It’s a forest. Not a greenhouse. The bee here is IT.

A stem grows to a limited extent in a silo. Even despite being in the shiniest pot. But put it into a forest soil and it will blossom into a limitless creature.

New Update

Dr Harilal-Bhaskar

A stem grows to a limited extent in a silo. Even despite being in the shiniest pot. But put it into a forest soil and it will blossom into a limitless creature. Fruits, flowers, new roots, new heights – all these flourish out of a small stem because the land underneath is intensely busy running in all directions. And the air above is dancing with pollens fervently busy hopping from one stem to another. There are only so many labs, so many facilities and mentors when it comes to STEM research. But so many ideas and work waiting to happen—if only researchers get access to the equipment and resources they want. What if we break those walls and leave the magic to cross-pollination. That’s exactly what I-STEM has been built to do. And Dr. Harilal Bhaskar, Chief Operating Officer and National Coordinator, I-STEM is using his green thumb to turn the pages to new possibilities. Care for a walk?


How does the trail covered, so far, look for I-STEM? How is it changing research’s scope and speed in India?

The Indian Science, Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM) is a dynamic and interactive national portal. It hosts various scientific programs, initiated by office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Govt. of India. We aim to provide support to needy researchers in different ways and strengthen the R&D ecosystem. The idea on the top place now is to increase awareness and to expand our reach. This will help us to make sure that people who need access to labs are not limited because of lack of information. We want to open our doors wider to institutions and researchers. There are many Venn diagrams of challenges in this area. Some people suffer from awareness and access. Some from access and utilization. We want to find the intersections to solve these gaps.

A big problem in research is also that of duplication of ideas.


What would the next year move towards?

So far, we have put in a lot of efforts in creating this platform that can connect researchers with labs, equipment and institutions. We want to work more on success stories, GTM strategy, training programs and also replicate this model in other parts of the country.

By 2024, I-STEM aims not only to connect individuals to equipment but also to ignite a collaborative ecosystem where startups, industries, and academia co-create the next wave of innovation. This saves the researchers, industry and startups the prohibitive capital expenditure of purchasing advanced equipment. At the national level, this prevents duplication of resources in the research institutions.


What is the technology underground that powers this platform?

The website has all the staples – basic HTML, databases, SQL and the works. Now we are working on making a lightweight version and a mobile application as well. This is to address navigation and complexity and make the portal easier to access and use. It will also have more elements of localisation data and user ratings. As of now, we have outsourced the work of the portal but now I am planning to build in-house teams. It is also critical that once a researcher reaches someone, the connection does not drop or fade away – so we are working on creating a full-cycle follow-up support as well as call-centres. Usually, of all the requests the portal starts, roughly 50 per cent stay in the pending level. We want to work on solutions that reduce such drops. We are also investing in reducing the hierarchy and operational complexity with technology so that everything boils down to one person. A digital catalogue in the portal is going to make STEM research easy, well-connected and strongly accelerated.

Is collaboration in research a paradox? When ‘who is first to publish something or file a patent’ matters so much?


It is a challenge. But a big problem in research is also that of duplication of ideas. Many ideas can get duplicated even within an institution- specially when it is as big as an IIT, for instance. Professors in many institutions are working in siloes. While publication of papers is an important part of any academic career, real innovation needs sharing of knowledge and collaboration. One can improvise so much with collaboration. One can look at the same problem from multiple perspectives. Our aim is to streamline all this, specially in high-end research. That’s where real products and prototypes can be on the fast track. We can also create an environment to connect people for research contributors and vendors.

Can this platform turn into a Linkedin or Facebook or a metaverse of research some day?

Ideally, that can be done. As of now the focus is to reach as many people as possible. We want people to use labs and connect for job opportunities.


Any backward integration linkages for startups?

We have scope for that for startups and a digital catalogue can help a lot in finding resources and people. Someone may have a great execution capability but needs a good idea. And vice versa.

All such plans will grow strong once we stabilise our fundamental work.


What about women researchers?

We are getting 30 to 40 percent women researchers. It is very encouraging to promote those who come from a tough economic background or need the right professors or facilities.

How much of the equipment covered here is on the lines of underlining indigenisation?


As of now we are covering Ministry-approved equipment that has already been bought by governments. We definitely are serious on the long-term goal of more and more indigenisation.

What areas get more research interest?

A lot of work leans towards IISc where nanoscience and biotechnology top the list. In IITs, there is dominant interest in electronics and healthcare.

Next, we are focusing on creating a diversified list so that one is directed to the precise area with digital segregation.

What lies ahead now?

The I-STEM network already has 27,730 ‘Users’ such as researchers, industry, & startups, alongside 2,350 research and academic institutes across India that lend their scientific infrastructure such as labs to the ‘Users’. The vision of I-STEM is to create a future where one million new-age researchers, brimming with ideas, are seamlessly connected to a network of 10,000 cutting-edge labs across India.

 Dr. Harilal Bhaskar

Chief Operating Officer and National Coordinator,


By Pratima H