IIT Mandi and IIT Roorkee have been engaging the local youth to find solutions to the region’s socio-economic problems
In their aims to provide innovative solutions in the Himalayan region in agriculture, waste management, forestation, disaster management and transportation, researchers in IIT Roorkee and IIT Mandi are making an effort.
Through startups and technology-based solutions, both these institutes have been engaging students to help solve the region’s socio-economic problems. “The need to address the challenges is not a sudden realisation. When IIT Roorkee was first set up as the erstwhile University of Roorkee in the Himalayan foothills, the aim was to channelise the Ganga water, the source of which is the Himalayas. Over the years, the Institute has been addressing various issues of the region, such as hydroelectric power generation, lake rejuvenation and earthquake prediction,” says Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi, director, IIT Roorkee.
At IIT Mandi too, which is 14 kilometers away from Mandi town, in Himachal Pradesh, efforts have been made to address similar challenges through research activities and various conferences/seminars. “The Institute also has a course curriculum where through Interactive-Socio-Technical Practicum, the BTech second year students get exposure to the general problems of the local community and work on developing useful products and technologies required to solve these problems,” says Puran Singh, assistant professor, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Mandi. The Institute had recently organised the Himalayan Innovation Challenge 2019 in which its incubator Catalyst handpicked 15 innovative ideas to enable the entrepreneurs in prototyping, testing and implementation. “The startups, under the incubator, will get grant and investment worth Rs 16.5 lakh,” Singh adds.
In a similar vein, IIT Roorkee has been working through Design Innovation Center (DIC), supported by MHRD, towards the process of implementing COMAL (COmmon MAn to Laboratory) Scheme, where proposals are being invited from NGOs, entrepreneurs and common people for evolving innovative solutions. “Currently, two problems are being addressed through the COMAL scheme, namely, portable briquetting machine for forest waste and better home stay solutions for boosting tourism in the Himalayan region. Students at the DIC have also developed working prototypes of assistive device for porters of the Himalayan region and manual crop harvester for hilly terrain, both of which are in the field trial stage and will undergo design iterations before commercialisation, Singh says.
He adds, “Mentoring support on product development, market access and pricing strategy to push the product into the market on fast track basis are provided to the startups besides active support on IP filing and technology commercialisation.”
But it is not as if all startups meet with success. As Chaturvedi says, “One of the teams figured out that despite demand for the product, the target population will not buy it due to the high price. The team was prudent to drop the idea. In another case, a student team preferred a high paying corporate job over their startup work. In a contrasting case, a group of students (team named The Solar Labs) declined corporate job offers to pursue their startup and are doing well now.” The Himalayas, with their idyllic charm, may perhaps be the reason.