Title: Building an R&D Ecosystem for IT-Based Societal Problem Solving in India
Abstract: There is an experimental initiative under way in India, called Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA), aimed at advancing the quality and quantity of R&D in Information and Communications Technologies (IT) and its applications, at a steadily growing number of academic and research institutions, while strengthening the academic culture of IT based problem solving and societal development.
The objective is to build an R&D ecosystem, directed at finding solutions to important problems, by linking academic and research institutions, industry, government and other organizations into tightly knit teams. The ecosystem simultaneously enhances the quality of: R&D activity itself; Advanced IT and related education; Researchers’ ability, interest and satisfaction from directing their R&D prowess at real-world challenges; and Mechanisms/opportunities to convert these capabilities into impact by transferring technologies to industry and through start-ups. The ecosystem is designed to converge as a conglomerate of many coexisting centers of excellence, or think tanks, in specific areas, to simultaneously act as: an IT knowledge bank; a catalyst for raising generations of IT-equipped, technology-proficient, societally-sensitive researchers; and an engine of economic activity, driven by the vitality of action, intellectual prowess, emotional energy, and ultimately, the societal empathy of the researchers.
This talk will present an overview of the first three years of ITRA, including specific measures of quality targeted, challenges faced, models and mechanisms used to address these challenges, types of problems undertaken, solutions developed, their impact, an analysis of the ITRA performance, and where the entire experiment is headed.
Bio: Narendra Ahuja is Research Professor in the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Beckman Institute, and Coordinated Science Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and Founding Director of Information Technology Research Academy, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. He received B.E. with honors in electronics engineering from BITS, Pilani, India, M.E. with distinction in electrical communication engineering from IISc, Bangalore, India, and Ph.D. in computer science from University of Maryland, College Park, USA. In 1979, he joined UIUC where he was Donald Biggar Willet Professor of Engineering until 2012. During 1999-2002, he served as the Founding Director of International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad.
He has co-authored three books, several hundred papers, and received 4 patents. His algorithms/prototype systems have been used by about a dozen companies/organizations, including industrial systems at General Electric, Westinghouse, Lockheed and Honeywell. He is a fellow of IEEE, American Association for Artificial Intelligence, International Association for Pattern Recognition, Association for Computing Machinery, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and International Society for Optical Engineering. He received the Emanuel R. Piore award of the IEEE, and the Technology Achievement Award of the International Society for Optical Engineering, and TA Stewart-Dyer/Frederick Harvey Trevithick Prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. With his students, he shared Best Paper Awards given by: International Conference on Pattern Recognition (Piero Zamperoni Award), Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications, First IEEE International Workshop on Computer Vision in Sports, International Conference on Pattern Recognition, and IEEE Transaction on Multimedia.