges, innovating teaching and learning practices.

             AI can be geared toward improving learning for every student, empowering teachers, and strengthening learning management systems.

             AI should be used to make teachers and teaching more effective (and ultimately reduce the burden on teachers)

             Time-consuming, tedious tasks such as record-keeping or grading can be completed through AI automation.

             AI tutors and chatbots can be available to answer questions at any time.

             AI/ML needs to be integrated into the system to enable both students and teachers to measure, analyze, and improve learning outcomes.

             Learning can be tailored and adapted to each student’s goals and abilities through personalized programs.

             Finally, it is important to realize what AI can, and cannot, do for education!

Dr. Ranjan Bose

Director, IIIT-Delhi

By Minu Sirsalewala

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